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Back by popular demand for his third visit to Mesa Public Library, Chuck Hannaford, project director for the Museum of New Mexico’s Office of Archaeological Studies, returns with the award winning hands-on archaeology outreach program so fitting for this year’s summer reading theme of “Dig In to Reading!”
Hannaford will set up his large array of archaeological artifacts from early New Mexico history, all touchable, for visitors to explore in the Mesa Public Library lobby. Everything from arrow points to atlatls, grinding stones to examples of potsherds, Hannaford is full of expert and first hand information about the discoveries and practice of archaeology for anyone who would like to drop by the lobby between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. He will also give a slide show and talk at 7 p.m., upstairs in the rotunda.
Experience how Native Americans made and used yucca cordage, stayed warm with turkey-feather blankets, and how the atlatl was used by ancient hunters.
This is also an opportunity to bring in artifacts from the past and have an archaeologist help with their identification and use.
Hannaford has a bachelor of arts from the University of New Mexico.
“I have been an archaeologist at OAS for over 34 years. I have had the privilege to work on numerous projects in almost every corner of New Mexico. I am particularly interested in the Pueblo and Navajo cultures” Hannaford said, in an excerpt from his website. “I have watched the number of recorded sites in New Mexico grow from 30,000 to over 150,000 during the course of my career. I am continually intrigued by the growing knowledge gleaned from New Mexico’s cultural heritage, ranging from the original Clovis site to Trinity site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated.”
Hannaford says he is still concerned about the continued survival of this fragile heritage and preserving the still-undiscovered sites and the unwritten stories they contain. That’s why he is involved with education outreach. “One of the highlights of my career has been coordinating the OAS Education Outreach Program, known as Roads to the Past. In 2005 our office won the Society for American Archaeology’s Award for Excellence in Public Education.
Since the inception of the outreach program in 1991, our archaeologists have talked to more than 60,000 New Mexicans in every county of the state. I enjoy very much sharing knowledge of New Mexico’s fascinating archaeological record with the public. OAS Outreach Wins Another SAA Award!” he said.
Under Hannaford’s leadership, the OAS Education Outreach Program has received the Society for American Archaeology’s Award for Excellence in Public Education for 2012 —t he only institution to have won that honor twice. Since first winning the award in 2005, the program has continued to reach audiences in every county in the state despite funding cutbacks.
Discovering New Mexico Archaeology
Archaeology is a discipline for exploring, studying and learning about the past. Archaeology offers a unique perspective on human history based on the study of surviving material artifacts and remains. These material artifacts provide the bases for observations on what kind of tools different cultures once made, what kind of houses they lived in, what sort of food they ate, and how people lived in and interacted with New Mexico’s diverse environment.
New Mexico has one of the oldest archaeological records of human habitation in the United States. This record extends understanding of the past deep into the unwritten history of New Mexico, far beyond written records and documents.
One can marvel at the artistry of a masterfully crafted Clovis spear point from this early time period. However, the real story of the past is learning about the context of the spear point and how the original discovery was made in association with mammoths and other now-extinct Ice Age animals.
Suddenly, a huge time frame is opened up, extending human occupation of New Mexico back some 14,000 years into the past.
The original Clovis and Folsom sites, demonstrating this deep antiquity of the human presence, were first discovered in New Mexico.
Artifacts and their contexts go hand in hand in reconstructing culture histories and past life ways.
Surviving artifacts provide fascinating windows into the past for viewing New Mexico’s varied technologies and cultural life ways.
They also provide valuable hands-on learning experiences. An atlatl, or spear-thrower, allowed hunters to propel spears at high velocities to kill large animals, like mammoths. This long-lived implement was ultimately replaced by the bow and arrow in New Mexico, which in turn gave way to the gun as a hunting weapon. Stone-tipped arrow points were replaced by metal points at European contact.
New Mexico’s dry climate allows the preservation of fragile, perishable artifacts that normally do not survive in other states.
New Mexico designated the blossom of the yucca plant as the state flower in 1927, but the yucca was once used by past cultures of New Mexico for sandals, twine and cordage, shampoo and brushes for painting pottery. Backpacks utilized tump-straps for the head rather than shoulder straps for carrying weight. Domesticated turkeys were prized for their feathers, rather than for food, to construct warm turkey-feather blankets.
Recorded history, characterized by the introduction of written documents, began in 1540 with Coronado’s entrada into New Mexico. Historical archaeologists study both artifacts and written documents to reconstruct the culture histories of New Mexicans over more than 400 years.
Metal was introduced as chain-mail armor and ox shoes. New Mexico has a unique historical heritage represented by Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, Spanish and Anglo cultural interaction. Each cultural group had their own artifact styles, house types, and foods that were hunted, collected, herded, and grown.
New Mexico’s Native American cultures still live on their traditional homelands. They have oral traditions handing down spoken accounts of their origins and interactions.