Aztec Ruins joins national observation

Archaeology Day set for Saturday

Aztec Ruins National Monument is joining more than 100 organizations worldwide to mark National Archaeology Day on Saturday.

“Excavation here, which was done from 1916 into the early 1920s, is no longer being carried out,” Ranger Lauren Blacik said Monday. “But preservation is being done full time.”

The main ruins contain about 400 rooms, with some sections still standing three stories tall, Blacik said.

The monument is operated by the National Park Service.

Ancestral Puebloans, the forebearers of more than a dozen modern tribes, including the Hopi, Acoma, Zuni and Laguna, began building their Great House in the early 1100s, Blacik said.

Then in the late 1200s, they migrated for unknown reasons – but perhaps for drought and its wider impacts, Blacik said.

Modern Native Americans say migration is part of their culture, Blacik said.

“They say, ‘We leave footprints,’” Blacik said.

Today, archaeologists do research on artifact recovery and masons work full time to stabilize walls.

Modern tools allow researchers to glean much more information from ruin artifacts than has been available, Laurie Reed, an on-site archaeologist said Monday.

“Scientific tests allow us to gather a lot of information,” she said. “Chemical tests can determine the makeup of clay and the source of material used in chip-stone tools,” Reed said. “We have techniques to identify residue on pottery or tell what kind of food they processed.”

Aztec Ruins was declared a national monument in 1923. Its 90th birthday will be marked Jan. 24.

Hands-on activities Saturday to familiarize the public with modern archaeological research are planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Among the activities will be a simulated excavation, a simulated survey to show how sites and artifacts are identified on the ground, a pottery building demonstration and simulated laboratory work.

The activities, suitable for children as well as adults, are free, but there is a $5 fee for tours led by an archaeologist to the West Ruin at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

This is the first time that Aztec Ruins National Monument has hosted such an event, which is sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.

daler@durangoherald.com

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