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Historic Find in Southeast New Mexico

Rare artifacts uncovered in transmission line excavation

By: | August 3, 2016 12:56 pm

Crews conducting archaeological excavations for an Xcel Energy transmission line project in Eddy County, New Mexico hit the historical jackpot. They uncovered roughly 26,000 artifacts in the area, some thought to date back over 5,000 years.


The historic finds are believed to include an extremely rare shallow basin pit house which was a form of shelter dating back to the archaic time period. Final testing is being conducted on the items uncovered to confirm authenticity. Inside the pit house was a storage pit, fire hearth and sockets for wooden supports to form a roof over the structure. If confirmed, the pit house would be the only archaic period habitation structure ever uncovered in Eddy County.

“We found many more items than anticipated. All of these artifacts paint a picture of the time period and tell a story about how people at the time were using the landscape to their advantage, “said William Whitehead, lead Archaeologist with SWCA Environmental Consultants. “We hope to use these items to analyze human behavior including diet and the environment in the time period that we might not have known before.”

Bedrock mortars used by Native Americans to process plant foods were also discovered, in addition to ancient stone arrow heads, small trade beads and a very rare metal tinklr typically used for decorating clothing.

“Xcel Energy has been a great partner on this. We would never have uncovered these finds without their help,” said Bruce Boeke, Bureau of Land Management Archaeologist.  “It is a great opportunity to learn something about the people who lived here and understand the challenges they faced.”

“These projects have required much collaboration internally and externally,” said Tiffany Pulliam, Xcel Energy Senior Siting and Land Rights Agent. “We commend the great job done by SWCA Environmental Consultants and the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management, and look forward to continuing to work together on this and future projects.”

After being analyzed the artifacts will be turned over to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe to be curated.

As part of the Power for the Plains initiative, Xcel Energy is currently expanding infrastructure in southeast New Mexico through 2020, including construction of more than 400 miles of high voltage transmission line in Lea and Eddy County. Learn more at


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