Presentation looks into Aztec Ruins' past

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — When archaeologist Earl Morris began excavating at Aztec Ruins from 1916 until 1922, modern archaeological methods and technology were not yet available to analyze what he found.

A ranger walks in the Aztec Ruins National Monument site in this Daily Times file photo.

Instead, the maps he created, and the pictures and notes he took were tucked away in what would become the Aztec Ruins National Monument museum collections. Over the past century, these records have gone largely unexamined.

But as Erin Baxter pursued her doctorate in museum studies from the University of Colorado, she decided to take a closer glance at Morris' collections. Baxter will present her findings at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colo., where she formerly worked.

Baxter's research focused on reconstructing the history of the ancestral Puebloan societies through the interpretation of architecture, artifacts and burials, according to a press release from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. She also has been working to develop new methods of studying museum collections.

By evaluating Morris' collections, as well as maps drawn by early explorers and oral histories, Baxter was able to reassess the building sequence at Aztec Ruins and document architectural details. The collections also allowed her to hypothesize about room use and reanalyze the burials at the site. In addition, she also evaluated artifact deposition and worked to reconstruct activity areas.

Baxter plans on creating a database of the archaeological materials found at Aztec Ruins National Monument. That database is intended to help other researchers.

"She's a great presenter," said Joyce Alexander, a spokeswoman for Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. "She's very friendly and very funny."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.