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American Archaeology Magazine Winter 2016 is Here!

AA winter 2016-17 Cover. Rediscovering the Alamo

The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, WINTER 2016, is now available!

  • COVER: A researcher operates a ground-penetrating radar machine at the Alamo in search of buried artifacts and features.
  • Credit: Reimagine The Alamo


An archaeological project is playing an important role in an effort to make this iconic site more interesting to tourists.

A Hohokam rock art study takes the unusual approach of examining not only the images, but also their surroundings.

For years this Mississippian site was thought to be a political capital, but recently some researchers have arrived at a different conclusion.

Archaeologists have recently discovered the first permanent European colony along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Experts are struggling to develop a plausible colonization model from the latest archaeological and genetic evidence.

New Acquisitions:

The McCarty Mound could offer a glimpse of the American Bottom’s prehistory.

The Meyer Pottery Kiln contains information about nineteenth- and twentieth-century ceramics production.

Get your Copy of WINTER 2016 Now! Receive a subscription to American Archaeology Magazine with a $30 annual donation. Please visit our Membership page for details on how you can become a member.

Also available at Newsstands and Bookstores near you.

Browse Articles Summaries from our last issue, FALL 2016.  Explore Back Issues. Back issues, 2 years old or older, are available online to search and download.

Finding Evidence of Heritage Maize in Northern New Mexico

by April M. Brown

SPECIAL NOTE: The Archaeological Conservancy would like to remind our readers that the collection of artifacts from archaeological sites is illegal and irresponsible.  When visiting cultural sites, please do not remove or disturb artifacts.
teosinte, the ancestor of maize
An example of teosinte, the ancestor of maize.

We all enjoy corn on the cob during our summer barbeques, but do you ever wonder how this sweet and delicious grain came to be?  Maize agriculture made it into the American southwest around 3,000 years ago and continues to be practiced in Pueblos today. Maize is derived from a tropical grass called teosinte that was cleverly cultivated and engineered by Indigenous people in Mexico thousands of years-ago to create the versatile staple crop we roast and butter today.  Teosinte did not produce cobs or edible kernels, so the evolution of this grass into a cob-producing staple crop is quite an amazing feat.  The evolution of maize continues to be a popular research topic in anthropology and archaeology and there are numerous DNA studies that discuss the origin and migration of the plant from Mexico into North America.

Maize is part of the “Three Sisters” – a trifecta of staple crops grown by the Indigenous people of North America that also includes squash and beans.  The kernels were ground into flour using mano and metate grinding stones, and the cobs were stored in sealed pots and baskets for use during times of food scarcity.  Maize was central to the sustainability of Indigenous cultures dating as far back as the Archaic period.

mano and metate from Bandelier
An example of a mano (right) and metate (left) found in Frijoles Canyon at Bandelier National Monument. Tsankawi, where the maize cobs were found, is a detached portion of Bandelier that is located several miles northeast of the main park. | Photo by NPS

Ancient cobs are found at archaeological sites across the American southwest.  Heritage strains of maize were much smaller than modern corn with some only measuring three to four inches in length, such as these examples from Wells Petroglyph Preserve, a Conservancy site in northern New Mexico, and Tsankawi, a National Park site located near Los Alamos, New Mexico.

We discovered these examples at Mesa Prieta during the filming of our recent Virtual Tour Video of Wells Petroglyph Preserve.  The first cob was found on top of the mesa where there is evidence of waffle gardens and irrigation ditches still visible on the surface.  The second cob was discovered as we traversed the basalt terraces on the eastern side of the mesa which overlooks the Rio Grande.

heritage maize at Wells Petroglyph PreserveThe examples from Tsankawi were discovered during my fieldwork with the University of New Mexico in the summer of 2019.  As we were documenting cavates in a remote area of the park, we discovered a carved spiral petroglyph and a crevice with cobs spilling out into the sand.

spiral petroglyph at Tsankawi
The spiral petroglyph located near the cache of maize cobs at Tsankawi. | Photo by April M. Brown (2019)

There were dozens of cobs ranging from two to four inches in length. I imagined that the cobs were stored in a jar or basket that had returned to the earth after hundreds of years, spilling the contents into the sand for animals to disperse. All of these examples are most likely from the Ancestral Pueblo period sometime between 1200 and 1500 A.D, although testing would be needed to confirm the actual dates.

heritage maize from Tsankawi

Caches of ancient maize are found across the southwest, especially in places like Utah, where the conditions are more favorable for the preservation of these normally perishable artifacts.  In northern New Mexico, the conditions are not always so favorable.  The occasional discovery of these tiny cobs in the sand are a small reminder of how important this crop was to the survival of Pueblo cultures hundreds, and even thousands, of years in the past.

