Totah Archaeological Project
The project was initiated by Tommy Bolack, owner and manager of the Bolack Minerals Company-B-Square Ranch and the Bolack Museum Foundation, because of his enthusiasm for knowledge of the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived in the Totah area of New Mexico and their environment.
He wishes to share the 12,000-acre B-Square Ranch that is so rich in natural resources comprised of bountiful irrigated fields, a quality riverine environment, and rugged canyons and mesas. San Juan College and the San Juan College Foundation were pleased to share in sponsoring the project because of the great potential for educational and research opportunities which could arise from such collaboration. Initially, research is focused on the Chacoan Ancestral Puebloan communities of the Middle San Juan River valley.
San Juan College Field School
The Totah Archaeological Project (TAP) was established in 1999 as a research project and field school financially sponsored and administered as a joint project between San Juan College and B-Square Ranch. The project was initiated by Tommy Bolack, owner and manager of the Bolack Minerals Company-B-Square Ranch and the Bolack Museum Foundation, because of his enthusiasm for knowledge of the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived in the Totah area of New Mexico and their environment. He wishes to share the 12,000-acre B-Square Ranch that is so rich in natural resources comprised of bountiful irrigated fields, a quality riverine environment, and rugged canyons and mesas. San Juan College and the San Juan College Foundation were pleased to share in sponsoring the project because of the great potential for educational and research opportunities which could arise from such collaboration. Initially, research is focused on the Chacoan Ancestral Puebloan communities of the Middle San Juan River valley.
The field school, ANTH 2120, Archaeological Field Methods, has been managed and taught by Linda Wheelbarger since its inception in 1999. She is a professional archaeologist who has worked in the Southwest for 44 years. For 20 years, Wheelbarger was Co-director of San Juan College’s Cultural Resources Management Program, a contract archaeology business. Although Wheelbarger retired from the contract archaeology segment of her career in 2010, as Adjunct Faculty she continues to teach the field school, archaeology internships, and both credit and non-credit classes through the SJC Community Learning Center as well as continuing with public archaeology commitments and conference presentations.
The initial 1999 TAP funding provided for the production of a research design which was submitted to the New Mexico State Cultural Properties Review Committee prior to the first field school session. TAP funds and volunteers aid in the operation of the field school, analysis of the recovered artifacts and samples, research on special topics, and publications documenting the results. Six credit hours can be earned through the ANTH 2120 field school class or 3 credit hours through the ANTH 2998 archaeology internship.
San Juan College – B-Square Ranch Field School
June 5 to July 14, 2023
The goal of the project is to provide archaeological educational opportunities for San Juan College students, local community members, and visitors to the region, and to contribute to research on the Ancestral Puebloan culture in the Totah area.
The field school is conducted on the B-Square Ranch, a combination working cattle ranch, waterfowl conservation area, and museum facility. The field school is in a gorgeous location at the base of the Shannon Bluffs and adjacent to the San Juan River, overlooking the city of Farmington lying immediately to the north. We are in high desert Colorado Plateau terrain and normally receive only 8 inches of precipitation a year. Our area is called “Totah” by the local Navajos meaning “land amidst water” because of the three rivers that junction at the western edge of Farmington.
In 2023, we will be continuing to work at the Point Great House Community, site LA 8619. Ceramics at the site reveal occupation from the CE 400s through CE 1200s, the classic Ancestral Puebloan time period. Work will be conducted in the great house, the great kiva, the plaza kiva, and a pithouse structure. The site is located on the south side of the San Juan River immediately to the south of the city of Farmington, New Mexico.
The 2023 archaeological session is six weeks long. The first four weeks will consist of excavation with a few days of lab and survey scheduled. The last two weeks will consist of lab with one day of excavation and one day of survey.
Two separate courses are offered concurrently, a 6 credit ANTH 2120 Field School and a 3 credit ANTH 2998 Archaeology Internship. The 6-credit class requires four weeks (any 20 days) of participation and the 3-credit class requires two weeks (any 10 days) of participation. Length of the entire session allows students to register for both classes to receive 9 credits if they desire. Students may register for either class up to the Friday before there is enough time for them to attend the required days. Students who choose to AUDIT the ANTH 2998 Internship class will not receive credits or a grade and thus there are no attendance or academic requirements allowing them to function as a volunteer at a relatively low cost. Students who have previously taken and paid for the field school or internship, are permitted to volunteer with no fees required.
All students are welcome to stay for the entire session if they so desire whether they are taking the course for a grade or are auditing the class with no grade.
Participants in the field school/archaeology internship course will receive instruction in archaeological excavation, survey, mapping of sites using both compass and tape as well as with handheld GPS data downloaded to GIS software, laboratory processing of recovered cultural materials, drafting, and artifact analysis. Tours of two local archaeological sites, Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins, as well as lectures on southwestern archaeology and contract archaeology, and workshops on the artifact and ecofact analysis are included in the session. Other sites that may be toured on the weekends, based on student interest, may include Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and the Navajo defensive structures and rock art of Largo Canyon.
