Traveling artifacts? Lab intern tracks Ancestral Pueblo trade networks

Posted November 28, 2023

Crow Canyon lab intern, Will Koehler, was thrilled at the opportunity to design and assemble a special artifact display for Crow Canyon’s 40th Anniversary Conference and Celebration. As he prepares to begin his master’s program in Museum and Heritage Studies, it was a perfect way to practice and hone skills learned during his 10-week Crow Canyon internship over the 2023 summer.

After graduating From Beloit College in Wisconsin as a double major in anthropology and Greek and Latin studies, Will applied for an internship with Crow Canyon. “I was attracted by the chance to both learn and contribute at the same time, working alongside others who are really passionate,” shared Will.

Will’s hope for the experience was to further develop as an archaeologist and come out more well-rounded. “I didn’t have much lab experience, and developing overall skills in analysis and classification is really important,” he said.

Not only did Will gain experience in identification and analysis in the lab, he also practiced survey techniques in the field; all through the lens of Southwest archaeology, a new environment for him. “I’ve learned how much more there is to learn,” said Will.

One of Will’s projects was to put together a display of non-local artifacts found at the Haynie site (check out this project story map to learn more about the site) and the paths they took. “These artifacts were all transported to the site, probably through trade, or people making long-distance journeys and coming back with these things, or through migration. All came to Haynie through various methods from very far away,” he explained.

The geographic origins of artifacts like those in Will’s display are known to us thanks to lab analysis techniques and the work of Crow Canyon’s lab staff, interns, and volunteers. These artifacts affirm connections between Pueblo Ancestors in the Mesa Verde region with communities and landscapes in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico – places that remain important to the descendants of Ancestral Pueblo people today.

As Will demonstrated the contents of the display, he explained its orientation around four maps, each corresponding to a different kind of non-local artifact and depicting their origins.

The far left of the display shows examples of chipped stone (a term used to describe stone that has been knapped or worked), including chert, obsidian, jasper, and agate.

Second from the left are examples of blue-green minerals, an entire class of mineral that was and still is important to Pueblo people and their neighbors. Displayed are azurite (which is often ground up and used for pigment) and turquoise.

Next in the display are examples of worked shells, all of which came from either the Pacific Coast or Gulf of California. Displayed are shell beans, fragments of shell bracelets, and a shell effigy of a water bird (which is significant in Pueblo culture).

The final section of the display shows pottery, including San Juan Red Ware from Southeast Utah, Tsegi Orange Ware, Cibola White Ware, and Alameda Brown Ware from the lower Southwest.

All in all, Will’s experience with Crow Canyon was everything he hoped for and more. “I’ve never been anywhere like Crow Canyon. There aren’t many places where you get to see research happening while programs are also helping people understand things like weaving in Pueblo cultures, flora, and fauna, and how they play into the culture. This is a place where both research and education can coexist. That’s really cool to see,” he concluded.