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AmaTerra continue their work at Fort Bliss


Our New Mexico team, based in Las Cruces, now totals 14 archaeologists. Our primary clients are White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss. Together, these two US Army installations total more than 4,900 contiguous square miles (that’s more than 3.1 million acres!)


The survey crew takes a brief rest to enjoy the view.

At Fort Bliss, a team lead by Moira Ernst and Matthew Swanson has just completed a survey of 5,162 acres using the Fort Bliss Transect Recording Unit (TRU) method in which field surveyors record observations within individual 15x15 m cells using Trimble GPS data loggers. (That is more than 92,000 survey cells!) The raw data are fed into a GIS program and sites are delineated post survey, based on the absolute and relative frequencies of artifacts and features within these cells. We’re not yet sure how many sites will ultimately be delineated, but it looks to be several hundred; we’ll know for sure in another week or so after the GIS team finishes their work. After delineation of sites, we’ll return to the field to record and test the sites. Next up, we do the same thing on another 7,924 acres! The reports for both of these surveys are scheduled for early summer.

At the same time, another team led by Mark (Haughk) Sale has just finished another survey up at White Sands Missile Range in advance of a planned burn of rangelands to improve wildlife habitat. This survey used a more traditional methodology on 2,000 acres and discovered 12 previously unknown sites. This winter, regular snow storms have given us lots of trouble! New Mexico guidelines specify that no survey work may be conducted if more than 20% of the ground is obscured by snow cover, and we have been shut down on multiple occasions since the start of the survey last December.


Here, AmaTerra archaeologist Amy Silberberg inspects a row of mortars in a rockshelter site at the base of the Carrizozo Lava Flow on White Sands Missile Range.


Prehistoric rock ring observed during field survey in New Mexico.

Next month, we will start another project at Fort Bliss. Led by Rachel Feit, a team will record six historic sites associated with the railroad between El Paso and Alamogordo. The sites, dating between 1885 to 1945, are known to include a variety of sites such as town sites, construction camps, sidings, and refuse dumps. Along with directing the field work, Rachel will also be developing a new Historic Context for railroad sites in southern New Mexico.

Also next month, a team led by Deborah Dobson-Brown will conduct an assessment of the Trinity National Historic Landmark at White Sands Missile Range. Trinity is the location of the world’s first nuclear explosion in 1945. The site, no longer radioactive, consists of multiple historic buildings and structures within an Historic District and the team will update each individual location and conduct a condition reassessment. This study will assist the Army in preserving the landmark for future generations

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