This year’s International Archaeology Day free open house at the Center for New Mexico Archaeology (CNMA) offers both interesting activities and an immersion into the world of maize, the theme of the celebration taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15. Visitors can try shooting with a bow and arrow, make a cornhusk doll, see coiled basketry and pottery-firing demonstrations, and tour the Office of Archaeological Studies laboratories and the state’s repository of ancient stone tools, ceramics, and other artifacts.
Opening in the CNMA lobby is The Miracle of Maize: A Catalyst for Change in the American Southwest, an exhibit curated by Diana Sherman of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. A new film is also screened: She Brings Life: Maize, a Sacred Sustenance. “Some of the earliest maize discovered in the Southwest comes from the Bat Cave site located in Catron County,” Sherman told Pasatiempo. “Dating to 3,000 years old, the archaeologists discovered corn kernels that were about the size of a penny. They tried popping the kernels, and they still popped!”
Eric Blinman, director of the Museum of New Mexico’s Office of Archaeological Studies, recalled a study on Native American maize that discussed the variety known as Hopi Blue, which would yield big, full ears in good years and even in terrible years produce enough for seed. “As a rough guide, every family had enough storage volume to cover about three years of corn storage,” Blinman said. “After the harvest, you draw it down in the winter, and you decide how much acreage you plant. If you do have a poor harvest and you can’t refill up to that three-year capacity, you plant more acreage in the spring.
“With that buffer,” Blinman said, “a decision about whether a drought is so bad that a family or entire community has to pick up and move is not so desperate: It’s really a third- or fourth-year decision. And in the years when you get a bumper crop, that’s when you can either plant less or go on that walkabout or build that new building.”
The Center for New Mexico Archaeology is at 7 Old Cochiti Road, off Caja del Rio Road. After International Archaeology Day, the lobby exhibit may be viewed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and access to the CNMA collections is by appointment only. Call 505-476-4404 or visit www.nmarchaeology.org for more information.