As an undergraduate student enrolled in courses at Fresno City College and later California State University, Fresno, I participated in many course-sponsored archeological projects that ranged from pedestrian survey to hands-on excavation. I loved all of it which is why I took majors that included archaeology, and I thought that someday I would have a career as a professional archaeologist. Life has a way of throwing obstacles in our path and my aspirations did not materialize, but not before I had a chance to experience a memorable participatory community archaeology project in Cimarron, New Mexico.
Along with my wife Ana María, I enrolled in an intensive archaeological program that took place on Philmont Scout Ranch (also known as Rancho Rayado) located on the Santa Fe Trail, which houses the Kit Carson Museum. This was a fascinating site that contained both historical and pre-historic strata and the goal was both recovery and restoration. The owners wanted to restore the existing home, blacksmith area, extensive kitchen and other buildings to their former glory to quality for registry with New Mexico as a National Register of Historic Places. We labored for three weeks, working eight-hour shifts Monday through Friday with the weekends off to explore the nearby town of Cimarron. In the process, I established a good relationship with the project supervisor, Dr. David T. Kirkpatrick of Human Systems Research, Inc.,whose archaeological consulting company had been hired to perform the site archaeology and subsequent evaluations that would allow the site owners to meet registry requirements with New Mexico. It was this experience that cemented my determination to attend graduate school in New Mexico and pursue studies in the archaeology of the American Southwest.
Salvage archaeology is a division within Applied Archaeology/Anthropology and offers opportunities for the public to engage in ongoing archaeological excavations throughout the world. Satisfaction comes on several levels, from learning the challenges of site excavation and recovery of valuable artifacts, to participating directly in archaeological salvage projects that increase humanitys understanding of the past. A recent news item, Archaeology for the People, By the People, posted to the Biblical Archeology Society website talks about several of the participatory projects in Israel open to volunteers throughout the world. It’s worth a look if you feel a kinship with archaeology and, perhaps, want to take the leap and plunge into the exciting world of public archaeology!