Southwestern Ancestral Puebloan
My first archaeological experience was in the desert around Tucson. My parents moved us to the far east side of Tucson from our home in Lansing, Michigan in 1965. Our house was in the desert miles out of the city and our nearest neighbor was over 1/2 mile away. While very different from Michigan, I loved the desert. My intention was to become a herpetologist, and what better place to interact with reptiles than the Sonoran Desert? It was while I was out looking for snakes and lizards that I began running across potsherds and flakes, reawakening my fascination with 'relics'. I retain my interest in herpetology but my attention was diverted, asit turns out for a lifetime.
The Tucson was a great place to spend much of the year but summers were 'harsh'. My parents started looking around for a place in the mountains away from the extreme heat and they bought a parcel of land in the foothills of the San Juan mountains along the Dolores River near Rico, Colorado in 1968. This is not far from Mesa Verde National Park, renowned for its ancient cliff dwellings. By this time I had gained some experience in excavation, albeit not 'officially' and I was a sophomore at the University of Arizona majoring in anthropology on an archaeology track. At the time the policy was that undergraduates were not supposed to go into the field so opportunities were few and far between to excavate. I got to know our mountain neighbors, Walt and Wilda Wallace, who had a summer ranch headquarters across the river from my folk's place. Walt regaled me with stories of running cattle throughout Mesa Verde and the country between it and Dolores. A common theme was discovering ruins in cliffs and scattered throughout the area. The Wallaces owned large tracts of land with many ruins. I decided to check into them and Walt directed me to some he thought I'd find interesting. One of these was a large ruin on the edge of Lost Canyon. I was overwhelmed when I first visited. Unlike the Hohokam of the Tucson desert, these ruins were massive piles of shaped sandstone blocks. I was entranced and had to investigate further. But where to start? Walt also told me about a smaller more compact ruin situated in the open on his farm not far outside Cortez, Colorado. On my first visit I knew that was where I wanted to work. The site,which I named Wallace Ruin, became my life-long personal research project and remains so to this day. This year I will have been investigating the site off and on for 50 years. It was also the beginning of my professional involvement with Ancestral Puebloan archaeology pueblo peoples.