Contact: Robert D. Leonard, 277-6696

Jan. 30, 2001

UNM participating in international archaeological exhibit in Santa Fe

The University of New Mexico is participating in an international exhibit at the Governor’s Gallery in the State Capitol in Santa Fe.

Explore the intriguing sites of Casas Grandes and Paquimé, Mexico at “Beyond Borders: An International Archaeological Program in the Casas Grandes Region.” The exhibit marks the culmination of a collaborative project between the Museum of New Mexico’s Office of Archaeological Studies, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and UNM.

The first of its kind between Mexico and the United States, the archaeological research project in northern Chihuahua, Mexico, has been underway since 1994, when then-Governor Bruce King signed the convenio establishing the cooperative academic program.

In a collection of color and black-and-white photography, representative artifacts and maps of the area, the exhibit documents the painstaking process of excavation and discovery in an archaeological project that involved more than 200 students from 17 countries. Students from UNM participated in ongoing research that has been supported by both private and public funding.

“Casas Grandes and the monumental site of Paquimé has always fascinated us,” said Tim Maxwell, Director of the Museum’s Office of Archaeological Studies. “This prehistoric town was a major trade center that flourished about A.D. 1250 after the abandonment of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.”

Arriving at the town were macaws from southern Mexico, copper from the west coast, shell from the Baja California, salt from the lower Rio Grande, and turquoise from the southwestern United States. Paquimé had plazas ringed with market stalls and warehouses for storing exotic goods as well as formal ball courts that resemble those found in Mexico’s more famous prehistoric cultures. Although much is known about the site of Paquimé, less is known about the sites surrounding the trade center.

Researchers are currently exploring how the surrounding sites were integrated into the vast Casas Grandes trade network, whether they were independent or under the political control of Paquimé, and the extent of shared religious beliefs. The exhibition will present the work of the project team and the partial excavation of the next two largest sites in the region. Evidence of trade routes suggests that pottery was mass-produced outside of the trade center and that food was grown by family farmers living in the nearby countryside.

“In an environment that receives only 10 inches of rain per year on average, another part of the research is to determine how people made a living in such a dry setting,” said Robert Leonard, UNM associate professor of Anthropology. “While farming was successful enough to sustain a large population, little is known about how it was accomplished.”

The researchers discovered extensive networks of water control devices that collect and funnel runoff to the fields around Paquimé. Although small farmsteads around the region were found, it is not known how much food was grown for the local people and how much went to Paquimé.

The work will be on exhibit through March 9, 2001. The Governor’s Gallery is affiliated with the Museum of Fine Arts, a part of the Museum of New Mexico, which is a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

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