Collections from New Mexico National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in New Mexico. We invite you to explore museum collections from Petroglyph National Monument, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Capulin Volcano National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, El Malpais National Monument, El Morro National Monument, Fort Union National Monument, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Pecos National Historical Park, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Southwest Regional Office, and White Sands National Monument.

This Jay/Rio Grande stone projectile point, collected during an archeological survey near the Visitor Center in 2008, illustrates the presence of early hunters and gatherers in the Rio Grande valley. These early occupants were likely composed of small bands that lived in ephemeral camps and followed animal herds from place to place. These points would have been attached to a foreshaft of wood that inserted into the front of a spear or dart that resembles a large arrow, complete with feathers. The spear with this projectile point attached would have been thrown using a hooked spear thrower called an atlatl.

Petroglyph National Monument, PETR 11135

The ancestral Pueblo great houses at Aztec Ruins are located in the Animas River Valley, one of three rivers that converge near the park in the high desert environment of northwest New Mexico. Just like today, water was a critical resource for people living in the area, and the ability to store or carry water was a necessity. This “football”� shaped canteen is a relatively common pottery form that was used for carrying water. Although the one pictured here is small, canteens were made in various sizes and shapes. The small opening at the top would have been plugged with a corncob, and a piece of yucca cordage would have been looped through the two handles on either side of the opening. Canteens such as this one were likely carried by people farming the fields, gathering wild plants, hunting for game, or making the trek to visit nearby settlements. Archeologists refer to the painted design style on this canteen as McElmo Black-on-white.

Aztec Ruins National Monument, AZRU 9939

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), formed during the Great Depression, provided men the opportunity to work, learn a trade, and support their families. The work of the CCC included many public infrastructure and National Park Service operations. CCC Camp No. 815 was active in building the park infrastructure from 1934 to 1941. Their work can still be seen today in the Historic District buildings and fixtures at the park. This bench respresents these historic fixtures and the legacy of the CCC and the Bandelier furniture collection. This bench is made of pine harvested from the park and decorated with colorful carved figures and geometric and bird designs. Benches such as this are still in use at Bandelier National Monument today.

Bandelier National Monument, BAND 22335

The early 1900s in the park area were a period of extensive guano mining. Miners removed thousands of tons of fertilizer from several of the caves for use as fertilizer in places like the California fruit orchards. The history of guano mining in this region is superbly illustrated by well preserved historic artifacts and features such as a partially completed mine tunnel and machinery found in one cave complex. A significant extensive historic archeological site of the guano mining industry surrounds one entrance to one cave.

One of the early guano companies dug a shaft to make a more direct route to the guano deposits in Bat Cave. It was serviced by a large iron bucket operated by a gasoline winch which allowed miners to haul bags of guano out of the cave. Jim White used the guano bucket to transport the cavern's earliest visitors and explorers into and out of the cave. This included visitors such as Willis T. Lee and Ray V. Davis. It symbolizes the connection between people and the cavern environment, and is emblematic of the events that led to the place becoming a national park and a world heritage site.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, CAVE 8702

Although Capulin Volcano National Monument is known primarily for its volcanic geology, it has traditionally been a crossroads of human activity as diverse people and cultures traversed the area. In this photo, early visitors to the park learn about volcanic formations and stone tools left by the earliest inhabitants to the area. They are standing on the rim of the extinct volcano which had been largely inaccessible until the second park custodian, Homer Farr, procured funding in economically difficult times to build a road to the rim.

Capulin Volcano National Monument, CAVO 486

This effigy vessel was collected from Pueblo Bonito, the largest great house in Chaco Culture NHP. The artistry of the maker captures the playful spirit of a young badger. Badgers figure prominently in American Indian cultural traditions and in the Southwest are associated with legends, clans, colors, and cardinal directions.The form of this effigy is unusual and the only one known in the Southwest. The unique form and the realistic depiction of a badger's face combine to make this effigy vessel an excellent representative of the exceptionally creative and artistic artifacts recovered from Pueblo Bonito.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, CHCU 107731

A Sharps 1863 New Model carbine was found by an NPS fire crew in a remote area of El Malpais' lava flows during a wildfire in 1991. Though the wooden elements of the carbine are gone, the serial number on the weapon clearly indicates that it was among the first 1,000 of the 1863 model produced by Sharps. The New Model 1863 carbine was one of the most widely carried weapons by Union cavalry regiments during the Civil War. Most post-war cavalry units continued to use the Sharps or Spencer carbines until the introduction of the 1873 Springfield. The Sharps carbine was a very popular weapon in the mid to late 1800s, and many Army surplus Sharps found their way into civilian hands. Why, and by whom, the weapon was abandoned in the lava flows of El Malpais is a mystery. Perhaps it was Army surplus, abandoned or misplaced sometime in the lae 1800s, or maybe it as left by a soldier operating from Fort Wingate (1862-1868) - just eight miles north of El Malpais.