So, as you enjoy your grilled corn on the cob this summer, remember its humble beginnings as a tropical, Mexican grass, and the time and work that ultimately produced those large, juicy cobs we grow and buy today.

Modern Corn Plants

The Archaeological Conservancy | 2021

Big Pond Furnace featured at the Maryland Iron Festival

Vintage photo of Big Pond Furnace

The Conservancy’s Big Pond Furnace Preserve was recently featured in this short video during the recent Maryland Iron Festival held on May 22 and 23.  Eastern Regional Director Kelley Berliner and Andre Weltman, Chairman of the Friends of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, share more about this historic Pennsylvania Preserve and The Conservancy’s acquisition of the site. Watch the full video below.

The Archaeological Conservancy | 2021

Read articles from the latest issue of American Archaeology

The Summer 2021 Edition of American Archaeology Magazine is available now!

You can now read excerpts from the latest edition of American Archaeology Magazine HERE.  To read the full articles, you can purchase your copy of American Archaeology on select newsstands or become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy to subscribe. Your membership includes a copy of the magazine delivered to your mailbox quarterly.


| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021

Changing Times | American Archaeology

By Julian Smith |

When European explorers and missionaries began arriving in the Great Lakes region in the sixteenth century, they found groups including the Huron (also known as the Wendat) and Iroquois (also known as the Haudenosaunee) living across what is now southern Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and upper New York State. The encounters marked a time of great change for the native cultures of this region, known as Iroquoia.

Excavations at the Alexandra site, an ancestral Huron-Wendat village located east of Toronto, Canada. Like many of the sites dated by this project, Alexandra was excavated by Archaeological Services, Inc. as part of cultural resource management activities associated with the expansion of Toronto’s suburban footprint. The descendants of the people who lived at Alexandra likely ended up in one of the large, defensively palisaded settlements such as Draper and Keffer that were dated by the project. | Credit ASI Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Services
This ceramic pipe bowl effigy from the Mantle site has patterns of dots that are thought to reference tattooing. Mantle is one of the sites that was found to be younger than previously thought. | Credit: Archaeological Services Inc.
These sample from decayed wood post are examined in the Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory in hopes of developing a tree-ring sequence to date a site. | Credit: Cornell University
The outer tree-rings of a house post from the Warminster site in Ontario (WAR-1) . Radiocarbon dates on specific tree-rings from this tree-ring sequence were used to date the post securely and formed a key constraint enabling dating of the site. | Credit: Carol Griggs, Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory

For decades, archaeologists have tried to unravel this complex timeline of cultural interaction, which included the introduction of European trade goods to native villages that relocated frequently and often fought with each other. Recently, the Dating Iroquoia Project, led by Jennifer Birch of the University of Georgia and Sturt Manning of Cornell University, has revealed that the accepted chronology was off by as much as a century in places. This carries significant implications for the understanding of history in the region, Birch said. “We’re really digging into the centuries around contact in ways that help us better understand how indigenous people are responding to these profound changes.”

Cornell PhD student Annapaola Passerini using an increment corer to take a tree-ring sample on an eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) during a fieldtrip for the Cornell Introduction to Dendrochronology course led by Sturt Manning. Tree ring chronologies built up through such fieldwork by Cornell researchers and students provide some of basis to dendrochronological dating in the region. | Credit: Cornell University


This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription.  

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Google Maps for Travelers | American Archaeology

By David Malakoff |

Archaeologist Sarah Barber (right) works with students to assemble a high-accuracy GPS device typical of the kind archaeologists use to accurately map sites, buildings, and other features in the field. | Credit: Thomas Penders

For more than a century, archaeologists have debated why ancient Native Americans built the stout stone towers that sit high above the floor of Nine Mile Canyon, a serpentine gulch in eastern Utah. They agree the circular structures were built more than 500 years ago by people belonging to the Fremont culture, who also created remarkable rock art on the canyon’s sandstone walls. But there was little consensus on how the Fremont people used the towers. Some scholars believe they were watchtowers positioned to warn of raiders. Others think they were refuges where residents could hide when threatened. But “the problem was that, historically, there was no really rigorous way to test these explanations, and see which was best supported by the evidence,” said archaeologist Weston McCool of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

That has changed in recent years. Drawing on an array of technological and intellectual innovations—including brawnier computers and software, abundant high-resolution mapping data, and the creative use of techniques originally developed by ecologists to explain wildlife behavior and by military engineers to position artillery—archaeologists can now visualize past landscapes and better understand how ancient people saw and used them. In essence, researchers now have “a suite of geospatial tools and methods that allow us to create a kind of archaeological Google Maps, which we can use to travel back in time,” said archaeologist Mark McCoy of Southern Methodist University, who last year published Maps for Time Travelers, a book about geospatial archaeology.

