Report on the 2021 SoA/ASW Field School

Aug. 3, 2021
Group photo of field school

The 2021 season of the Upper Gila Preservation Archaeology Field School ended this week. A joint program between The University of Arizona and Archaeology Southwest, the project ran for six weeks beginning May 25. After skipping a year in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, the staff and students—some of whom had applied for the cancelled 2020 season—were eager to continue the project this year with COVID protocols in place.

This is the project’s fifth season working at the Gila River Farm site outside Cliff, New Mexico. A Cliff Phase, Salado site (ca. A.D. 1300–1450), excavations at the Gila River Farm site are part of a long-term project investigating how Kayenta migrants from Northeastern Arizona and extant groups living in the Upper Gila watershed forged a new multiethnic identity together.

Fifteen undergraduate and graduate students attended the field school this year, coming from 13 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and China. Students participated in excavations at the Gila River Farm site, processed and conducted initial analysis of artifacts recovered from the site, and wrote preliminary reports on this season’s excavations. Students also conducted experimental archaeology (replicating technology from the period and region) and learned survey techniques on nearby National Forest properties. Field trips in Arizona and New Mexico introduced students to the environments, people, and archaeological resources of the U.S. Southwest. Trips included a visit to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, tours of sites in the Tucson Basin like Romero Ruin and the Valencia Site, and a guided tour of Hawikuh at Zuni Pueblo. Students prepared experimental and research projects to share at the Field School’s annual Public Outreach Fair, which broke previous records with over 70 visitors this year. Each student also completed a blog post about their experiences in the field school, which can be read on the Archaeology Southwest website.

Staff for the field school included School of Anthropology faculty and students: Karen Schollmeyer (Adjunct Associate Professor), Lauren Bridgeman (incoming Ph.D. student), Evan Giomi (Ph.D. candidate), and Rebecca Harkness (Ph.D. student), alongside Jeffery Clark (Archaeology Southwest), Allen Denoyer (Archaeology Southwest), and Michaelle Machuca (Coronado National Forest). University of Arizona undergraduate Ruijie Yao attended the field school as a student, alongside students from fourteen other institutions.

Despite COVID restrictions limiting some of the field school’s usual field trips, and an unusually smoky June due to multiple wildfires in the Gila wilderness, the season was a success. The students were even lucky enough to see the first monsoon rains during the last few days of the season.

Photo: Many of the students and staff pose after a long day of backfilling the site to close out the season.

Anthro News Digest date: 07/09/2021