Programs & Services

Women in Archaeology Exhibit at CNMA

At the Center for New Mexico Archaeology

Archaeologist Bertha Parker Pallan (Abenaki/Seneca). Bertha was one of the first Native American female archaeologists. Here she is holding two atlatl darts from the Gypsum Cave Excavations conducted by the Southwest Museum. Photo Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute @ Flickr Commons.

The science of archaeology and studying New Mexico’s fascinating 12,000-year cultural heritage is part of the mission of the Center for New Mexico Archaeology (CNMA). Historically, archaeology was an unlikely career choice for women, but the ones who had the courage to make the leap also made lasting impressions.

CNMA is shared by Office of Archaeological Studies (OAS) and Museum of Indian Arts & Cultures’ (MIAC) Archaeological Research Collections (ARC). Currently nine out of fourteen staff members at the OAS are women as well as the three staff members of MIAC’s ARC.

“We hope that people will realize that women in the field of archaeology have long-standing and deep roots here in the American Southwest, and women around this work have dug in deep and left their marks,” says C.L. Kieffer Nail, PhD, co-curator of the new exhibit Women in Archaeology on display at the CNMA through Oct. 9, 2020.

“Early on in our field, women were discouraged from pursing advanced degrees and conducting field work,” Nail continues. “This exhibit highlights the work of 11 pioneer women in archaeology in this region, and on some major early and modern contributors to archaeology throughout the world.”

The exhibit features biographies of 11 women who worked in the Southwest. Some of these women were directly or indirectly associated with Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and objects they excavated in the field are on display. These include not only items from New Mexico, but also Central America where some of the women also worked. In addition to focusing on these women pioneers, the exhibit provides an historical overview of women in the field of archaeology and highlights major accomplishments by women in the field on a global scale.

“Through their work, the women featured in this exhibit turned archaeology into the field it is, leaving a lasting legacy for the future of the discipline,” says exhibit co-curator Emily Hurley. “By highlighting their work and contributions, our hope to help inspire future generations of women to pursue a career in archaeology.”

There is no charge to see the Women in Archaeology exhibit. It is featured in the lobby of CNMA, a research facility open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. The Center for New Mexico Archaeology is at 7 Old Cochiti Road, Caja Del Rio exit off NM 599.

The Center for New Mexico Archaeology team is behind the excavations at the Palace of the Governors, the Railyard, Santa Fe County Courthouse, and many other locations throughout the state.

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