New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies

Seven Rivers

Project name: Seven Rivers
Type of site: Thermal features, artifact scatters
Period of use: Middle and late Avalon phase (Middle Archaic), McMillan phase (Late Archaic), early Brantley phase (Terminal Archaic), Globe phase (early late prehistoric), Seven Rivers phase
Dates: 2100 BC–AD 1900
Project director: Regge N. Wiseman

The Seven Rivers Project

The OAS investigated 23 hunter-gatherer thermal features in three burned-rock and artifact-scatter sites in Eddy County. The three sites may well have constituted a single site that stretched for several hundred meters along both sides of the South Seven Rivers drainage.

At least four types of thermal features were documented, including a communal baking facility ("ring midden" or "agave roaster"), small baking facilities, rock hearths, and nonrock hearths. A small number of potsherds were recovered, but the majority of artifacts were chipped stone debitage and numerous manufacture bifaces. Formal artifacts included arrow points, dart points, scrapers of various sorts, metates, manos, and the fragments of a Plains-style, alternately beveled, two- or four-edged knife. Botanical remains were mostly from fuelwood, but remnants of potential foods such as agave, mesquite, piñon, portulaca, pigweed, hedgehog cactus, cholla, and sedge were also identified. No evidence of cultigens (corn, etc.) was identified. Remains of potential animal foods including woodrat, cottontail, jackrabbit, small to medium mammals, carnivore, turtle, freshwater mussel, bird eggs, and birds of the hawk and quail families were recovered.

Most of the thermal features appear to have been used by small camping groups. However, one oval arrangement of five excavated and three unexcavated rock hearths appears to have been used by a large hunting and/or gathering party composed of eight commensal groups. Sets of contemporary (?) radiocarbon-dated features scattered across the three sites suggest that one or more loosely organized groups may have used the sites for an open rancheria (i.e., contemporary but widely scattered camping locales).

Thirty radiocarbon dates demonstrate site use from about 2100 BC to potentially as late as nearly AD 1900. The dates indicate occupations belonging to the middle and late Avalon phase (Middle Archaic), the McMillan phase (Late Archaic), the early Brantley phase (Terminal Archaic), the Globe phase (early late prehistoric), and the Seven Rivers phase (ethnohistoric period) of Katz and Katz's Brantley Reservoir sequence.

Euroamerican remains (mostly trash dumps) were also documented during the project and have already been reported. The final report on the Native American components is being revised as of January 2008.