NMSU Anthropology Students Gain Hands-On Experience During Utah Excavations


LAS CRUCES – Anthropology students at New Mexico State University had the chance to participate in the first professional excavations and explorations of an archaeological site in southeastern Utah inhabited by the ancestors of the people Pueblo.

Fumi Arakawa, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, was one of the co-principal investigators of the excavation project led by researchers from Brigham Young University and Weber State University. NMSU graduate students Braeden Dimitroff and Daniel Hampson traveled with Arakawa to Coal Bed Village in Utah over the summer.

Despite being one of the largest villages in southeastern Utah, Arakawa said the village of Coal Bed had not been professionally searched, which provided students with a great opportunity to gain hands-on learning experience.

“These students learned so much about the complex multi-occupancy and multi-construction of the site and the ritual and domestic use of three large houses on the site,” said Arakawa. “It’s a good site for archaeologists but a great site for archeology students because it really gets you thinking about the big question of archeology: why have people gathered at this particular site? How many people were able to occupy the village? Why did these people decide to leave the village? Where did they go?”

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The group searched an outside wall of one of the large houses. Large houses are multi-story structures built by ancestral Pueblo peoples.

“The big takeaway for me was how important this site really is,” said Daniel Hampson, who began his graduate studies at NMSU this fall. “I knew it was big and it was interesting, but until you got there and actually got to the site like they would with those giant megaliths.” The whole is on this great point with views in all directions. It’s hard to describe how important this would have been until you got to work on it.

From left to right: Daniel Hampson, Delton Estes, Brent Reed and Braeden Dimitroff.  Brent Reed and Delton Estes dug a feature between an exterior wall of the Great Eastern House and standing megaliths.  Daniel Hampson and Braeden Dimitroff listened to the discoveries of Brent and Delton.

“You don’t just work with smart researchers, some of the best people in this field, but you also get work experience,” said Braeden Dimitroff, an NMSU graduate student who had just defended his thesis before joining the Coal Bed team. Town. “To access positions in archeology, you need work experience. A lot of universities don’t have the opportunity to work on these kinds of projects but Fumi is still working on a project and it is supported by the Utah State Fund. It’s a really important project.

Arakawa and his team found different styles of construction on the exterior wall.

“The wall stretched about two meters or six feet from top to bottom, and the thickness of the wall was about 50 centimeters,” Arakawa said. “This indicates that the big house was built in different phases, which are called episodes.”

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Arakawa said that the fact that this big house was built in different episodes had not been previously identified.

“Our excavations also determined that the big house was a two-story building, and inside we found several episodes of natural and cultural deposits,” he said. “In the end, we found two different styles of exterior walls and an interior wall. “

The goal of the project, funded by the State of Utah, was not only to understand and reconstruct how the ancestral Pueblo people of Coal Bed Village lived from the 800s to the late 1200s AD, but more Importantly, to save crucial cultural resources from severe erosion and arroyo logging at the site.

Anthropology professor Fumi Arakawa is seen here digging the outer wall of the Great Western House as Daniel Hampson dug inside the room.  Both Arakawa and Hampson tried to reach the bottom of the inner (room) and outer wall.

“Our results will help researchers determine when and how Coal Bed community members came together in the village, how they organized and built their houses and communal structures, what type of socio-political organizations – such as territoriality / the tenure system, the exchange – they have practiced through time, and what potential ritual or ceremonial features, such as megaliths and an ancient shrine, tell us about their belief system.

If grant support continues, Arakawa and one of the graduate students, as well as researchers and students from BYU and WSU, are planning another field season at Coal Bed Village in 2022. “We hope to continue to do so. dig one of the big houses and compare the finds with the results of the excavations of another big house, ”he said.

After graduating with his masters degree, Dimitroff moved to New York and applied to work in museums. “I want to continue in museum education,” he says. “Fumi helped promote this. It gave me a lot of opportunities to work in museums as well as excavations.

Hampson plans to follow in his parents’ footsteps after graduating with his masters degree. They are both archaeologists. “I am truly a Southwestern research archaeologist,” he said. “I don’t know if that means doing research and contract employment or if it means doing it at a university, but I want to do research in the southwest in particular. “

Delton Estes, Lonnie Ludeman and Brent Reed joined the NMSU team as research team volunteers. “Their efforts and contributions have been crucial in enabling us to complete this project in 2021,” said Arakawa.

“EYE ON RESEARCH” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s article was written by Billy Huntsman of Marketing and Communications. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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