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Archaeologists Find Ancient Campsite Left by New Mexico's Earliest Settlers


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An 8,200-year-old campsite belonging to some of the state's earliest settlers has been uncovered on a U.S. military base in New Mexico.

The prehistoric campsite is located within the boundaries of Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico's Tularosa Basin. The base, which was established in 1942, is home to the 49th Wing of the Air Education and Training Command.

Evidence of the campsite was found by geomorphologists and members of the 49th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) near a road, around 6 feet below the surface.

A prehistoric site in New Mexico
Matthew Cuba brushes off a prehistoric hearth at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, on March 7. The site, Gomolak Overlook, is believed to be about 8,200 years old. Airman 1st Class Isaiah Pedrazzini/U.S. Air Force

"The formation of the white sand dunes inadvertently buried the site, with windblown silt protecting the delicate archaeological remains," Matthew Cuba, the 49th CES cultural resource manager, said in a news release. "This site marks a pivotal moment in shedding light on the area's history and its early inhabitants."

At the site, dubbed Gomolak Overlook, the 49th CES uncovered artifacts that provided a glimpse into the lives of the prehistoric people who lived in the area around 8,000 years ago.

"Found on the site were approximately 70 items, ranging from flake stones to a rare example of an early ground stone, providing valuable clues about past human activities," Cuba said. "We also uncovered a series of hearths, or community campsites, with remnants of mesquite charcoal which is a tremendous find in and of itself."

According to Cuba, the site has the potential to provide insights into early human adaptation and environmental changes.

It is one of around 400 archaeological discoveries that have been made to date within the boundaries of the Air Force base, and more may yet be uncovered.

"The Department of Defense's stewardship of vast tracts of land, including areas between White Sands National Park and Holloman, inadvertently protects numerous documented and undocumented archaeological resources," Scott Dorton, 49th CES environmental chief, said in the release. "As a result, some of the best-preserved archaeological records in the Tularosa Basin reside on DoD land."

The 49th CES is continuing to investigate the newly uncovered site in the hopes that it will yield more information about New Mexico's prehistory.

"As stewards of these resources, we must ensure their preservation and documentation for future generations and ensure that cultural resources are protected while also allowing for progress and development," Cuba said.

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