ANTH 2120 field school student grades are dependent on class participation, a final exam, and an excavation summary report. ANTH 2998 intern student grades are dependent on field school participation and submission of an excavation summary report. Materials for the reports as well as report examples will be submitted to students at various points subsequent to the final two weeks of class. Students will have several weeks to complete a draft report and then additional weeks to complete a final if the draft is not sufficient. Final grades are due to the Registrar’s Office by Monday, August 14th, at 10 am MST.
During the four weeks in the field, we excavate three or four days a week and the remaining one or two days include the other activities mentioned above. Two survey days on the B-Square Ranch are scheduled during the four field weeks and another during the two lab weeks. Excavation will focus predominantly on the Great House rooms and Great Kiva although some work will be conducted on the Court Kiva and the pithouse structure.
During the two weeks of lab, activities include continuing laboratory processing of recovered cultural materials, organizing the boxes of artifacts and samples, entering of the artifact and provenience data into spreadsheets, editing of that data, production of tables of the artifact data, drafting of figures, scanning excavation forms, organization of forms within the logbook, photography of decorated ceramics, diagnostics, and exotic items, and production of verbal portions of the excavation forms.
As these tasks are completed, the materials will be provided to students taking the class for a grade, along with instructions for completing the excavation summary report and provision of existing report examples. Materials will be provided to the students still in Farmington or emailed to those who have completed their attendance requirements and left Farmington. Lab and report preparation experience is vital for students who want to continue in the field of archaeology, thus it is recommended that this portion of the class is quite important for those students.
The San Juan College Summer 2023 tuition rates are as follows:
New Mexico Resident – $56/credit hour-plus:
A flat fee of $77.50 for resident students taking 4 credit hours or less
Or a flat fee of $185.00 for resident students taking 4.1 credit hours or more
$1.50 student activity fee per credit hour
Non-Resident – $178/credit hour-plus:
A flat fee of $137.50 for non-resident students taking 4 credit hours or less
Or a flat fee of $305.00 for non-resident students taking 5 credit hours or more
$1.50 student activity fee per credit hour
In addition, all summer field school and intern students must pay an Equipment and Supply fee to help cover equipment, vehicle rental, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs. The Equipment and Supply fee is $100 for the 3-credit class and $200 for the 6-credit class.
Total tuition costs for the summer field school/internship including credit hour fee, flat fee, activity fee, and Equipment and Supply fee are:
New Mexico Residents:
3 credit ANTH 2998 course = $350.00
6 credit class ANTH 2120 course = $730.00
Both classes for 9 credits = $1002.50
Non-New Mexico Residents:
3 credit ANTH 2998 course = $776.00
6 credit ANTH 2120 course = $1,582.00
Both classes for 9 credits = $2,220.50
For students taking the course for a grade, the following attendance is required:
3 credit students are required to stay any two weeks or any 10 days
6 credit students are required to stay any four weeks or any 20 days
9 credit students are required to stay all six weeks, all 30 days
Excavation Summary Reports are available for each year from 1999 to 2018. Contact Linda Wheelbarger for access to the reports.
The following two publications on the Point Ceremonial Center will be released in early to mid-2023. The first is a summary of the Great Kiva and Great House excavations and the second is on ceramic data from the site.
2023 Point Great House: A Ceremonial Center in the Middle San Juan Region of Northwestern New Mexico, pp 297-320. In Collected Papers in Honor of James Copeland. Edited by Emily J. Brown et al. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico 49, Albuquerque.
Wheelbarger, Linda, and Steven Rospopo
2023 Initial Ceramic Data from Point Ceremonial Center in the Middle San Juan Region of Northwest New Mexico. In Pottery Southwest, Fall/Winter Volume 39. Albuquerque Archaeological Society, NM.
History of the Totah Archaeological Project
Tommy Bolack has been interested in archaeology since he found his first Ancestral Puebloan Black-on-white bowl in an irrigation furrow of an onion field in 1959. This interest intensified and was like his father’s. In 1962, his excavation of a round chamber yielded a couple of beautiful Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowls and sparked a lifelong interest in the Ancestral Puebloan culture.
The first attempt to begin research and field school possibilities on the B-Square Ranch was in 1972 when the San Juan Valley Archaeological Project, associated with the excavations at Salmon Ruins, helped the Archaeological Society of New Mexico sponsor a field school at the Sterling Site. Field school sessions were held from 1972-1974. Eastern New Mexico University granted credit for the latter two sessions. The field school ended because of shortages in funding.
In the dozen years that followed, attempts were made to again establish a field school with Eastern New Mexico University and the local Archaeological Society. Tommy Bolack named the project the Totah Field School, but the attempt failed. A final attempt in the early 1990s with Salmon Ruins/Division of Conservation Archaeology also failed due to a lack of interest and funding. At that point in time, Tommy Bolack identified the field school project as the Totah Archaeological Project.
Frustrated but not giving up, Tommy Bolack contacted San Juan College in 1998 to revive his long-lived hope of better understanding the Ancestral Puebloan culture living in the Totah area of northwestern New Mexico. His hopes are to research the substantial artifact assemblage which has been collected from the B-Square Ranch through the years. In addition, he hopes to possibly change some long-held ideas of the center of the Ancestral Puebloan culture and to educate by providing field schools, research, and publications on this most interesting culture. This endeavor will be different in that funding will come from both the San Juan College and Bolack Foundations.