What More Could I Ask For?

Hey, it’s Sarah! So, I had the pleasure of celebrating my 20th birthday during the project. It was certainly a birthday like no other. It started off with a hike and boulder hopping until we came across a huge site of archaic rock art. As you may imagine, the whole ordeal was quite exciting. And whenever I started to not feel so awesome about the hike, Alberti sang Happy Birthday to me throughout the day. It was fantastic.

On the way to that big rock art site, I found a panel of rock art we have decided is definitely a birthday cake. Marvel at that distinctive candle at the top, beautiful.


We enjoyed the refreshing coolness of the Rio Grande on our feet as we ate lunch.


My day in the field was finished with drawing an archaic artifact I found. It is either a bi-faced (worked on two sides) tool or a projectile point (arrow head). Either way, it is definitely thousands of years old.


After our field work we celebrated with root beer. I also had a wonderful wallow in the Rio Grande whilst the rest of the group prepared chicken parmesan and a chocolate cake. My favorites. What more could I ask for a birthday?



Taking On the World, One Adventure At A Time

Hey everyone! Dee here. Thank-you for you dedication and support of Framingham States Honors Program Gorge Project Team Members during these past few weeks, and the time leading up to this experience. Reflecting on my short time here, I can easily say that I’ve experienced something that I’ve never had the privilege before. Although this trip was essentially a research based Archaeological Survey of the greater Rio Arriba county of New Mexico, in many ways it became so much more.

The heart of this project was centered deeply around the community. The community of Dixon NM, the school communities and communal collaboration between Columbia University’s Barnard College for Women, and Framingham State Universities Honors Program, the doctoral program in Archaeology at Columbia University, and the community this project fostered. In my time in NM, I’ve made many new friends, met people whose culture and archaeology we were studying, explored and traveled into the heart of archaeology country in the Rio Grande, explored the Taos Pueblo, endured intense hikes, rock scaling, and many fun and adventurous challenges in the field. When Dr. Benjamin Alberti first introduced the opportunity at the beginning of the Spring Semester, shortly after winter break, I jumped on it! Travelling with classmates and my professor almost 2,000 miles away from home I decided to go on a whim and try something new that involved my education and so much more.

The lessons I’ve learned during my two weeks in the field apply beyond my education and knowledge of Archaeology. During the Gorge Project, I learned lessons which will apply to all areas of my life, socially, academically, and intellectually. I’ve learned how to work as a member of a team to accomplish project goals, I learned how to identify different types of artifacts, which include lithics, points, rock art, rock art techniques, and ways of  dating artifacts. I have met professionals in the field and listened to their guidance and advice during field work; I challenged myself to intense hiking trips, boulder climbing, and to open up to Columbia’s students, and get to know each one individually. At the end of our stay at the Mission in Dixon, a cozy apartment that managed to house all of us comfortably, we celebrated with the local radio station and other members of the community in a benefit. Our last night, we all danced together on the old creaky dance floor, sharing smiles, goofy dance moves, and each other’s company for the last time during our trip. As we all depart today to go home, we all wished each other safe rides home, and the promise that we’d stay in touch, and maybe come back next year (if we’re lucky enough!).

Getting ready to board the plane back home to Boston feels surreal, but I can’t imagine not starting my summer break in such a unique way. I have many stories and adventurous tales to share with my friends and family once I’m home again, and this is truly an experience I will never forget.

Thank you Framingham State University’s Honors Program!

Facts and Lessons from New Mexico

Hello all! My real name is Nicolette Husselbee, but here in the field I am known as Mary Poppins, or Jane from Tarzan (more on this later). I’ve been keeping a journal for this trip about my personal experiences as well as a way to record my new archaeological knowledge. My first journal entry is an ongoing list of what I’ve learned about this area of Northern New Mexico, which I’ve split into a series of facts and lessons.

Lesson 1: This is most definitely NOT New England. There is heat but no humidity, and people are very nice to strangers (the Albuquerque airport offered free citrus water and snacks in the baggage claim area. Logan airport in Boston needs to step it up!).

Lesson 2: The branches of juniper trees make surprisingly nice back rests while recording artifacts, if you can wedge yourself in properly.

Lesson 3: Do not attempt to wedge yourself underneath the cholla.

Lesson 4: “It is really hard to live communally” – Dr. Severin Fowels. This lesson was given to me on our first night here over a lovely dinner of homemade pizza, and to this day (Day Six) I’m not finding this lesson to be especially true. I feel very lucky that the members of this expedition are all wonderful to work and live with, especially my fellow Framingham State ladies and gent.

Lesson 5: If you’re going to be hiking for miles upon miles up and down the cliffs of a large gorge, you should eat snacks throughout the day for energy. Otherwise, you’ll likely crash at the end of the day just before making the final ascent back to the car at the top and have a really difficult time moving your legs.

Lesson 6: Archaeological evidence isn’t obvious. You have to be looking for specific characteristics in stones and land. If you train your eyes, you can almost definitely find archaeological evidence wherever you go.


Fact 1: A commonly seen cultural phenomenon here in New Mexico are Descansos, which can be found all along major roadways. They are highly ornamented and creative crosses and memorial stands for loved ones who had been involved in fatal car accidents.

Fact 2: Bridges over the highway have the names of the original Puebloan land areas in their original language. These are accompanied by beautiful works of art.

Fact 3: There are three major groups of people inhabiting this area. The Pueblo people are native to the land and have been here for many hundreds of years. The Hispanic population is also strong, and have been in the area for around 500 years. The final large group of people in this area are the Anglos, otherwise referred to as the hippies of the 1970’s. In some ways the lines between these peoples are strongly defined, but there is certainly blending between the groups as well.

