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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
August 16, 2004
Volume 40, Number 1

Buried debris reveals clues to valley’s past

By Greg Johnston

Dave Phillips examines a small piece of bone found by Elaine Waterbury at the Casa Corral excavation site.

The old cliché “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” describes the work conducted this summer by Dave Phillips, a curator at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. He leads a team of volunteers and novice archeologists on the Casa Corral excavation project in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

Just north of Osuna Boulevard, the empty lot was once an expansive adobe hacienda and corral built on an old wagon road, now Edith Boulevard. Phillips believes the large dwelling was inhabited by one generation between 1870 and 1900 and vacated after that.

Now Phillips scours the ground to note differences in soil color and to look for signs where walls existed. One small area of ground was a subtle pink color, indicating the soil had oxidized, possibly the result of heat from a horno, or traditional adobe oven.

One of his most exciting discoveries came late on a Friday afternoon after most volunteers had gone home. An exposed ground-level formation was revealed to be the foundation for the north wall. A line of dark “terrones” was uncovered. These were bricks of hardened darker mud, extracted from the Rio Grande Valley bottom, west of the site. The formation was nearly two feet wide and more than 15 feet long in stark contrast to the surrounding brown dirt.

The excavation reveals clues to the past, both large and small. “We have little fragments here and there that tell us how people lived when they were here and what their lives were like,” Phillips said. More than 300 paper bags have been filled with dusty bones, pieces of glass and china, scraps of wood and metal artifacts.

Volunteers are welcome to participate. The last day of digging is Friday, Aug. 27. Then, a metal detector club will sweep the site. For information, contact Dave Phillips at 277-9229 or dap@unm.edu.