ABQjournal: Hike Through Diablo Canyon Area Spotlights Early Human Presence in North America By Patrick Miller, For the Journal
WHAT: “12,000 Years of Santa Fe History” — hikes led by The New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies
WHEN: Periodically through Oct. 15
WHERE: Santa Fe area and northern Rio Grande Valley
HOW MUCH: $45 for Friends of Archaeology members; $55 for the general public. For information, including dates and destinations, contact the Office of Archaeological Studies at 827-6343.
On the windswept mesa overlooking Diablo Canyon, near the city of Santa Fe’s Buckman well field, are some of the earliest signs of human existence in North America. Shiny flecks of obsidian sparkle in the afternoon sun; a blanched petroglyph gazes from the smooth face of a boulder.
Of all the sites where Charles Hannaford, an archaeologist for the state’s Office of Archaeological Studies, and his colleague Steve Post lead public hikes, this one stands apart.
It’s a very unusual site, explains Hannaford, because it dates back 10,000 years— to Paleoindian times. Paleoindian sites are more common at lower elevations, says Hannaford, and the state didn’t even know this site existed until the late 1970s, when an amateur artifact collector was arrested for pillaging the site. The collector relinquished the 900 artifacts that he plucked from the area and gave archaeologists detailed notes about the site that he had compiled over two years.
The man’s work destroyed the archaeological value of the site, Hannaford says as he gathers the group in front of a stone structure. “There is no context.” …
Hannaford said the predominant migration theory holds that people trickled into North America around 12,000 years ago from Siberia over a now-submerged thousand-mile-wide land bridge in the Bering Sea. A more recent, competing theory points to what Hannaford called a possible maritime route along the coastlines of North America. This theory suggests wayfarers roamed the Pacific coast as far south as Chile instead of moving immediately into the continent’s interior.
A combination of both is the most likely explanation of Paleoindian presence in North America, he said.
“The various data suggests that there were multiple migrations. Linguists feel that there were probably three languages, and geneticists suggest four to five founding lineages,” he said. “Today’s Native Americans are descendants of these migrations.”
Regardless of how Paleoindians wound up at the Diablo Canyon site, the fact that they settled here is strange, he said. The area would probably not have been particularly rich with big game, which Paleoindians pursued across plains like those in Eastern New Mexico, Hannaford said.
“There were probably herd fragments here, but they may not have been hunting here at all. It may have been ceremonial. That’s one of the mysteries of this site,” he said.
Nor, said Post, do archaeologists know why these ancient people left. Perhaps as the weather got warmer, streams and arroyos became unreliable and without a steady water supply, animals drifted away. Perhaps the human population began to dwindle.
Post speculated that once the site was abandoned, it may have lain untouched until the 1200s, when descendants of those early residents settled in the area.