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Archaeology along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

Since January of 2016, NMSU students enrolled in ANTH 542: Cultural Resource Management (CRM) II have conducted literature reviews, archival research, archaeological fieldwork, and artifact analyses on sites and collections associated with El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro in southern New Mexico. This research, conducted in Socorro, Sierra, and Doña Ana counties on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is supported in large part by grants from that agency. The goals of the project are to 1) provide students with real world experience in CRM, 2) assist the BLM with the identification, evaluation, and management of these cultural resources, and 3) help interpret and present this research to the public. So far, we have conducted four projects as part of this cooperative agreement with the BLM.

Background research

In 2016, project director Dr. Kelly Jenks and research assistant Paul van Wandelen completed a literature review of all previous archaeological work within the project area, and created a priority list and research plans for four future projects. Students in the CRM II class helped with background research and reconnaissance survey of potential project sites. This 2016 “crew” included Mary Brown, Paul Duran, Cortney Platero, Tara del Fierro, Morgan Cardiel, Robert Murie, Thea Stehlik-Barry, Matt Defreese, and Laci Paul.

Fieldwork at Paraje San Diego 

In 2017, aided by research assistant Matt Defreese and teaching assistant Tara del Fierro, Dr. Jenks directed the CRM II class in a documentation and surface collection project at Paraje San Diego. This paraje (resting or camping site) is located at the south end of the notorious “Jornada del Muerto,” a 90-mile stretch where the trail leaves the Rio Grande Valley and cuts across the open desert. Travelers frequently stopped at Paraje San Diego for water and rest just before or just after making this dangerous trek. Students recorded the site, collected surface artifacts for study, and analyzed those artifacts back at the laboratory. The class also participated in several smaller site recording projects within the San Diego area. The 2017 crew included Shannon Cowell, Paisley Palmer, Austin Schwartz, Brandon Gonia, Jacqueline Monsell, Andrea Crawley, Ignacio Ibarra, Paul van Wandelen, and Alex Koenig. In 2019-2020, research assistants Jorden Scott and Ashley Stabenow incorporated data from an earlier NMSU field project at this site (directed by Dr. Staski in 1994) and worked on the final report.

Fieldwork at Parida

In 2018, the CRM II class documented and evaluated the site of Parida, a 19th-century village established along the Camino Real north of Socorro. This village, which was settled in the late 1820s and mostly abandoned following severe floods in the 1850s and 60s, appears in the accounts of various travelers making their way up and down the Camino Real. In one notable example, George Wilkins Kendall describes purchasing shoes from a shoemaker in Parida as he and his companions—members of a failed attempt by the Republic of Texas to “liberate” New Mexico—were escorted down the trail to Mexico City. Dr. Jenks again served as the director of this project, while research assistant Shannon Cowell helped supervise fieldwork and prepare the subsequent report. Matt Defreese also provided background and historical research on the Parida community. The 2018 crew consisted of Vanessa Carrillo, Phil Lingle, Kalib Sorensen, Hannah Dutton, Esmeralda Ferrales, Santiago Martinez, Kelly Rush, Sharon Gloshay, Zachary Graham, and Christopher Stanton.

Survey in the Jornada del Muerto

In 2019, CRM II students participated in the reconnaissance survey of a 10-mile stretch of the Camino Real at the southern end of the Jornada del Muerto. Santiago Martinez helped manage parts of this survey, with the help of past students Alex Koenig and Shannon Cowell. The field crew revisited and recorded seven sites and discovered four more. The 2019 CRM II crew included Tommy Miller, Beth Markle, Nicholas Pond, Heather Garnett, Amanda Semanko, Locke McIvor, Christopher Stanton, Ashley Stabenow, Jorden Scott, Gray Gass, and Jennifer Byrd.

Writing it all up

In 2020, we took a break from fieldwork (mostly) and focused on writing up all the things we’ve learned so far. Vanessa Carrillo (who participated in the 2018 project) was hired as a graduate research assistant to help prepare the final report for the 2019 survey. Jorden Scott and Ashley Stabenow (who participated in the 2019 project) were hired as graduate research assistants to help digitize and synthesize three decades of research at Paraje San Diego and prepare a final report. We managed to complete some final field checks just about a week before everyone was sent home to quarantine.

