Archaeological Nexus: Intersecting History, Art and Culture
The laboratories of the Office of Archaeological Studies are centers of creative, collaborative innovation.
Artifact analysis, whether of stone, pottery or textiles, informs and revives historic art forms as contemporary arts. Archaeological knowledge of history strengthens community identities, while sharing that history builds empathy between communities.
At the OAS labs at the Center for New Mexico Archaeology, archaeologist Mary Weahkee (Comanche/Santa Clara Pueblo) studied museum examples and experimented with techniques of turkey feather blankets, which were ubiquitous before Colonization and eventually replaced by woolen textiles. Today, she is one of four living artists who make blankets the “old way,” elevating the blankets as icons that link ancient and modern Native American art and culture.
With generous support from John Duncan, a Museum of New Mexico Foundation trustee, and Anita Sarafa, Weahkee made a turkey feather blanket for the Here, Now, and Always exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. She is now preparing blanket swatches for the New Mexico History Museum and a National Geographic project, which is creating a sampler of Indigenous textiles from all over the world.
The teaching of traditional skills is also part of OAS’s Native American youth education programs. Supported by a Futures for Children Legacy Fund grant, OAS educators work with tribal schools and secular and religious leaders to integrate archaeological knowledge into the modern curriculum. Wherever possible, teaching is conducted by tribal members who have also selected the content.
Through these and other projects, OAS laboratories are building worldwide reputations. Current radiocarbon projects include dating a Chinese wall painting and a comet impact in the Atacama Desert of the Chilean Andes. Studies dating Omani rock art have just been published.
Archaeomagnetic projects include preparing an archive of New World data and working with the U.S. Forest Service to date tar pits that were part of the Clipper Ship period of Atlantic Coast history. And osteologists continue to work with archaeologists and Native Americans to build individual life histories as part of community histories.
“Everything OAS does beyond the boundaries of client projects is dependent on the support of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and the Friends of Archaeology,” says OAS Director Eric Blinman. “These projects honor commu-nity history and heritage for future generations.”
To support research and education initiatives at the Office of Archaeological Studies, contact Lauren Paige at 505.982.2282 or Lauren@museumfoundation.org.
This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Spring 2023.