El Malpais National Monument, ELMA 208

Caret-headed nails are considered some of the most diagnostic artifacts associated with the expedition of Vázquez de Coronado, 1540-1542. Caret-headed or bi-faceted nails occur in a variety of archeological contexts dating to the late 1400s and early 1500s. The caret-headed nails and other early Contact Period metallic artifacts recovered from El Morro National Monument, together with additional documentary, environmental, historical, and archeological data, strongly support the conclusion that some components of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition were present at El Morro between the summer of 1540 and spring of 1542.

El Morro National Monument, ELMO 4300

Operating between 1851 and 1891, Fort Union was at one time the largest military outpost in the American Southwest. The fort's primary role was as the main supply depot for the U.S. Army in the area. Throughout its history, over 40 forts depended on the essential supplies that came from Fort Union to patrol the Santa Fe Trail and monitor and respond to Native American tribes of the region. This tin stencil is dated 1872, the period during which the 8th US Cavalry and 15th US Infantry at Fort Union. The boxes that were labeled with this Fort Union stencil were sent to other forts and troops that focused military actions against the Comanche, Ute, and numerous Apache tribes.

Fort Union National Monument, FOUN 91

This shell pendent found at Gila Cliff Dwellings shows the level of craftsmanship and love of decoration found among the Mogollon Culture in the late 1200s and early 1300s.
The shell also highlights the long-distance trade of this period. The shell is of the catarina scallop (Aequipecten circularis), a salt water shellfish found in the Gulf of California, several hundred miles from the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, GICL 115

Known for meticulous attention to detail in his depictions of Western scenes and characters, artist Roy Andersen here presents a visual timeline of the indigenous and European cultures that crossed paths at the Pecos Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Andersen has produced numerous pieces for the National Park Service, including a group of murals for the E.E. Fogelson Visitor Center at Pecos National Historical Park.

Pecos National Historical Park, PECO 579

Designed by National Park Service Architect Cecil Doty and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1937 and 1939, the Old Santa Fe Trail Building is recognized as one of the best examples of Spanish Colonial/Pueblo Revival architecture in the Santa Fe area. From 1939 to 1995 the building served as the National Park Service's Region III/Southwest Region headquarters and currently houses various programs of the Intermountain Regional Office as well as the National Trails program.

Southwest Regional Office, SWRO 374

Canteen excavated under the direction of archeologist Alden Hayes. Discovered during the 1965-67 excavation of the Mound 7 pueblo house-block of Gran Quivira (original name Las Humanas), this canteen symbolizes the desolation from drought of the Salinas region of New Mexico towards the end of the 17th century. Decimated by a lack of water and starvation, the surviving Jumano residents moved to the Tompiro and Tiwa pueblos of Abó, Cuarac (Quarai) and Tajiqué, until those pueblos too had to be abandoned, with the remnants of the Salinas people eventually joining the Tiwa of lsleta and Sandia pueblos. These large, flat­ backed ceramic canteens are only known to have existed at Gran Quivira/Las Humanas north of the U.S. border with Mexico and are unique to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

At first glance, the dune field at White Sands National Monument appears inhospitable and uninhabitable, yet the monument protects numerous and diverse evidence of over 10,000 years of human history. This large tabular knife represents one of the many different artifact types found in association with unique archeological sites called gypsum hearth mounds. This particular artifact was collected from a gypsum hearth mound containing material which returned the oldest radiocarbon age on record within the monument (3960 years BP). These types of knifes are believed to be used to process agave or other plant material.

Gypsum hearth mounds form due to the physical properties of gypsum which produce solidified features similar to time capsules when heated; preserving dateable charcoal, plant and animal remains and other cultural material. Research suggests these sites represent short term seasonal camps primarily used for processing plants such yucca or Indian ricegrass. These remarkable gypsum hearth mound sites are not known to occur anywhere else on earth.

The gypsum hearth mounds and associated tools provide a glimpse into prehistoric land-use practices and subsistence strategies as well as insight into climate change and the geological history of the dunefield over time. Radiocarbon dates collected from a selection of gypsum hearth mound sites indicate prehistoric groups were camping along the leading edge of the dunefield. The dune edge would have provided access to a diverse array of plants and animals as well as a source of fresh water right below the ground surface year round. Consequently, as the dunes advanced over time, settlement locations gradually shifted to the northeast following the natural progression of the dunes.

White Sands National Monument, WHSA 6182

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Petroglyph National Monument, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Capulin Volcano National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, El Malpais National Monument, El Morro National Monument, Fort Union National Monument, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Pecos National Historical Park, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Southwest Regional Office, and White Sands National Monument.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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