As the Spring 2018 semester moves along, activities at the Luther Bean Museum and Salazar Center are progressing right along as well. We have a new projectile point display installed and are excited to have some objects soon to be displayed as part of the Local Traditions, Contemporary Visions exhibition in the the Hatfield Gallery on ASU campus as part of month long La Monarca symposium. In fact, we packed these objects for transport just this afternoon! I have been working on finishing up loose ends with the extensive Rickel projectile point collection, of which select pieces were used in the recently completed projectile point display. Many of these points have incomplete numbers as well as are stored in locations difficult to find and utilize. I’ve been expanding and completing the numbering of the objects as well as adjusting their housing to a more usable and find-able format. This also involves updates in our database. Lucy has also been working on updating and improving our records, especially location data to ensure we know the precise location for each object. Tawney and I are also hoping to do some work in March on the collection of Rio Grande weavings into display condition so keep an eye out for updates on those!
What a whirlwind the end of 2017 was! In all the craziness of trying to finish a projectile point display and finals, I forgot to update y’all on what was happening here at the Salazar Center and Luther Bean Museum! Here’s a recap of my adventure for the fall of 2017:
I began working with the museum’s extensive collection of projectile points and stone artifacts at the start of September as my first project as the Rio Grande del Norte Center intern. My goal was to sort through the masses to find out what the museum even had! After I got the lay of the land so to speak, I began working on better labeling and documenting the points, with a focus on points I found particularly interesting for a display.
The last few weeks of the fall semester I spent analyzing and arranging the points so that they could make a usable and interesting display! It took time to figure out the right groupings and arrangements and once I had those, I had to type and format labels for the groups. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite come together to get the display installed before Christmas break.
During break, the labels came in and so today, my first day back on the job after the holidays, I was able to arrange the objects and labels in the display case! There are just a few more details to arrange before we are ready to put the glass top on and officially open our new projectile points display!
After weeks of swimming through the prolific amounts of stone artifacts lurking about the museum’s storage, a shape is beginning to emerge from the general direction I have been heading in. When beginning this internship journey, all I had was a general idea of what I wanted to accomplish at the end. I really had no idea how I would go about getting there or what the end result would actually look like. At week 10 of the semester, and of my internship, things are finally taking shape! The last nine weeks have been spent learning museum handling techniques, documentation standards and finally, wading through the numerous artifacts themselves. I’ve been relocating objects and re-recording their location, numbers, and other relevant information such as the artifact class, material and color. So far I have come across lithic tools ranging from awls and drills to scrapers, flakes and projectile points. These tools have been made from chert, chalcedony, obsidian, basalt, quartzite and other materials and range in color from tan to black to red, green and multi-colored. Now that I am entering the last phases of this process, the time is nearing for more individualized analysis of the points, such as possible typologies and time periods. As I go through the next step, I will begin selecting artifacts which can tell the story of ancient and pre-historic native peoples and their lives in and around the San Luis Valley. My goal is to create a display which takes visitors through the process of lithic tool making, of the many uses of the tools, and of importance of these tools to the subsistence systems of people who were here in the Valley long before the ancestors of many of us here today. This goal is beginning to take shape here in week 10!
Fall has certainly made its appearance here in the San Luis Valley this past week. Snow already caps the mountains on all sides of us and the several straight days of chilly rain certainly had me pulling out my heavier coat and building a fire in the stove. It got me thinking, what have people before me done in the fall? Having lived in the world’s largest alpine valley for most of my life, I know that winter is never easy here. How did the early people who we know utilized the valley 100’s and 1000’s of years ago handle the harsh realities of winter near the mountains? Well I did a little digging around and this is what I found out:
The San Luis Valley (SLV) contains several confirmed Clovis and Folsom culture sites. These two cultures represent the oldest known peoples in the America’s; they arrived sometime after 15,000 BC and appear until around 8000 BC. These Paleo-Indian hunter gatherers ventured in to the SLV to hunt bison antiquus and mammoth and likely collect seeds from grasses and shrubs. While we cant be sure of the migration patterns of these hunter gatherers, it was highly likely that they came into the Valley for the milder summer months following the mega-fauna to lush pastures and then moved to lower elevations in the fall to spend the harsh winter somewhere warmer and dryer.
While there is some discussion over the exact dates of the Archaic Period, most will accept a date range between 7000 BC and 2000 BC (some extend this date closer to 1AD). During this time, the climate of Colorado warmed and dried significantly, making it a little easier to potentially stay at higher elevations for more of the year. Archaic hunter/gatherers also frequented the valley following smaller game such as elk and deer. Little evidence can be found at this time for the seasonality of archaic people in the SLV but it is likely they followed common hunter/gatherer patterns of following the warmth southward in winter. Following the Archaic peoples, recognizable tribes and bands began using the valley-and staying.
According to Ute people, they were created by Sinawav and placed into the mountains from the beginning. Ute bands claimed the area surrounding and within Colorado as their homeland since at least 1000 years ago; hunting and gathering in different areas of the state divided by bands. According to oral tribal history, archaeological records, and historical accounts of Hispanic and Euro-American migrants, the Utes spent summers in the SLV hunting game and gathering plants and frequently returning to the lower, milder northern New Mexico for the winter. Later in history, there are also counts of winter Ute camps in the San Luis Valley. These nearly always occurred near the foothills, nestled into narrow valleys with south-facing outlooks. There have also been rock shelter discoveries in the SLV often with very fortified walls and in some cases, ceilings, which also suggest that people were wintering in the SLV despite the cold.
While it is cool to learn about what others have done to utilize the SLV in all its beauty and bounty, I am sure glad I don’t have to leave the valley every October to go somewhere I won’t freeze to death! I’m sure thankful to have my nice insulated house and wood stove as winter draws nearer!
References and Additional Sources:
One of the challenges of a small museum with limited resources is continuity. Despite changes geared toward greater continuity of collections management, and the success of these changes with collections and objects acquired more recently, there are still some grey areas surrounding older objects and their origins in the museum’s collections. Of course, this is bound to happen when objects have been accumulating at the museum since 1945! My mentors and predecessors have developed improved cataloging and documenting procedures, which I am in the midst of learning, and this is very helpful for ensuring objects are properly recorded. But this is also challenging when faced with decades of changing directors, locations, and methods, which cause some information to be lost. Currently I am working on a very large collection of pre-historic stone artifacts; mostly lithic technologies such as projectile points, scrapers and flakes. The challenge with this collection is, while we have inventory sheets for them from recent years, and temporary numbers, the name the collection has been referred to doesn’t exist! Or rather, we don’t have a donor whose name matches the collections name! Which leaves us….where did all these points come from? When did we even get them? Luckily, an box with old records that appear to relate to this collection has appeared so hopefully it holds some useful information on where this collection came from and when it arrived. The mystery continues!!
Hi! My name is Jordyn Neely, I am the Fall 2017 Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center intern. I am entering my senior year here at Adams State and as an Anthropology major, was super excited when I received word I would be the next intern at the Center! My first week on the job did not disappoint; there is so much to be learned from the collections within the Luther Bean Museum. So far I have barely scratched the surface of knowing what treasures are within the hallowed walls of the second floor of Richardson Hall; and understanding these artifacts will take far more than one semester. So far, my mentor has begun walking me through the mission and duties of museums and what the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center strives to accomplish, and I have begun to think about what work I would like to do while I’m here to help contribute to the mission of the Luther Bean Museum and the Salazar Center. It is going to be quite the journey and I am sure it will be filled with more than a few adventures, which I am excited to share with you over the next few months!