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San Juan College Totah Archaeological Project Field School

Location: Farmington, New Mexico, United States

June 6, 2016 to July 15, 2016

Session dates: 
There is only one six week session, but because students can sign up for various credit hours, they can attend different parts of the session. For instance students signing up for only 3 credits can attend any two weeks or any 10 days. Those who are auditing can attend any portion of the session.

Application Deadline: 
Monday, June 6, 2016

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Program Type

Field school



San Juan College 4601 College Blvd. Farmington, NM 87402

Project Director:

Linda Wheelbarger, San Juan College

Project Description

The San Juan College Totah Archaeological Project field school is the main component of an on-going research project funded by San Juan College and Tommy Bolack, owner and manager of the B-Square Ranch.  The field school is conducted on the 13,000 acre B-Square Ranch, a combination working cattle ranch, waterfowl conservation area, and museum facility.   The field school is in a gorgeous location at the base of the Shannon Bluffs and adjacent to the San Juan River, overlooking Farmington lying immediately to the north.  We are in high desert Colorado Plateau terrain and normally receive only 8 inches of precipitation a year.  Our area is called “Totah” by the local Navajos meaning “land amidst water” because of the three rivers which junction at the western edge of Farmington. 

This year we will be continuing to work at Point Pueblo, a large Chacoan greathouse community dating to the Chacoan Pueblo II time period of AD 900-1150 and the subsequent Pueblo III time period of AD 1150-1300.  You can see photos from past years on our web page at I am definitely behind in updating the web page with the last few year’s information, but three students are currently helping me get those reports finalized. 

The dates for this year’s field school are June 6 to July 15, 2016.  The class will run from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday with several optional activities scheduled both during the week and on some weekends. My schedule will be provided upon request.  

In general, we excavate 3 days a week with the other 2 days spent on lab, survey, or field trips.  I have scheduled one day of archaeological survey on the Chaco North Road (for the Bureau of Land Management) and one day on the B-Square Ranch where I will go over survey methodology, then we will survey a specific area, find a site, and I will have students record the site using both GPS and compass/tape techniques.

Lab days will include washing and cataloging collected artifacts, as well as listening to lectures on a number of archaeological topics such as Southwest archaeology, ceramic and lithic analysis, and contract archaeology processes and procedures.  Field trips (optional) are planned to include Mesa Verde, Salmon Ruins, Aztec Ruins, Navajo pueblitos in Largo Canyon, and Chaco Canyon National Historic Park.

The first day of field school, June 6th, we will meet at San Juan College in the 30th St. Annex Building.  Starting at 9am, the first day will include introductions, an overview of the Totah Archaeological Project, review of fundamental concepts of archaeology and common archaeological terms, information on our local environment, an overview of Four Corners prehistory, an introduction to artifacts and features we expect to find, and general gridding and excavation procedures.  We will eat lunch at our campus’s Mary’s Kitchen and take a quick tour of the campus at that time.  If you need to save money, you are welcome to bring your lunch instead of buying food.  
We will caravan out to the B-Square Ranch on June 7th where we may be able to meet Tommy Bolack .  The rest of that day will be spent touring the Ranch viewing a number of Archaic, Ancestral Puebloan, Navajo, and Historic sites including several rock art panels. 

Excavation will begin at Point Pueblo on Wednesday, June 8th.    Although not required, I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to keep a journal and allow you to write in it any time during the day.  I will give each of you a Composition Book to use as a journal, but if you want a nicer journal, bring your own. You will definitely want to bring a camera. 

For the past eight years, I have concentrated excavation on the Point Pueblo great kiva.  We excavated the antechamber in 2008 and 2009.  From 2009 to 2011, we completed excavation of a north-south trench and an east west trench, using contiguous 2 x 2m units, through the approximate center of the depression and down to where the tops of masonry floor features were revealed. In 2012, after having completed excavation of those directional trenches the previous summer, I had the backhoe brought in to clear the remaining fill from north of the east-west trench down to a level just above the top of those previously revealed features.  I felt comfortable doing this because of the skill of the operator, the relatively sterile nature of the great kiva fill, and because of the representative documentation of the fill and strata within the excavated directional trenches.  Students peeled remaining fill dirt from the back wall of the great kiva and above the bench, leveled the entire interior of the north half of the great kiva down to about 20 cm above the floor features, and then began formal excavation in complete or partial 2 x 2 m units down to Floor 1.

At the end of the summer of 2012, we had completed excavation of Floor 1 and the associated roof support platform vault complexes in the northern portion of the great kiva.  This uppermost floor represents the final occupation of the site and dates to the late AD 1200s.  This represents the late Pueblo III time period at which time the puebloans left the entire Four Corners area moving southward to the Rio Grande River and  west central areas of New Mexico and to the Little Colorado River area of Arizona.  That migration was completed by approximately AD 1300.  The same excavation strategy, consisting of removing fill with a backhoe and subsequent excavation down to Floor 1 using complete or partial 2 x 2 m units, was used for excavation of the southern portion of the great kiva in 2013 through the first half of the 2015 session.

The last few weeks of 2015, we completed a 1m wide N-S trench through the center of the great kiva and went down about 50cm in 10cm levels to where we found the original floor, Floor 3, believed to date to about AD 1050.  An intermediate floor, Floor 2 was discovered midway in the trench on a surface of sand and gravel material that had been brought in by the Ancestral Puebloan occupants to cover the original floor, probably through a ritual renewal ceremony. 

