Students tap into primitive skills

Christina Calloway

Eastern New Mexico University and Texas Tech students brought out their primitive skills Saturday afternoon, shaping obsidian rock into stone tools, a process called flintknapping.

Flintknapping was just one of the activities students practiced during the 13th annual Cynthia Irwin-Williams Lecture Series/Conference at ENMU sponsored by ENMU’s anthropology club and department.

The two-day conference began Friday evening with a lecture on the Ice Age origins of the first Americans with guest speaker Dr. Ted Goebel, an anthropology professor at Texas A&M.

Saturday consisted of a tour of the Blackwater Draw archaeological site and a variety of different archaeological activities.

Archaeology student Jordan Taher was excited to share New Mexico’s archaeological history with eight Texas Tech students who attended the conference.

“What I really enjoyed about this experience is that I got to network,” Taher said. “It’s great to get people together that have a common interest.”

Taher pounded away at the obsidian rock with the other students before she really got into cording, the process of making rope.

Students were cording with local yucca plant, using the leaves to make bracelets.

Graduate student Stacy Bennet, working the cording station, displayed other products made from rope including sandals, baskets, and fishing lines and boasted that people thousands of years ago could make shoes within 20 minutes.

This is probably why archaeology is appealing to Taher because she describes it as being permanent and concrete.

She knew by the time she graduated high school that she wanted to do something with anthropology.

Although there are many places to excavate, Taher prefers to work right here in the Southwest. When she graduates, she hopes to find jobs in the field in addition to enrolling in the graduate program.

If Taher could clear up any misconceptions about archaeology it is “We don’t study dinosaurs, we study people,” she said. “There is not just one story to tell on a site. We’re looking at just a small sample. There’s a whole wide variety of possible things that could have happened there.”

Taher worked on the Cynthia Irwin-Williams Lecture Series Committee with Ethan Ortega. Ortega is president of the Mu Alpha Nu Anthropology Club at ENMU and responsible for inviting the students from Texas Tech.

Ortega was pleased with the feedback he received from the Texas Tech students and felt that they honored Cynthia Irwin-Williams name.

“She was a fantastic archaeologist,” said Ortega. Cynthia Irwin-Williams was an archaeology professor at ENMU from 1964 to 1982.

Williams was one of the only women studying archaeology at a time when it was a male-dominated field.

In 1978 she was awarded the Llano Estacado Center for Advanced Professional Studies and Research Distinguished Research Professorship.

From 1988 until her death in 1990, she held the title of research professor at the Quaternary Science Center in Desert Research Institute of Reno.