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Southern Methodist University's Archaeology Field Training


Kit Nelson


Course Offerings

Anthropology 5381: Undergraduate & Graduate students, three credits.
Anthropology 5382: Undergraduate & Graduate students, three credits.
Anthropology 5681: Undergraduate & Graduate students, six credits.
Anthropology 5981: Undergraduate & Graduate students, nine credits.

Download the 2014-2015 Course Catalogs.

General Description

This course is a detailed and hands-on introduction to field methods in archaeology and to the Prehistoric Period of the Taos area. The introduction to field methods will include four phases: Initial Pre-excavation Preparation; Excavation Methodology; Artifact Processing and Initial Analysis; and Data Summary.

In this class students will develop a basic understanding of the factors involved in excavation, artifact and sample processing, and basic archaeological analysis. They will also explore the specific prehistory of the Taos region in the larger context of the American Southwest.

Course Objective

The objective of this course is to introduce students to field methods in archaeology and the prehistory of the Taos region. In this class students will develop a basic understanding of the factors involved in excavation, artifact and sample processing, and basic archaeological analysis. They will also explore the specific prehistory of the Taos region in the larger context of the American Southwest.

Specific objectives include a broad understanding of:

  • The methods and theories archaeologists use to reconstruct the past.
  • The methods used in both excavation and artifact and sample processing.
  • The timing and technologies associated with the site of TA-1.
  • The dynamics of human society in the Taos Area.
  • Factors associated site and room use.
  • The professional conduct expected when working in the field.
  • The field and laboratory methods covered in the course include:

  • Site gridding
  • GPS mapping
  • Triangulation techniques
  • USGS map & compass work
  • Optical transit setup and use
  • UTM mapping
  • EDM (total station) setup and use
  • Processing of site forms
  • Floor plan mapping
  • Production of site maps
  • Wall profile mapping
  • Ceramic inventory & classification
  • Feature excavation
  • Faunal inventroy & classification
  • Square excavation
  • Historic artifact inventory & classification
  • Completion & processing of level forms
  • Lithic raw material identification
  • Conmpletion & processing of feature forms
  • Collections cataloging & history
  • Collection & processing of soil samples
  • Exposure to regional culture history
  • Collection & processing of radiocarbon samples
  • Rock art recording
  • Collection & processing of flotation samples
  • Public & tribal relations
  • Transect survey

    Site Description

    The field school will take place at the site of T'aitöna or Pot Creek Pueblo (LA-260). The site of Pot Creek Pueblo has long been recognized as an important center for population aggregation. This, along with being acknowledged as an ancestral site to both the Taos and Picuris Puebloan groups, highlights the importance of this site in understanding this period of social restructuring in the northern extent of the Puebloan Southwest and in the development of later Puebloan communities.

    The site is located adjacent to the Fort Burgwin campus. The site, with a peak occupancy from approximately 1250 to 1350 AD, is composed of a set of roomblocks, including approximately 400 ground floor rooms, surrounding plazas. The inhabitants of the site focused on an agriculture subsistence primarily of corn, beans, and squash, and survey of the area has revealed extensive evidence of agricultural intensification. Inhabitants also participated in trade, stone tool and pottery production, and hunting resulting in a myriad of interesting and informative archaeological remains.

    Map of the site of T'aitöna or Pot Creek Pueblo.

    The field season will be focused on the northern sector of the site and will compare and contrast these rooms and plaza areas with those of other sections of the site that were previously tested. Important to this year's project will be the testing of rooms in Roomblock 7 and 8, an area of the site that has had little attention. We will also be exploring the plaza areas adjacent to these Roomblocks.

    Required Textbook & Equipment

    No textbooks are required for this course. The following references are suggested readings prior to class (*.pdf versions will be available to students who are accepted to the field school):

    Cordell, Linda (excerpts from)
    2009  Archaeology of the Southwest. Left Coast Press, Inc. Walnut Creek, California.
    Fowles, Severin
    2005  Historical Contingency and the Prehistoric Foundations of Moiety Organization among the Eastern Pueblos. Journal of Anthropological Research 61(1):25-52.
    Woosley, Anne
    1980  Taos Archeology. Fort Burgwin Research Center, Southern Methodist University. Dallas, Texas.

    The following documents are for your information - they are subject to change. No need to print - we will provide fresh copies on the first day of class.

  • Participant Guide;
  • Syllabus;
  • Tentative Schedule.
  • All equipment required for excavation is provided.

    Evaluation and Grades

    To excel in this class, students must actively participate as responsible, self-starting members of a research team. This means being on the site every day, doing lab work, going on field trips, attending lectures, taking part in discussions, and doing some independent reading. The newly constructed Wendorf Information Commons houses the Fort Burgwin Library and computer center includes a substantial collection of books and papers relevant to the course and to the research project. Students are expected to use this collection to follow up on topics raised in lectures and discussions. There are no required readings for the course, but lecturers will indicate which readings in the library are most relevant to their topic.

    Grades will be based on participation and ability to work well in teams, short written and verbal quizzes given throughout the 6 weeks — based on field, lab, and field trips—, and a final written project.