research (survey)

Gorge.2

The Gorge Project Survey

Pedestrian survey is the heart of the Gorge Project. Since 2007, team members have worked to document traces of human dwelling, movement, and artistic production on either side of the Rio Grande from the modern community of Velarde in the south to the Rio Grande’s confluence with the Red River in the north. This has resulted in a database of nearly four thousand petroglyph panels and hundreds of other sites ranging from shrine complexes, to hunting and herding camps, to settlements and trails spanning the pre-Columbian, colonial, and modern periods.

The survey was originally designed to explore the significance of the Rio Grande gorge to late pre-Columbian Pueblo communities. Pueblo immigration during the thirteenth century resulted in the emergence of the region’s first large villages, and past research has suggested that population aggregation involved a basic cosmological redefinition of the landscape surrounding these newly concentrated settlements. Fowles (2009) referred to this as an emerging “villagescape” tradition, raising the question of how places like mountain tops, lakes, caves, springs and rivers were conceptually reconfigured in relation to new village centers. The Rio Grande gorge is particularly enigmatic in this respect. Its steep-sided depths cut into the sage flats of northern New Mexico in a visually stunning manner, presenting the traveler with a strong sense of encounter with an underworld. And yet, little is known of the significance of the gorge within local cosmologies. The Gorge Project initially set out to explore this question.

Very quickly, the research grew more complicated. Surveys during the summers of 2007 and 2008 did succeed in locating a great many pre-Columbian Pueblo sites. But these were outnumbered by (1) Archaic rock art sites pre-dating the Pueblo period and (2) colonial era sites, the latter of which included rock art produced by a diverse array of Spanish, genizaro, Apache, Comanche, and other travelers who left their mark while moving through the region. Of course, a great many more recent sites were encountered as well: late 19th century sheep-herding sites, the remains of early 20th century mining activities, New Age shrines, and lots of 20th and early 21st century graffiti.

The Gorge Project now takes the landscape of the Rio Grande Gorge as its primary object of study. As we systematically document the cultural traces that persist in this landscape, we now seek not just (1) to document the sequence of human occupation from Paleoindian times to the present in a linear fashion, but also (2) to explore the timeless influence that the gorge as a material place has exerted on those who spend time in it. And increasingly, the project members have come to focus on the persistence of—and complex interplay between—a plurality of pasts within the study area. How is history gathered together and piled on top of itself within the rugged depths of the Rio Grande gorge? How does one time period continue to assert itself into those that succeed it?


RTI

Ben Alberti explores the possibilities of RTI photography to record Archaic rock art within a talus cave complex at LA 102342 (Houses of the Holy).

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Gradiometer Study copy

Matt Sanger, Sarah Darro (Barnard ’12) and Megan Holland (Barnard ’12) assist Christopher Goodmaster in a magnetic gradiometer survey of the tipi encampment at the Vista Verde site.

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mylar

Lindsay Montgomery (Barnard ’08) traces a Comanche rock art panel onto mylar plastic at the Vista Verde Site.

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Jules Total.jpg

Julia Fowles Morris, the youngest crew member of the Gorge Project operates the laser transit while mapping the Lightning Arrow Site.

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