Nearly a thousand artifacts and samples were point-provenienced  on Floor 1 and the top of the bench.  Notable artifacts included two complete broken corrugated jars, several partial bowls, a turkey bone bead necklace, a broken tchamajilla, two projectile points, 50+ exotic decorative items (including calcite, turquoise, olivella, abalone, jet, argillite, azurite, and shale beads or bead blanks), and miscellaneous sherds and lithic debitage.  A jet ring was discovered just above the top of the bench a short distance from the back wall and probably represents a fallen wall niche offering.  A jet bird pendant fetish with turquoise eyes was discovered resting on Floor 1 adjacent to the bench at the exact southern edge of the great kiva.  The positioning of the jet bird pendant fetish and several of the other artifacts in the cardinal directions indicates a closing ceremony was definitely conducted before the residents left the site in the late AD 1200s.  Many presumed ritual objects were also found in the N-S trench. 

The goal for 2016 is to excavate the middle portion of the great kiva exposing the Chacoan pier roof support features that are hidden under the post-Chaco occupation remodeled roof support platforms, finish excavation of the vaults, excavate down to a portion of  Floor 2, and excavate a portion of Floor 3 (the original floor).  We discovered that cultural materials continue below the center of the original great  kiva floor and we hope to continue excavation in that area to try to determine whether it represents a pithouse.  In 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2014, we tested portions of the great house and will continue to expose great house walls in 2016.

Period(s) of Occupation: Ancestral Puebloan/Anasazi, Pueblo II-III time period, A.D. 900-1300

Excavation, Anasazi, Chaco time period, Point Pueblo, Chacoan Outlier, great house, great kiva, great house, Totah, Four Corners, New Mexico, San Juan River, Farmington, San Juan College

Project size: 
25-49 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: For those taking the class for credit: 6 weeks for the 9 credit class, 4 weeks for a 6 credit class, and 2 weeks for a 3 credit class

Minimum age: 
16, with special stipulations

Experience required: 
No experience required and no pre-requisites

Room and Board Arrangements

Room and board is the responsibility of the student, however, for the last five years I arranged for out-of-state students to stay at the Economy Inn in downtown Farmington where special rates were given to the students.  This has worked out very well and the Economy Inn has agreed to provide special rates again in 2016.  The motel is located in our small downtown area only 2 blocks from the Three Rivers Brewery and Café.   In general, when sharing a motel room (includes microwave and refrigerator) with one or more students, motel room costs are very reasonable at $95-125 per week totaling $570-$750 for the six week session or $190-$250 for ANTH 280 students who only stay for two weeks. There are 2-person, 3-person, and 4-person rooms available.  Students who prefer are welcome to have a room by themselves at a higher cost.  I believe a single room rate is $235 per week. 

Also, students are welcome to find their own lodging, stay at local campgrounds, or they may choose to camp for free on Bureau of Land Management land in the vicinity (no amenities) .

Check out the Farmington New Mexico Convention and Visitors Bureau’s web page that has lots of information on the area ( and also the college web page has a Housing link on the Admissions page that you can check out.  The phone numbers for Realty Agents and several Apartment complexes are listed there. 

Food costs are dependent on the student, but $100 per week is a good, although relatively minimal, estimate.   For further information contact Linda Wheelbarger at:

In general, total room and board costs at the Economy Inn will range from $205 per week to $340 per week, depending on whether you choose to room with others or stay by yourself. Also, if students choose to camp, costs can be reduced and they will be increased if you choose to stay at a more expensive motel.

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
San Juan College 4601 College Blvd. Farmington, NM 8am7402
Number of credits offered ANTH 288 Field School = 6 or 9 credits ANTH 280 Internship = 3 or 6 credits Students can petition for a 4 or 5 credit Internship
For New Mexico residents, the per credit hour fee is $46.00 plus an additional flat fee of $77.50 for students taking 1-4 credit hours or an additional flat fee of $155 for students taking 5 or more credit hours. For out-of-state or international residents, the per credit hour fee is $146.00 plus an additional flat fee of $200.00 for students taking 1-4 credits or an additional flat fee of $305.00 for students taking 5 or more credits. In addition, there is a $0.75 activity fee per credit hour for both New Mexico residents and out-of-state or international residents. Per credit hour charges are reduced for New Mexico resident students 65 and older. All field school students must pay an equipment and supply fee to help cover equipment, vehicle rental, and supply costs. The equipment and supply fee is $300 for the 9 credit field school, $200 for the 6 credit field school or internship, or $100 for the 3 credit internship. Total tuition cost for the field school including credit hour fee, additional flat fee, activity fee and equipment and supply fee is: New Mexico Residents: 3 credit class = $317.75; 6 credit class = $665.50; 9 credit class = $906.75 Out-of-State or International Residents: 3 credit class = $677.75; 6 credit class = $1,385.50; 9 credit class = $1,925.75


Contact Information
Linda Wheelbarger
4601 College Blvd.
United States
505 320-1834 (cell)
Recommended Bibliography: 

Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest by Stephen Plog, Second Edition 2008, Thames and Hudson, NY, NY

The Chaco Experience: Landscape and Ideology at the Center Place by Ruth M. Van Dyke, 2007, School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe, NM

A History of the Ancient Southwest by Stephen Lekson, 2009, School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe, NM

People of Chaco: A Canyon and Its Culture, Revised 1986, W.W. Norton & Company, New York.