The Merchant Site: Old and New Discoveries at a Prehistoric Village on the Mescalero Plain of Southeastern New Mexico Myles R. Miller
Archaeological investigations at the Merchant site sponsored by the Carlsbad Field Office of the BLM have revealed – or “re-revealed”– one of the more unusual and important prehistoric settlements in southeastern New Mexico. First excavated by Robert Leslie and the Lea County Archaeological Society 50 years ago to rescue the site from looters, the site has been a somewhat legendary yet mostly unpublished mystery of southern New Mexico prehistory. Despite its significance, little work besides a small test excavation and surface surveys has taken place since the 1960s. The Carlsbad Field Office contracted Versar, Inc. to conduct remedial excavations to recover information from looted features and to stabilize the site. Survey, mapping, and aerial photography located the domestic rooms and discovered possible agricultural fields. Despite the extensive looting of the 1960s, excavations in two features described as “large pithouses” found intact floor features and helped determine that they were civic-ceremonial rooms like Southwestern pueblo kivas. The trash midden deposits have some of the highest densities of artifact and animal bone recorded in southern New Mexico. The archive of notes, photographs, and an unpublished report by Robert Leslie were carefully reviewed, leading to new insights and discoveries.
This public lecture will present the new and old discoveries from the site and discuss how the combined research efforts from the 1960s and the present time have significantly changed our perspective on 14th century settlements in southeastern New Mexico. The Merchant site was a fascinating mix of Southwestern pueblo lifeways and Plains hunting lifeways that merged to form a new way of living and social identity on the southern Plains of New Mexico during the 14th century.
Myles Miller has been professionally involved with the prehistory of southern New Mexico and Trans-Pecos Texas since returning to El Paso upon completion of graduate school in 1983. For the past 33 years he has conducted research throughout the region and has participated in numerous excavations of prehistoric and historic Native American settlements in west Texas, southern New Mexico, and southeastern Arizona. His current research interests involve the relationships between prehistoric social organization, ritual, landscapes, and ceramic and rock art iconography. He presently serves as a Principal Investigator with Versar (formerly Geo-Marine, Inc.) and supervises archeological consulting work for the Bureau of Land Management and Fort Bliss Military Reservation.
Co- sponsored by the New Mexico Archaeological Council