You can find out about New Mexico’s 12,000-year-old cultural heritage, and do fun things like learn to throw spears with an atlatl, at International Archaeology Day on Saturday, Oct. 17. This is an open house for the Center for New Mexico Archaeology, the storage facility for the state’s excavated collections and the home of the Office of Archaeological Studies’ research laboratories.
One of the labs features the “low-energy plasma radiocarbon” sampling device, which can be used to analyze artifacts without destroying them; this happens with traditional carbon dating. Attendees will also learn about the lab that specializes in archaeo magnetic dating. Soil that is heated in a kiln or fire pit orients itself to the Earth’s magnetic field. When the soil cools, the orientation “freezes,” and it can be dated by comparing it to a chart of magnetic-field orientations for the particular time and place.
The center recently saw its first experimental pottery firing, producing replicas of Ancestral Puebloan corrugated jars for Chaco Canyon’s education outreach program. “We will fire on Friday, Oct. 16, and then open that kiln on Saturday morning of the open house,” said OAS director Eric Blinman. “I will conduct several smaller ‘flash’ firings during the open house, exploring some of the other firing traditions.” These include biscuit ware, Río Grande glaze ware, and Mogollon brown ware.
During the open house, Chuck Hannaford shows you how to use the atlatl and traditional bows and arrows. Susan Moga presents artifacts uncovered at Fort Bayard, Fort Stanton, and the Railyard. Lynette Etsitty makes coiled baskets. Nancy Akins exhibits bones excavated at a rock shelter near Mora. You can also meet the archaeologists who led excavations at the Palace of the Governors, the Railyard, and other sites.
Archaeology Day happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Center for New Mexico Archaeology is located off Caja Del Rio Road (7 Old Cochití Road). For information, call 505-476-4404 or see “Events” at www.nmarchaeology.org. — Paul Weideman
Isaiah Coan from the Office of Archaeological Studies demonstrates flintknapping with obsidian; below, an argon plasma chamber samples a piece of sumac wood for a dating reference in the low-energy radiocarbon technology