Message #329:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Dr. Woodbury's Retrospective Comments
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 21:00:58 -0700


[ Tom Windes presented Richard Woodbury's comments at the opening of the
1997 Pecos Conference.  Tom provided the text of Dr. Woodbury's
presentation for publication.  -- SASIG Ed. ]

THE PECOS CONFERENCE AT CHACO CANYON

When A.V. Kidder convened the first Pecos Conference at his field camp at
Pecos in 1927 he invited just about every archeologist working in the
Southwest.  Attendance totaled 46, including three students that Byron
Cummings brought with him from Tucson -- Florence Hawley, Clara Lee Fraps
(Tanner), and Emil Haury, and another student, Paul Martin, sent by the
State Historical Society of Colorado.  There were no plans made for future
conferences and probably no one suspected that it would become an important
annual event.  Kidder did convene a second conference at Pecos in 1929 and
a third was held in Santa Fe in 1931 in conjunction with the dedication of
the Laboratory of Anthropology.  But after that the idea of a summer
archeological (or anthropological) conference appeared to be dead.

Then in 1937 an invitation went out for a conference at the University of
New Mexico's field school in Chaco Canyon.  The facilities were far better
than could be offered at the site of any other field site, with dormitory
tents for 100, a combined lecture hall and dining room, kitchen, library,
toilets, and showers.  Guest lecturers at the field school presumably
stayed on for the conference, including Donald Brand (geographer), Ernst
Antevs (geologist), George P. Hammond (historian), Florence Hawley and
Edgar Lee Hewett (archeologists), Leslie Spier (ethnologist), Julio Tello
(Peruvian archeologist), and Eric Thompson (Mayanist), a broader
interdisciplinary representation than at most subsequent conferences.  It
is also interesting to note that for the field  school Alden Hayes and
Robert Lister were "camp boys" and Robert
Spier was "general utility boy" (which sounds a bit like dishwasher).

The advantage of holding the conference immediately after the fieldschool
is spelled out in a letter from Paul Reiter to Emil Haury, explaining that
the kitchen staff was kept on, two Navahos were hired to clean dormitories,
the auto mechanic stayed, and about 30 students stayed and managed myriad
details in return for room and board.

This 1937 conference was called a Chaco Anthropological Conference, not a
Pecos Conference, although it effectively revived the idea of a late summer
field conference for reporting informally on current research.  And it
became an annual event, under University of New Mexico leadership,
reflecting the reduced influence in the Southwest of A. V. Kidder, due to
his shifting his research to the Maya area.  Moving to Chaco marks a shift
in Southwestern archeology away from the dominant influence of eastern
seaboard institutions such as the Smithsonian, Harvard, and the Carnegie
Institution.  The Southwest had a new generation of archeologists, many
trained in New Mexico by Hewett, so that reviving the conference at Chaco
was understandable.

We have no record of attendance at Chaco in 1937 but the Chaco Conferences
of 1938, '39, and '40 had 90, 99, and 140 participants, respectively.  That
this may have been considered a large conference is suggested by Paul
Martin's complaint to Emil Haury in 1948 that the possibility of 75 to 100
people at that summer's Pecos Conference was "far too many."

The second Chaco Anthropological Conference, in 1938, saw two innovations
-- a registration fee ($3.00), and also a request for advance notice from
those expecting to attend.  An announcement of the conference, to be held
August 27-29, was published in the New Mexico Anthropologist and said "No
papers or 'speeches' are to be given; there will be merely a 'pooling' of
information concerning current activities and problems, and an opportunity
to become personally acquainted with workers in a common field." This
certainly sounds like a continuation of the spirit of the earlier
conferences under Kidder's management at Pecos and Santa Fe.  But this and
the other Chaco conferences emphasized anthropology as a whole rather than
just archeology, a contrast with the first three conferences.
Nevertheless, ethnologists, linguists, etc., continued to be a small minority.

One of the major topics at the 1938 conference was the importance of
setting up a central clearing house for pottery types and the need of a
standardized terminology.  No clearing house was ever created, although
several museums developed large study collections.  It should be recalled
that standardized terminology had already taken a great step forward in
1936 with the publication of Florence Hawley's "Field Manual of Prehistoric
Southwestern Pottery Types" and in 1937 with publication of the "Handbook
of Northern Arizona Pottery Wares" by Colton and Hargrave.

Another topic discussed in 1938 was how much "restoration" the National
Park Service should do at archeological sites, as compared to
"stabilization." Also, the merits of the Pecos Classification were debated,
versus Gladwin's system and McKern's taxonomy.  It is interesting to note
that the list of participants in 1938 includes only six who had been
present at the conferences in 1927,'29, or ‘31.  A new generation was
obviously taking over.

A report of the third Chaco conference says that the area considered
extended from central Mexico to Utah and Colorado and from Texas to
Southern California.  This is an even broader definition of the Southwest
than Erik Reed's, "from Las Vegas to Las Vegas and from Durango to
Durango." This conference introduced discussion of the still controversial
Mogollon, which Emil Haury defended as a "reality" against the scepticism
of many.  Also, a new kind of fieldwork, "relief archeology," was reported
on, work made possible by the federal relief programs that helped relieve
the country's serious unemployment.

The fifth Chaco conference was in 1941 and the U.S. entry into World War II
curtailed travel, saw many archeologists go into the military, and ended
"luxuries" like conferences.  But the Pecos Conference was revived with a
1946 meeting in Santa Fe, and in 1947 the University of New Mexico invited
anthropologists to meet once more in Chaco Canyon.  Ever since then the
conference has been an annual event.  With a total of six past meetings
there and now a seventh, Chaco is surpassed only by Flagstaff with its
eight meetings.  The National Park Service, however, has hosted more
conferences, not all at the same site, but distributed widely among its
parks and monuments.  In the last 30 years conferences have been held at a
large variety of places, not only spreading the burden but offering the
opportunity for participants to see new archeological areas.

The return to Chaco Canyon is to a very different scene than the field
school of the early years.  Robert and Florence Lister have recalled that
"the oppressive quiet of Chaco Canyon exploded as a lively throng of as
many as a hundred college students descended like an invading army,
digging, taking notes and measurements, washing potsherds by day, and
raucously socializing from one end of the canyon to the other by night."
Perhaps this year the "oppressive quiet" of the canyon will be at least
partly dispelled by lively discussions during the day and socializing at
night --but not too raucous.


Richard B. Woodbury
Shutesbury, Massachusetts
May, 1997