Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Haunting of Holly

I have become haunted by Perry Mesa, an area just north of Phoenix on the Agua Fria National Monument. Always an area of interest for me, lately, it seems to be seeking me out. Ever since we did the Landscape Legacies exhibit, Perry Mesa has become a minor obsession. First, objects from Perry Mesa find their way out of store rooms and people’s homes and take up residence in my office, where I ponder over them, and bother researchers to tell me what they can about them. Next, people with different areas of research and different experiences of Perry Mesa find me and draw me into their world. It’s like some kind of archaeological convergence. I find myself being driven over exquisitely unimproved roads in search of a particular site just below the edge of the mesa. I don’t even lift a finger. I cannot move mountains, but Perry Mesa comes to me.

There are objects that I suspect are Perry Mesans, but I don’t know for sure, because documentation is sketchy or contradictory or non-specific or completely absent. The bane of a curator’s existence is uncertainty. For example, these pots.

They are a pottery type found on Perry Mesa, Los Muertos Polychrome, from the collection of a person who was even more obsessed with Perry Mesa than I am. Were they made on Perry Mesa? Probably not. Were they recovered from Perry Mesa? Entirely possible. So, no certainty here. No rest for the wicked, as my dad says.

Is it any wonder why I love systematic archaeology collections? We know so much more, and know it more certainly. There are still lots of questions to be answered, enough to last me my lifetime, at any rate.

Posted By Holly Young, Curator of Collections

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