Artifact Lab


By Karen Armstrong


After two years of COVID shutdown, we cautiously resumed work at the Maxwell Museum in May, with a limited number (8) of Crew members (for social distancing), masked and gloved. We had the privilege of starting up with a fascinating collection from Treasure Hill, a Mimbres site once owned in part by Burton and Harriet Cosgrove (1), who excavated and reported on the Swarts Ruin for Harvard’s Peabody Museum.  Dr. Laverne Herrington later acquired the original holding and bought additional acreage. She continued to protect the site from looters while doing some excavations herself. Thanks to the protection that the Cosgrove’s and the Herrington’s, gave to the property, it is one of the very few Mimbres sites not ravaged by pothunters. Treasure Hill was recently donated to The Archaeological Conservancy.  

Dr. Herrington had catalogued her collection very neatly. It was up to us of “The Crew” (2) to replace cardboard boxes with our standard 16-quart Sterilite plastic boxes with lids, and we moved the artifacts into archival quality plastic bags with rewritten archival paper labels, as usual. One box of sherds contained a note from Dr. Herrington explaining that the sherds therein were once assembled into a display-quality pot that was sent to a museum for a Mimbres display. Upon the pot’s return, however, it was found to have become disassembled in the mail. Reassembling a display-quality Mimbres pot may be a worthwhile project.

Due to a COVID scare, we shut down The Crew again in August; then we began again in September with work on the large Pittsburg-Midway collection by the Office of Contract Archaeology which we had dealt with prior to COVID. We found lots of petrified wood in the collection, which led to discussion about lithic identification and
then on to the nature of fibrolite. We had hands-on lessons in fibrolite when Archaeology Senior Collections Manager Karen Price brought to the lab a collection of fibrolite artifacts donated by Arthur Montgomery in 1975 that had been exhibited in 1976 in the Maxwell Museum.

We moved on to a collection of numerous separate sites examined by Dr. Florence Ellis during her work on land claims. It was a bit tricky to make certain that each separate site was properly noted and labeled. Sites reported
included Zia Pueblo (LA 28), Corn Clan Zia (LA 241), Old Zia (LA 384), Punamech Zia (LA 393), and Sand Hill Zia (LA 393). During the same time period, Dr. J. J. (Jerry) Brody had the privilege of excavating – for one day only – a trash mound at Taos Pueblo.

In December we began work on a small collection from Pueblo Cardo (cardo means thistle) near Sandia Pueblo (LA 6867 or LA 50272) excavated by Mike Marshall. Just eight cardboard boxes were quickly processed. We then closed for the holidays after December 14; we will resume Wednesday, January 4, 2023. Anyone interested
is welcome to join in!

(1) The many contributions that the Cosgrove’s made to archaeology are listed by A. V. Kidder in his tribute to them that was published in 1957 in New Mexico Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 8 and is available free online at

(2) The Crew has all along been called the “Archiving Crew” as a matter of convenience. It was pointed out by a museum accreditation representative that archiving as a term actually refers to the curation of paper, not potsherds and other artifacts.  A new term for the Crew has not yet been decided: perhaps Collection Curation Crew might do.

As always, volunteers are welcome. Please contact Karen Armstrong at or 294-8218.

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