Fact 4: The landscape used to be entirely waist-deep grassland, but overgrazing occurred and allowed sagebrush to take over (luckily for me, because I absolutely love sage).

Fact 5: Education is about more than what you learn in a classroom.

More information and adventures to come!

Signing off for now,

Mary Poppins

So It Begins

May 31

Greetings, I’m Sarah Morgan, a student of Framingham State University. I have the honor of joining Dr. Benjamin Alberti and fellow students on a journey of archaeological understanding of New Mexico’s past. We are going into the Rio Grande Gorge near Dixon. The views are beautiful and the history is fascinating.


The trip started with orientation. As a group, we were brought to two archaeological sites to see examples of features, petroglyphs, and artifacts. Features are aspects of a site that are immovable man made structures, such as an alignment of rocks. Petroglyphs are depictions on the sides of rocks that are made from pecking, abrasions, or scratchings by the use of other rocks. Artifacts are objects like ceramics, glass, tools, or retouched rock flakes. Retouched rock flakes could have been scrapers, and if worked further they could have been projectile points.


However, everything found was from surveying the land, as opposed to excavation. Surveying the land is of particular significance in respect to the nearby residents. There is a bit of politics involved with archaeological exploration. Creek archaeologist Lindsey Montgomery explained that some Indigenous groups consider everything in nature to be alive (I.e. Trees, mountains, etc.), and therefore request that nothing be removed from their place nor the soil to be broken. It would disrupt the ecosystem at work.


This also brings up the subject of preserving the health of the environment. New Mexico has a shortage of water and we make every effort to be conservative with our use of water. This means limited shower use, no running water while washing dishes, composting, and other means of being conservative. It was the first day and already we were learning so much about archaeology, relations with locals, and helping the environment.

The Land of Enchantment

Hello! This is Bobby Rice, and it’s great to be in New Mexico. We arrived yesterday afternoon, and then went on to take a quick tour of the area. This photo was taken at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, in Taos, NM.


Like all of the other FSU students who have the privilege to come to New Mexico, I was introduced to archaeology in Dr. Alberti’s Honors course.

Unlike the other FSU students, though, this isn’t my first time. This season will be the fourth that I’ve participated in, each allowing me to develop new techniques and gain new understandings of the landscape (and of the past). I think the fact that I’ve decided to come back for four seasons speaks to how awesome the experience is.

When they say that New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment,” they aren’t kidding. The people, landscape, and culture of the area are amazing, and yet completely different than Massachusetts. The cultural landscape of Northern New Mexico almost makes you feel like you’re in another country!

But most of all, the experience and knowledged that is gained during each season makes the decision to come back so easy. As State University students, being able to experience archaeological fieldwork is amazing, and being able to experience it more than once is even better.

“What Are You Doing This Summer?”

I’m going on an Archaeological Survey. At Framingham State, a state liberal arts university in Massachusetts, students are required to take a plethora of general education courses, as well as five honors classes, for membership in the Commonwealth Honors Program. This past Fall, I decided to sign up for an Honors Archaeology Course, not quite sure at the time exactly what archaeology as a discipline was, only being nostalgically familiar with the Indiana Jones film series of my childhood. When I first walked into class, I was greeted by Dr. Alberti, a British accented professor who had an absolute adoration and passion for the past and theories of our past.

Unlike a lot of courses at FSU, this will be the first class I do research with. I am beyond excited to travel to different part of the country, explore and experience a new culture, and apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to essentially the real world. I envision this experience will be unlike anything I’ve ever done; my professor has told many stories of past research trips to the Gorge, that imply that we will be doing a lot of hiking, drawing, exploring, navigating, and having a lot of fun. It is a privilege to be part of the team this year, I am joining two other members of my class, Sarah Morgan, and Nicole Husselbee, and Robert DeaPacking.JPGRice, to represent the Honors Program at Framingham State University in this year’s research at the Gorge this summer.

Most of my friends and peers at school have reported that their summer will be filled with countless hours at work. When I tell them that I’m going on an archaeological dig, their eyes bulge wide and curious, and they ask, “like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark?” Although we will not be searching for the golden idol in the middle of a sacred temple in an exotic environment, we will be exploring the area for different types of archaeological evidence of the past-which can include projectile points, art carved into rocks, and pottery sherds. We will be exploring land notorious for having rattle snakes and different types of insects and weather than good old New England. All the while, we will be doing a lot of hiking, exploring area’s near the Rio Grande, having many bonfires after a good days work, trying new foods from the local culture, and enjoying our time in New Mexico. I leave tomorrow, but I am beyond excited to go! My large sun hat, hiking boots, and archaeological skills will be put the test in a few days, but I cannot wait!

– Deanna Kenyon

New Mexico is ready for FSU!

I am Dr. Ben Alberti, and I am leading this motley crew on our New Mexico adventure. Well, serious archaeological fieldwork, actually. I arrived here (Dixon, New Mexico) last Sunday to help set things up with my colleague and co-Director, Severin Fowles (Barnard College/Columbia University). Sev has actually been conducting research in northern New Mexico for many years – I am a newcomer, glad to be a part of his larger project. The project is called the Gorge Archaeological Project (after the landform where it is located, a rift valley through which the Rio Grande flows). 


Since arrival we have been hard at work, preparing student accommodation, shopping for food, and familiarizing the three students already here with the fieldwork process (Sydney, Amanda, and Olivia are Columbia and Barnard undergraduates) . So, several days in the field already, surveying and finding new sites just north of the Rio DSC_0034.JPGGrande. We have found a lot of rock art already and some chipped stone scatters (remains of tool making). Here you see archaeologists at work – drawing projectile points they found among the sage flats.

I am incredibly proud to have Framingham State University students, Bobby, Niki, Deanna, and Sarah joining the project. Their arrival on Monday is much anticipated by all of us already here!