Latest updates, as of April 2018

Latest updates, as of April 2018

For the last 4 years this blog has gone silent and it is a shame. I am finally coming around to it and in it I want to talk about why the long gap in blog coverage. Basically, I thought I could do it all, have a baby, go to the field 40 days after having said baby, run a National Science Foundation funded archaeological project, switch academic jobs, move across the country (US), all while publishing, teaching excellent engaging courses, AND blogging about it!!! Obviously I was in over my head and something had to be let go. It was the blog as all other things had to be maintained to keep our life (personal and professional) going and strong.

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My young son and I with Cerro Jazmín in the background

So what happened in the last 4 years since I last blogged about CJAP? The first field season of CJAP was really rough. We had an automobile accident due to some careless driving (unfortunately from someone in our crew), but thankfully no one was harmed. However, having NO field vehicle for a long time made things really complicated. As the crew pressed on focusing on the 2013 season excavations, I worked, along with my baby, on processing the artifacts coming out of our excavations. Needless to say things were going really slowly AND I was struggling with breastfeeding and lack of sleep. I only really made any sort of headway in the artifact analysis once my dear, highly knowledgable, and organized colleague Dra. Laura Stiver Walsh came to join our team that summer of 2013. Thanks to her we were able to process all of the 2013 season materials, getting us ready to write the necessary reports for Mexico’s National Council and then get the needed research permits for the following 2014 season. We have since published some of the results of our 2013 field season, which focused on an area of the site, near the hilltop that was the site of feasting (Pérez Rodríguez et al. 2017c).

The following 2014 season was great. In part, in large part, because my mother, Rosa María, came to live in a house full of archaeologists in Nochixtlán Oaxaca and she helped us care for our son Joaquín, while I now joined the ranks of the excavators up on Cerro Jazmín. By this time breastfeeding was going really well and all I had to do is carry my battery operated pump up to the site and take some time after my lunch break to pump. Everybody was very supportive and I will never forget some of the workers reminding us to not forget the icebox of milk that would go down, along with the day’s artifacts, on the burros we hired.

2014 was our most productive field season. At some point we had four excavation teams going on at the same time. I focused on the western mound of the monumental area of the site known as the Tres Cerritos (three little hills). This mound had been severely looted,  nearly destroyed in the 1930s, but this allowed us to get the needed research permits to excavate a trench that completely bisected the mound from east to west. We also located the remains of a looted tomb and fortunately we were able to located (and date) a ceramic offering that had been deposited directly on top of the tomb. We also learned that the mound and this part of the site had received more attention and was the site of construction in the later part of the Ramos period (100 BC to AD 300) and that the mound seemed to face west to an open area where plowing and agriculture have impacted the archaeological deposits, but where I hope to continue explorations in the future.

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Map of the Tres Cerritos sector generated from the mapping data collected in Phase I

While I worked at Tres Cerritos my colleagues Antonio Martinez Tuñon, Mariana Navarro Rosales, and Gabriela García Ayala focused on different terraces in different site sectors to learn about their function and the way of life of the Cerro Jazmín urbanites. Our first publication, which focuses on the household found on Terrace 131 just came out this year (Pérez Rodríguez et al. 2018). Currently, am working on analyzing all evidence of craft production found throughout the site.

In the 2014 season we also had a couple of local school groups visit our excavations, which was great as kids got to ask about what we actually do as archaeologists (there is a lot of misinformation out there about what we do) and they got to know about the past, the ancient ancient past, of their community, which is (unfortunately) something not covered in Mexican history courses and textbooks.

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Project PI talking with local kids who visited the site in a school visit.

Our final field season took place in 2015, again with the help of my mother. Also, by then my son was old enough to enter a government-run day care in Nochixtlán. This was an excellent and affordable daycare and I will always be thankful of the great teachers and the excellent care, education, and healthy home cooked meals my son received at Carrusel Mágico. It is unfortunate that we did not have such affordable child care options when we got back to Albany, NY. Back to the project. In the 2015 project we excavated another agricultural terrace as to obtain data on another household in Cerro Jazmín. We also conducted some stratigraphic explorations at four different narrow terraces (less than 2 meters wide) to learn about their possible function, antiquity, and mode of construction. The final season also was devoted to finishing up all the needed in-field and in-lab artifact processing, data recording, and documentation.

Ricardo Higelín Ponce de León was there in all three field seasons and he trained a crew of local workers to process, document, and identify all human remains recovered.

All faunal materials were sent to Gilberto Pérez Roldán at the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí for identification and analysis.

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Three weeks in and getting busier by the minute

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Three weeks in and getting busier by the minute

This is part of our on-going work cleaning up and excavating around a very large (to say the least) looter’s trench that cut this mound in half (reportedly in 1935). We are working to clean up the exposed profile to get a good sense of the antiquity of the structure, the various periods of occupation, construction, and so forth and to understand the construction methods used at Cerro Jazmin. We have so far six different stucco floor layers identified.

Our work will continue. There is SO much to do and our team is starting to find its rhythm quite nicely. On a personal front, as a mom going back to fieldwork with a now 11 month old, I am now completely used to pumping breastmilk in my tent during my lunch time and this activity is now just part of the normal work day for me and everybody around. My son in the mean time at the field house is enjoying quality time with grandma.

*(Gracias mama, tu ayuda hace posible que pueda yo trabajar en lo que me gusta, en arqueología y en campo).

Estamos a punto de comenzar

We are about to start our 2014 field season, slowly, tomorrow. The community continues to be supportive of our work and we hope it remains this way. We will first re-visit the areas of proposed excavation to assess their condition and if the conditions are favorable, we begin to lay out a grid. More as actual fieldwork begins.

On a more personal note I can say that it is surprisingly cold in the field house and this, I hate. Sometimes it is warmer outside than inside. This is also the first time I head back into the field without our son on our backs, so pumping milk with batteries in the field will be an interesting (but I hope a successful) experience… hopefully I won’t have to explain to the local workers why I wonder off for a little while a couple of times a day. Batteries are charged and I now leave you to prepare my backpack, now with a few other items I had never before included in my field pack.

Here is hoping for a productive, positive, successful, and peaceful field season!

Tenemos permiso!!!

We have gotten approval for this season of fieldwork!

The National Council of Archaeology has approved our 2013 report and has approved also your request for a permit to work in 2014. We are now resting, getting better, enjoying family and the holidays to charge up batteries for the 2014 field season!

In preparation

We are currently preparing for the next season of excavation at Cerro Jazmin, temporada 2014. The informe for the previous season has been sent to the Consejo Nacional de Arqueología and we are awaiting a response (and hopefully an approval). We are also waiting to hear on our proposal for the next season… meantime we are packing bags and some equipment (for the field and for baby). Season 2014, here we come… with Joaquin in tow!

At some point I probably need to write about this whole experience of trying to pull off archaeological field research with a brand new baby and now with a soon to be 10-month old.

What is CJAP about?

The Cerro Jazmin Archaeological Project (or CJAP hereon) investigates ancient urbanism and its environmental impact by integrating archaeological and geomorphological methods. The project focuses on Cerro Jazmin, a Prehispanic city in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca, Mexico. One of the main goals of our work is to expand our understanding of different forms of ancient urbanism, especially those that showed resilience or at least, longevity. We are interested in learning about how Prehispanic urban centers functioned, how they integrated agricultural and residential terraces, and how urban activity impacted the quality of life of ancient urbanites and the surrounding environment.