Current status

There is still work to do! We aren't planning any fieldwork at the moment, but we still have data to crunch and artifacts from previous field projects. If you're interested in helping out, contact Dr. Kelly Jenks (

Additional Resources

News Articles

M.A. Theses

Technical Reports/Publications

  • Reconnaissance Survey and Documentation of the North Fork, Thorn Wells, and Rincon Arroyo South Sections of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, Doña Ana County, New Mexico, by Vanessa Carrillo, Kelly L. Jenks, and Santiago Martinez, with contributions by Jorden Scott, Ashley Stabenow, Jennifer Byrd, Gray Gass, Heather Garnett, Elizabeth Markle, Locke McIvor, Tommy Miller, Nicolas Pond, Amanda Semanko, and Christopher Stanton. NMCRIS No. 142732. Submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District. (2020)
  • Archaeological Documentation, Surface Collection, and Synthesis of Previous Data Collected at Paraje San Diego (LA 6346), Doña Ana County, New Mexico, by Jorden Scott, Ashley Stabenow, and Kelly L. Jenks, with contributions by Shannon Cowell, Andrea Crawley, Matt Defreese, Tara del Fierro, Brandon Gonia, Ignacio Ibarra, Alex Koenig, Santiago Martinez, Jaqueline Monsell, Paisley Palmer, Austin Schwartz, and Paul van Wandelen. NMCRIS No. 145885. Submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District. (2020)
  • Archaeological Documentation and Evaluation at La Parida (LA 31718), Socorro County, New Mexico, by Shannon Cowell, Matthew Defreese, and Kelly L. Jenks. NMCRIS No. 140550. Submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Socorro District. (2018)
  • Plan of Work for Four Projects on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro in Southern New Mexico, Doña Ana and Sierra Counties, New Mexico, by Kelly L. Jenks and Paul van Wandelen. NMCRIS No. 137508. Submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District. (2017)
  • Previous Archaeological Work on and around El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro in Doña Ana, Sierra, and Socorro Counties, New Mexico, by Kelly L. Jenks, Lauren E. Jelinek, and Paul van Wandelen. NMCRIS No. 136088. Submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District. (2016)

Conference/Community Presentations

  • Tracking Broken Pots across Paraje San Diego, by Kelly Jenks, Shannon Cowell, and Hannah Dutton. Poster presented at the 84th annual conference of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, New Mexico. (2019)
  • Ceramic Spatial Patterning at Paraje San Diego on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, New Mexico, by Shannon Cowell. Paper presented at the 51st annual conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, New Orleans, Louisiana. (2018)
  • We Found Jesus! A Field Report from Paraje San Diego, by Shannon Cowell and Kelly L. Jenks. Paper presented at the Pecos Conference, Rowe, New Mexico. (2017)
  • A Lithic Analysis of Paraje San Diego, New Mexico, United States, by Paul van Wandelen. Poster presented at the 50th annual conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Fort Worth, Texas. (2017)
  • Camino Real de Tierra Adentro: Locating Trail Segments through Predictive Modeling, by Matt Defreese. Poster presented at the 77th annual conference of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico. (2017)
  • Weapons of a Spanish Colonial Road: An Analysis of Arms Found at Paraje San Diego, New Mexico, by Paul van Wandelen. Paper presented at the 82nd annual conference of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (2017)

External Websites

2016 Field Reconnaissance
2016 crew members conducting reconnaissance survey
2017 Field Meeting
2017 crew members meeting to discuss the day's fieldwork plans
2018 Parida Shannon and Kelly
2018 project director (Dr. Kelly Jenks) and assistant director (Shannon Cowell) investigate a feature at the Parida site.
2019 Field Crew
2019 field crew pose on the trail, just as it begins to snow!
2020 Crew Field VIsit
2020 research assistants perform a last-minute field visit before the Covid-19 quarantine. Here, they found an actual fork along the trails "south fork."
2020 dog crew
On this project, everyone works--dogs included!