By Angela Peacock
A hands-on approach to learning New Mexico’s cultural heritage is the whole idea behind the 10th Annual New Mexico Archaeology Fair.
More than 20 archaeologists will set up exhibits under trees and awnings on the grounds of Tucumcari Historical Museum at 416 south Adams Street on Sept. 19 and 20.
Museum Director, Bruce Nutt anticipates anywhere from 750 to 1250 people to attend the event. He said having a state-wide event in Tucumcari is something he takes pride in and wants the public to take advantage of all they can learn by attending the fair.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of the sites and destruction of sites that has been done around this area so we’re hoping to get it across to the public to leave the sites alone without state approval,” said Nutt, stressing the overall goal of the fair. “We want to educate people about the preservation and archeology of the state and to promote Tucumcari and eastern New Mexico.”
Richard Primrose, city manager, is pleased the archeology fair will be held in Tucumcari and said he hopes the public understands how this even can benefit the city.
“I hope we have a big turn out,” Primrose said. “The more publicity (for the city) the better. Anytime we can show Tucumcari to visitors from Santa Fe and surrounding communities it’s a wonderful opportunity. I want people to be able to see first hand all the assets Tucumcari has.”
Glenna Dean, New Mexico State Archaeologist, and coordinator of the last four fairs, said some of the earliest scientific archaeological work was performed in New Mexico.
“Chaco Canyon was recognized early on a source of world class archaeological museum exhibits. But by the late 19th Century, the United States government realized the archaeology of Chaco Canyon was being destroyed in the pursuit of objects,” she said.
As a result of the destruction, Congress passed the Antiquities Act of 1906, which required scientific research to be performed at archaeological site on public land. Dean said this provided the first legal protection of cultural resources.
Dean said the archeology fair represents a major outreach effort by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs to bring archeology knowledge to people around the state at a different location each year.
“We want people to understand archeology doesn’t have to be something of long ago, it could be found with your grandparents, parents or could even have been yesterday,” Dean said. “Our overall goal for the fair is to have fun because education is best learned while having fun.”
There are archeological sites in eastern New Mexico which archeologists haven’t yet discovered. Dean said odds are those sites are important to the history of the state.
“We really don’t know much about eastern new Mexico at all, and hope landowners would want to preserve those sites,” said Dean, explaining how there are tax incentives for land owners interested in historical preservation of archeological sites.