Douglas W. Schwartz

Reminiscences on Arroyo Hondo, October 15, 2014, Doug Schwartz

For me the Arroyo Hondo project holds more than 40 years of great memories of wonderful colleagues and all that we accomplished together. Yet, my main memories are quite different in character from those of others (see the poignant recollections of Greg Stark and the light-hearted reminisces of Ed Kelley, who generously shared their reminisces to this website). Because of my professional responsibilities and the proximity of the archaeological site to my work and family, my memories contrast significantly to theirs. My focus was quite practical – moving the project forward by finding the financing, hiring the staff to make it all work, and balancing my continuing dual site and School responsibilities.

Unlike my field seasons leading Grand Canyon excavations, when I spent all my days and nights with the crew at sites only accessible by helicopter - at Arroyo Hondo I was only five miles from my office and home in Santa Fe. During our work at Arroyo Hondo, I occasionally spent evenings with the crew, relaxing around the cook tent, playing volley ball, or shooting the breeze following our days in the field, But, I usually went on to my office to work on the School’s developing programs or home to be with my family. This proximity to home gave me quite a different perspective on the field experience at Arroyo Hondo as compared to others on the crew.

But let me start before the beginning: Before the project started, I had real anxiety about the prospect and possibility of excavating a 1000 room pueblo, a site a 100 times larger than anything I had worked on before. I also remember my uncertainty about selling the project to the board of the School of American Research (now the School for Advanced Research). The board was composed of non-anthropologists who I had worked with to create a new set of scholarly programs for the School and won their support. But now, on top of that major venture, I wanted to start a huge new archaeological research project, too.

I recall my nervousness in asking private donors for seed money to do the initial testing at Arroyo Hondo on which to base a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation.  These donors, Perrine and Marshall McCune, were essential in getting the project started. They later became extremely important in helping to support the new programs at the School and in developing the new campus. I spent a great deal of time with the McCune’s and other donors - often at the expense (and fun) of being with the Hondo crew.

I was thrilled when we received the first major National Science Foundation grant to support the Arroyo Hondo work. This was the first of three grants from NSF, two supporting excavations and one later supported the publication of the Arroyo Hondo monographs. Earlier I had received NSF support for my Grand Canyon excavations. Over the years, I traveled often to Washington to making the case for these projects and as a result I became well acquainted with several NSF staffers, including Archaeology Program Director John Yellen.  

Once the grant funds were in hand, I began identifying and hiring the 25-crew members needed to get the Hondo project underway. I probably would not have attempted the Arroyo Hondo project if I hadn’t already developed an experienced field crew for my Grand Canyon work. Luckily, several of my former crewmembers were available to work at Arroyo Hondo, and they all made extremely significant contributions to the project. Key players included crew chiefs John Beal and Ed Crocker, and excavators Chris Causey, Mike Hancock, Lawrence Linford, Charles Padilla and Greg Stark. Most of the others I hired - additional crew chiefs, excavators, cooks, camp foreman, and laboratory assistants - were from New Mexico.

Some of the new crewmembers became extremely important to the project following the excavation phase. Jane Kepp, for example, began as an excavator and ultimately became the editor for all the Arroyo Hondo monographs.  Richard Lang, an expert crew chief, continued after the excavations to be a valuable part of the research process, as well as co-authoring the faunal monograph and contributing expertise to many other aspects of the project. 

Another challenge was finding advanced graduate students with field experience and special research interests that could add extra depth to the project. I hired Ed Kelley, an ecology major from the University of New Mexico and he provided expertise on the contemporary ecology of the Arroyo Hondo area. Bruce Dickson, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Arizona explored the archaeology around Arroyo Hondo to help understand the sites larger context. Ann Palkovich, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Michigan, focused on the human remains to glean information about individual physiognomies and health. Wilma Wetterstrom, also from the University of Michigan, specialized on the botanical remains and their implications. My plan was to assign each of specific projects that they could carry though from field-work to analysis and hopefully to a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation and beyond to one of the published monographs.

I was taking a gamble, hoping for long-term relationships that would start with great field researcher and with the stick-to-it follow-through culminating in substantial publications. Fortunately, they all became good friends and creative researchers whose projects resulted in a thesis, and several dissertations, each of which became a major monograph in the Hondo series.

The end of the fieldwork was followed by years of - lab analysis, research, writing, editing and publication. During each phase of the project I remember our breakthroughs in a deeper understanding the pueblo, - along with personal dramas, which resulted in another set of memories.

My strongest reminisces, however, relate to the parallel completion of the Arroyo Hondo fieldwork and concurrent growth of the School. When the Hondo project began, I was new at the School. At the time the School was housed in a three-room office building in downtown Santa Fe. We had a couple of employees, limited funds, and were just beginning to develop the School’s programs. The School had a great Board however, with the likes of architect John Meem, and philanthropist Marshall McCune. Their friendship, continued encouragement and support made an immense difference in how the School was to progress.

After five years, when the field phase of the Hondo project was ending, something quite unanticipated occurred. I had been visiting with Miss Amelia White, a former board member, about the future prospects for the School. On her death, through her estate, she generously left the School eleven acres near downtown Santa Fe. This came with the beautiful main house and seven out buildings (including three guest houses). This gift of real estate, no funds were included, melded perfectly with the programs we were developing at the School during the five years of our Hondo fieldwork. These programs included the advanced seminars, publications and membership programs. Also, the guesthouses, in Miss White’s gift, solidified our nascent residence scholar program. We just had to continuing raising the funds and endowments to support our new campus and these programs.

Since those early days, the School and the Arroyo Hondo Project each have grown in their special ways. I feel fortunate to have been involved with both - and with all the outstanding people who helped make our progress possible.