At Nine Mile Canyon, for example, researchers used these tools to construct a detailed, three-dimensional digital model of the Fremont-era landscape. They then used that model to recreate how ancient raiding parties would have stormed through the canyon, and to calculate what people perched in the towers could see, helping reveal the likely purpose of the structures.

University of New Hampshire students map a cache pit in the field in northern Michigan. Geospatial tools like LiDAR, combined with ecological modeling, has greatly increased archaeologists’ ability to find these subtle features in wooded settings. | Credit: Meghan Howey
An illustration of two potential travel routes in southern Ohio that may have connected Sandy Springs, a Paleo-Indian site, and the Upper Mercer/Vanport chert outcrops. These travel routes were generated using a Least Cost Analysis (LCA) approach that calculates the most cost-effective route between two positions based on a ruggedness factor of the surrounding landscape. LCA analysis suggested that the more energy-efficient route was through the lower Scioto Valley. Archaeological data, however, indicated that Paleo-Indians preferred taking a route to the west, though it added at least eight travel hours to their journey. | Credit: Matthew Purtill
Geospatial techniques have led researchers to conclude that towers like this one at Nine Mile Canyon served as refuges. | Credit: Dennis Udink


This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription.  

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A Tour Of The Effigy Mounds Of The Upper Midwest | American Archaeology

Effigy Mounds National Monument features these conical mounds that lead to Fire Point Overlook, which offers a view of the Mississippi River. | Credit: NPS/Eaton Coté

By Sara Millhouse |

The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area features the Julien Dubuque monument, which was built in 1897. Dubuque is buried there. | Credit: Ronald Tigges-Digital Dubuque

Native Americans built earthen mounds across much of the Eastern half of the United States, but effigy mounds are largely found in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. On this tour, you’ll visit many of the most dramatic effigy mounds in this region, and also conical, linear, and platform mounds, as well as other sites of interest. Effigy mound-building was common in the upper Midwest during the Late Woodland period from around A.D. 700 and continued to about 1100, according to archaeologists Amy Rosebrough and Robert Birmingham, who coauthored the book “Indian Mounds of Wisconsin.”

Effigy mounds are often shaped like birds, bears, and long-tailed creatures. The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, whose Bear, Thunderbird and Water Spirit clans are represented by shapes similar to the effigies, claims ancestry to these mound builders. Several other nations also claim ancestry.

These earthen effigies were a ceremonial landscape that reflected the way the mound builders saw the world, said Birmingham, who served as Wisconsin’s state archaeologist. Effigy mounds may also have been territory markers.

Effigy Mounds National Monument features these conical mounds that lead to Fire Point Overlook, which offers a view of the Mississippi River. | Credit: NPS/Eaton Coté
These two bird mounds are in the southern-most part of the Marching Bear Mound Group, which is in the South Unit of Effigy Mounds National Monument. | Credit: NPS/Eaton Coté
Historic Indian Agency House’s museum includes an archaeological collection from a Ho-Chunk village as well as a dugout canoe from the 1880s.  | Credit: Historic Indian Agency House
This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription.  

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Life After Dark | American Archaeology


By Zach Zorich |

These cedar torches were found at Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico. | Credit: Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution

At sunset, when the light drains from a landscape, it forces a change in perspective that archaeologists have not often considered. How would the places and people they study have been different during nighttime? Nancy Gonlin of Bellevue College in Washington State is among a group of archaeologists who are rethinking the way they interpret sites by asking how they would have been used at night. This perspective shift has led archaeologists in North America to arrive at new conclusions about the way that nighttime was lived among the Maya, Cahokians, and the Sinagua people. “We are missing half of people’s lives if we don’t consider the night,” said Gonlin, who coedited the book Archaeology Of The Night: Life After Dark In The Ancient World with April Nowell.

Her work focuses on the lowland Maya at two sites, Joya de Cerén in El Salvador, and Copán in Honduras. Cerén offers a uniquely detailed perspective on Maya nighttime activities. The village was buried under volcanic ash from an eruption in A.D. 660 that seems to have taken place after sunset. The level of preservation at the site provides an intimate snapshot of Classic Period Maya life shortly after sundown. Unwashed dishes were discovered, indicating the site was abandoned after an evening meal. Household doors were tied shut, as if most residents weren’t home during the eruption. Sleeping mats were found rolled up and stored on the rafters of the roofs of the houses showing that the residents had not yet gone to bed. “Different artifacts have their own lives,” Gonlin said, “they are used in different ways throughout the day.”

Numerous tasks have been accomplished at night through the ages. In this nineteenth-century photo a woman in New Mexico spins wool. | Credit: John Collier, 1943; Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection LC-DIG-fsa-8d38302.

She pointed out that benches used for working and sitting during the day became sleeping platforms at night, and two pots found at Copán had charcoal inside them and may have held torches for lighting up dark rooms. Burn marks on plastered floors were likely caused by vessels that perfumed rooms with incense during all hours, but simultaneously served as night lights once the sun set.

