Archaeology research

The Hopi Footprints Project

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Across the Colorado Plateau, abundant archaeological sites provide a stimulating arena for cultivating an understanding of past cultural traditions that are linked to today’s Hopi people. Hopi oral history discusses these archaeological sites telling the story of Hopi migrations across much of the Colorado Plateau.

Referred to as their footprints, the archaeological sites and the oral history surrounding them connect the past to the present. Interaction of elders and archaeologists provide a powerful force for teachers to bring together knowledge that surprisingly corroborate each other. Our culturally-appropriate professional development and curriculum will enable Hopi youth to connect to their cultural history and thereby facilitate student learning.

The goal of this project is to improve classroom teaching practice while creating a standards-based Hopi culture curriculum in CD-ROM and web site formats. The project is a collaboration among  the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, educators, elders, tribal cultural professionals, anthropologists, and archaeologists, who worked together to develop a curriculum focusing on culture education, technology integration, and action research in classrooms.

The key components of the project include summer institutes, intensive school site visits throughout the academic year, and follow-up Saturday sessions for project participants. The CD-ROM and web site provide resources for teachers and students, including digital video, audio, maps, and lesson plans.

The project recently was awarded a three-year National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to expand the project to Hopi high school students. Footprints of the Ancestors, The National Endowment for the Humanities provides a grant to the Anthropology Department to expand its recently completed project, Hopi Footprints: Building Better Teachers with a Community-based Culture Curriculum.

Colorado Plateau Agricultural Origins Project

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The Colorado Plateau Agricultural Origins Project, directed by Dr. Francis Smiley, is in its tenth year of archaeological investigations in the Butler Wash area of southeastern Utah.

The project investigates the origins of agriculture and the development of tribal societies in the northern Southwest.  The project has trained numerous undergraduate and graduate students in field archaeology and operates under the auspices of the US Bureau of Land Management out of Monticello, UT.

Cerro Jazmín Archaeological Project

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The Cerro Jazmín Archaeological Project integrates archaeological and geomorphological methods to map and study the site of Cerro Jazmín, a top-tier Prehispanic urban center that was inhabited between 300 B.C. and A.D. 1400.

The project, which takes place in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca, Mexico seeks to expand our understanding of urbanism and how Prehispanic urban centers functioned and impacted their surrounding landscape.

Hopi Iconography Project

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At the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), Dr. Hays-Gilpin directs the Hopi Iconography Project, a collaboration between the museum and the Hopi Tribe’s cultural preservation office.

The research is exploring Hopi cultural continuity through pottery, rock art, mural painting, and fiber perishables, including baskets and textiles.

Archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, and art historians are working together with Hopi artists, language specialists, archaeologists, and other cultural specialists to study nearly two thousand years of Hopi history, values, aesthetics, technology, subsistence, and artistic expression.

Archaeologists usually study the past for its own sake, but this project is trying to understand the meanings of the past in the present, and how distinctively Hopi ways of thinking about ecology, health, and community values have been expressed in material culture over centuries if not millennia.

Most important, the research needs to explore ways that Hopi traditions can help shape a sustainable future for Hopi communities and beyond, through subsistence farming, craft production, public health programs, and cultural revitalization.

In some ways, it’s more important to Hays-Gilpin that ancient objects do have significance for contemporary indigenous people, and less important what the exact meanings of ancient symbols are—so it’s less about reading the past like a text, and more about having a conversation in the present about ancestors, sacred places, and making aesthetic and emotional connections between past and present.

It’s about being able to hear messages from the past that help us live better lives today—whether it’s how to grow food in the desert, how to have a healthy diabetes-resistant diet, how to deal with drought, how to continue one’s cultural heritage in new art forms, or how to help outsiders understand and appreciate one’s art heritage.

Thus far, Dr. Hays-Gilpin’s research with project has resulted in four scholarly articles and book chapters and two issues of MNA’s Plateau magazine.

Southwest Pottery Traditions

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Dr. Hays-Gilpin also directs traditional archaeological research on pottery traditions in the northern Southwest, in collaboration with our national parks, forests, and other agencies, tribes, and museums.

Graduate student service projects that she has directed include a web-based field identification manual for Pueblo IV period decorated pottery from the Agua Fria National Monument, and analysis of Cohonina pottery from sites excavated near Sitgreaves Mountain by joint MNA-NAU field schools.

Her graduate students are presently preparing a field identification manual, type collection, and additional analysis of pottery from the area north and west of the Colorado River (sometimes called “Virgin Anasazi” or the “Arizona Strip” region). She has authored pottery identification manuals and compiled type collections for Wupatki National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, and the Navajo Nation’s Chambers-Sanders Trust Lands.

Collectively, her experience with pottery from a wide geographic range and many time periods results in deep understanding of pottery production, distribution, chronology, and cultural affiliation across the northern Southwest/southern Colorado Plateau.