Archeologists working in advance of an Xcel Energy transmission line project in New Mexico uncovered a lot of history. Make that prehistory.
The crews found about 26,000 artifacts, some dating back more than 5,000 years. Those discoveries include a possible pit house which, if confirmed, could be the only Archaic-Period (circa 2,000-8,000 BC) habitat ever uncovered in Eddy County, N.M., according to Xcel.
“We found many more items than anticipated. All of these artifacts paint a picture of the time period and tell a story about how people at the time were using the landscape to their advantage,” said William Whitehead, lead archaeologist with SWCA Environmental Consultants. “We hope to use these items to analyze human behavior including diet and the environment in the time period that we might not have known before.”
Xcel is planning to build $1.6 billion in new transmission lines and related infrastructure as part of its Power for the Plains initiative for Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Crews will construct 400 miles of high-voltage line in Lea and Eddy counties as part of that plan.
The rare shallow pit house, if proved, was a form of shelter which held storage, a fire hearth and sockets for wooden supports. The crews also found bedrock mortars used by Native Americans to process plant foods, arrowheads and trade beads, among other artifacts.
“These projects have required much collaboration internally and externally,” said Tiffany Pulliam, Xcel Energy Senior Siting and Land Rights Agent. “We commend the great job done by SWCA Environmental Consultants and the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management, and look forward to continuing to work together on this and future projects.”
After being analyzed the artifacts will be turned over to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe to be curated.
Eddy County is rife with ancient Indian artifacts. Other U.S. Bureau of Land Management information details rock art sites in caves within the region, for example.