This structure found at the Classic Maya center of Copan in Honduras has been interpreted as a Council House or an ancestor shrine that features the Nine Lords of the Night. A dancing platform is located to the left of the building. Many political deliberations and dancing occurred at night during the Classic period. | Credit: W. Scott Zeleznik


This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription.  

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A Proponent of Provocative Ideas | American Archaeology

By Tamara Jager Stewart

| Cover Image: Stanford examines a bison bone found on the surface of Late Pleistocene-age peat deposits in southern Colorado in June, 2000. Credit: Pegi Jodry |
Dennis Stanford with some of his antler and stone flintknapping tools that he used to make the Paleo-Indian-style stone bifaces seen at the lower right of this photo. | Credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian

Since the renowned Paleo-Indian archaeologist Dennis Stanford passed away in 2019, his colleagues and friends have celebrated his remarkable career. But twenty years earlier, many of his colleagues weren’t speaking so kindly of him. In 1999 at the Paleoamerican Odyssey Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Stanford, then the curator of North American Archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, revealed the details of his and colleague Bruce Bradley’s Solutrean Solution to the peopling of the Americas.

The prevailing theory then was that the Clovis, who were thought to be the first people to arrive in the New World, came by way of an ice-free corridor connecting Siberia and Alaska around 13,000 years ago. Stanford and Bradley contended that the Clovis tradition first developed along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. and it may have had its roots in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and Basque Country in northern Spain, the region from which people crossed the Atlantic by boat during the Last Glacial Maximum 18,000 to 22,000 years ago.

This idea was well received in much of Europe, where Bradley worked, but it faced intense opposition in North America. The Solutrean theory was criticized as unscientific, and some people thought it could ruin Stanford’s career. He was even accused of being a racist.

Andre Morala of the Musee Nationale Prehistoire in Les Eyzies, France, and Stanford examine Clovis stone, bone, and antler tools during a research trip to study Solutrean collections in March, 2001. | Credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian
Stanford examines a bison bone found on the surface of Late Pleistocene-age peat deposits in southern Colorado in June, 2000. | Credit: Pegi Jodry
During his dissertation research in northern Alaska in 1968 – 69, Stanford participated in seal hunts with Inuit subsistence hunters to deepen his understanding of the archaeological remains of prehistoric seal hunting at the Walakpa site near Point Barrow.


This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription. 

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Take a Virtual Tour of Wells Petroglyph Preserve!

Episode 4 of our Virtual Tour Video Series is Available Now!

Our latest Virtual Tour Video we are taking you on a unique and informative tour of the Wells Petroglyph Preserve in northern New Mexico, hosted by Founder and Previous Owner Katherine Wells and Project Archaeologist Chester Liwosz.

Official Trailer for Episode 4

In Episode 4, you will get a special glimpse of some of the rock art panels scattered across the Preserve along with the archaeological theories behind some of the reoccurring images. The site is known for having solstice markers and is thought to contain special acoustical attributes that may have been part of the context for the multiple human and animal flute player images across the site.  Mesa Prieta contains a variety of rock art panels dating as far back as the Archaic period up to the early 20th century when the Work Projects Administration crews were working in the river valley below.

Katherine purchased the property in 1992 and founded the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project in 2002, which set out on the lofty task of documenting all of the petroglyphs across the entire mesa.  The Project has recorded around 70,000 images so far – and it is estimated that there are at least another 30,000 that still need to be recorded.

This episode is available as both a full 60-minute feature and a 4-part series. Be sure to visit our YouTube channel to watch and subscribe.

The Archaeological Conservancy | 2021

Learn more about Leonard Rockshelter in our next Virtual Lecture!

Join us on April 21 at 5 pm MDT as our Great Basin Archaeologist Sara Sturtz presents “A Natural and Cultural History of Leonard Rockshelter in Nevada.”

In the last of our Spring Lecture Series, Archaeologist Sara Sturtz will discuss how a small mammal assemblage found at Leonard Rockshelter details a paleoenvironmental record of changing local conditions. In addition, Sara will also discuss previous claims of a Pleistocene occupation and when humans actually occupied the shelter.

Leonard Rockshelter is located in Pershing County, Nevada. Robert Heizer excavated the site in 1950 and recovered a modest assemblage of perishable and lithic artifacts, including obsidian flakes in deposits dating to14,900 to 11,610 BP.

There are two ways to attend live! To attend via the Webex digital event platform, you can register at this LINK.  You can also participate via livestream by visiting our Facebook page.

For more details, be sure to visit the official event page HERE.  The full lecture will also be available afterwards on the official page for the event, as well as our YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our events calendar and follow us on Facebook for the latest updates on our Virtual Lecture Series.  
| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021