Artifact Lab


By Karen Armstrong

In January of this year we began work on collections from UNM field schools in archaeology directed by J. J. Brody in 1965 and 1967. We quickly found that this was a complex collection. One box contained brown grocery bags from eight different sites—LA 9200, 9201, etc.—surveyed or excavated in those field schools. Our aim in dealing with this complex situation was to sort artifacts from each site and group the artifacts together by that site number, so that analysis of each site’s materials can proceed.
Our procedure is to take each grocery bag of artifacts, pour the contents into sorting trays, scissor out all relevant information from the brown bags in which they’ve been stored, copy the information onto archival paper ‘tickets,’ describe and count the artifacts, place them in archival quality ziptop bags and place the original scissored-out brown paper inside the bags along with the artifacts, and place the ziptop bags into 16-quart Sterilite boxes with lids. Data entry is done—we are very fortunate in having Dr. Eric Rinehart, geologist, doing the data entry—and labels are placed inside the Sterilite boxes for permanent storage. For the previous Taos project, the data entry is not quite finished, but eventually I’ll have a summary of the number of original boxes, the finished Sterilite boxes and their box sequence numbers, and their whereabouts. The very good news is that our work is already paying off; we have at hand a serious inquiry into using the collection for analysis toward a dissertation! The Valdez Phase of Taos archaeology will then be better understood. David Phillips, Curator of Archaeology at the Maxwell Museum, suggested for the summer a smaller project consisting of 35 boxes of materials from a 1980 dig near the Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo, LA 677. There was federal funding for waste water projects in the late 1970s in the town of Bernalillo. One proposed project was a sewer/drainage line to be installed just adjacent to the church and between it and other buildings. Cultural material at the site was well known, so the Office of Contract Archaeology was called in. As described by Michael P. Marshall in his report on the excavation, the focus of the analytical work was an attempt to locate what (if any) pre-contact pueblo was at the site and date the occupation. While they found a pithouse and part of a large kiva, any associated village was not found; it is quite likely underneath the church. One of the four boxes we processed on May 18, our first day on this project, contained recent materials like glass, metal, broken crockery, etc. One particularly interesting piece of glass was noted, a heavy greenish bottle bottom with an embossed figure and “Pluto” written on it. An Internet search yielded the information that “Pluto Water” is well known. We were also were delighted to find, in another box the partial globular pot with an animal quadruped “handle” found during the dig and reported in the Marshall volume. We will continue to work on LA 677 on Wednesday mornings through the summer. We are now located in the basement rather than the atrium of the Hibben Center. As always, volunteers are welcome. Please contact Karen Armstrong at or 294-8218.

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