Socorro, NM – An ancient basket found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands near Socorro, New Mexico, has recently been dated and preserved.
In January 2009, a group of hikers discovered a partially buried basket tucked under a rock overhang on BLM lands in northwest Socorro County. Carol Chamberland, one of the hikers, and also a BLM volunteer and member of the Site Stewards Program, advised the others that they should report the find to the BLM.
The BLM’s Socorro Field Office responded swiftly to form a team of two archaeologists and a law enforcement special agent. Hiker Larry Flinn led them to the remote site, where the team discovered that the basket still had its contents, whitish crystals that appeared to be salt. The basket was carefully supported, removed, and packaged for transport.
The basket was taken to the conservation laboratory at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. A preliminary analysis was done, and the basket was painstakingly preserved. The style is a common one, and not unique to any particular time period or culture, so its age was initially unknown. Newly released results indicate that the basket dates between A.D. 690 and A.D. 970, earlier than suspected, making it even more rare, and its preservation even more remarkable. It has been confirmed that the contents of the basket are salt, although tests are still underway to try to determine the source.
Future chemical analysis will be done to try to determine where the salt originated. After the testing is completed, the basket will be curated at the Museum of New Mexico. We hope the basket will be on public display in the near future. A location with controls for humidity, temperature, and light will be required as exposure would cause it to deteriorate.
A piece of New Mexico’s cultural history is now preserved thanks to the group of hikers who originally found the basket and knew to do the right thing. Because of their actions, the basket has already provided important scientific information and has been preserved to be enjoyed by others.