Cedar Mesa Perishables Project

Cedar Mesa Perishables Project

Bringing new life to a forgotten archaeological collection

 

Team member Chuck LaRue identifying the feathers on a prehistoric hair ornament

Team member Chuck LaRue identifying the feathers on a prehistoric hair ornament at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

The Cedar Mesa Perishables Project was established in 2011 to document the 4,000 mostly unpublished textiles, baskets, wooden implements, and hide and feather artifacts excavated from dry caves in the Greater Cedar Mesa area during the 1890s. Now housed in six museums across the United States, the artifacts are associated with the Basketmaker (200 BC-500 AD) and Ancestral Pueblo (500-1300 AD) archaeological cultures. Our goal is to survey, photograph, and interpret these collections and make them more widely known to archaeologists, native communities, and the general public for research and educational use.

Laurie Webster of the Cedar Mesa Perishables Project was recently interviewed on local radio station KSJD about what we can learn from perishable artifacts. You can listen to the interview here and learn what details these artifacts reveal about the daily lives of Ancestral Puebloans.

Team members Erin Gearty, Laurie Webster, and Luis Garcia

Research team members Erin Gearty, Laurie Webster, and Luis Garcia

With the financial support of private donations and grants, our research team travels to museums for weeks at a time to “re-excavate” and document these extraordinary archaeological collections. Eventually we will make most of our photographs and data available on-line through the creation of a perishables digital archive. To become a supporter, please donate through the form on this page. To host a fundraiser presentation for your group or organization, email the team.

 

Cedar Mesa Perishables Project Accomplishments in 2016 and Plans for 2017

In early 2016, the Cedar Mesa Perishables Project (CMPP) turned its attention to the large collection of 1800 perishable artifacts at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, making month-long visits in January and October and documenting 700 artifacts. CMPP team members Chuck LaRue and Erin Gearty accompanied Laurie Webster on the first trip, and volunteers Pete Davis and Susy Ellison joined Webster on the second. In June 2016, Pueblo weaver and CMPP team member Louie Garcia joined Webster for a week at the AMNH to provide a Pueblo perspective on the archaeological artifacts and compare them with objects in the Pueblo ethnology collections. In mid-January 2017, LaRue, Gearty, and Webster will return to AMNH for another month of documentation work, and this summer Garcia and Zuni weaver Christopher Lewis will join Webster for a week in the collections. We expect to complete the documentation of the AMNH artifacts in late 2017 or early 2018, then will turn our attention to the final two museums with southeastern Utah perishables, the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the Phoebe Hearst Museum at Berkeley.

Donations raised through the Friends of Cedar Mesa website were instrumental in helping us secure grant funding to support our 2016 trips and our upcoming 2017 work. We are currently fundraising for our last three trips to New York, Philadephia, and Berkeley. A big thank you to everyone who has supported our work!

 

Team members Luis Garcia and Laurie Webster examining prehistoric sandals and a belt at the Edge of the Cedars Museum.

Team members Luis Garcia and Laurie Webster examining prehistoric sandals and a belt at the Edge of the Cedars Museum.