A New Deal for Western Archaeology

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The New Deal agencies established during the Great Depression were important 1930's economic programs that are a dynamic part of American history. This symposium will focus on analysis of these Alphabet Soup agencies, as they were commonly known, and the cultural heritage projects that were sponsored west of the Mississippi River, including those devoted to archaeology and to standing structures. These Western New Deal projects were supported by many of the Federal agencies: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Civil Works Administration (CWA), Public Works Administration (PWA), National Youth Administration (NYA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Contrary to what some scholars have implied, we show that New Deal archaeology is not confined to the southeastern United States.

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  • Documents (9)

  • Asa T. Hill, the WPA, and the Fluorescence of Systematic Archaeology in Nebraska (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sandra Barnum.

    The most prominent New Deal work-relief program with regard to archaeology was the Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA), which existed from 1935 to 1943. Functioning through sponsoring universities, historical societies, and other agencies, the WPA supported major field and laboratory projects. In Nebraska, almost all of the New Deal archaeological projects were carried out with WPA-funded labor. Between 1936 and 1941, the University of...

  • Blast Caps and Other Stories of the CCC on the Gila National Forest: Imaging and Reimagining the North Star Road (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Wendy Sutton.

    The CCC and other New Deal agencies were active across the Gila National Forest during the 1930s. The North Star Road (which experienced earlier use as a Military Road) runs alongside the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first wilderness area, established in 1924. The road is now sandwiched between the Gila Wilderness and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness (part of the first Wilderness established in 1964, under the Wilderness Act). Significant work was conducted along the North Star Road by the CCC. How...

  • The Civilian Conservation Corps in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Schelberg. Carla Van West.

    In 1937, a unique Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sponsored "Indian Mobil Unit" was established in Chaco Canyon. The camp was located east of Pueblo Bonito and the goal was to train Navajo men and a woman in stone masonry, ruins stabilization, drainage control, archaeological excavation, and associated administrative tasks. In 1939, under the direction of National Park Service (NPS) archaeologist Gordon Vivian, men from the Indian Mobile Unit excavated a small village site in advance of the...

  • Combatting the Erosion Menace: The Enduring Legacy of the CCC Within the Silver City Watershed (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Toney.

    By the summer of 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) had constructed over 3000 checkdams within the Silver City Watershed. Men working in Little Walnut CCC Camp located a few miles outside of Silver City, New Mexico were focused on rehabilitating the Silver City Watershed from 1933-1940. Many of these features are still visible and functioning on the lands administered by Gila National Forest, Silver City Ranger District. These water and erosion control features are not only a...

  • Desert Digs: New Deal Archaeology in Southern Arizona, 1934-1941 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Todd Bostwick. Steven James.

    The Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona is well known for its wealth of archaeological sites left behind by PaleoIndian, Archaic, and Formative period cultures. During the Great Depression, archaeological surveys and excavation projects provided employment opportunities for hundreds of young men and women seeking jobs. Bryon Cummings and Emil Haury at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Odd Halseth at Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix took advantage of a variety of New Deal work programs to...

  • The International Boundary Commission (IBC) and Projects along the U.S. – Mexico Border (1928 – 1941) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark Howe.

    The International Boundary Commission (IBC) conducted many projects along the entire U.S. – Mexico border during the Depression. Many of the projects were in cooperation with the Mexican Commission (Mexico) as per treaty stipulations. These projects were conducted under funds from agencies such as the Public Works Commission (PWC), Works Progress Administration (WPA) and others. Examination of the original documents and maps at the present International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC)...

  • The Legacy of New Deal Programs to Northern Arizona and Southwest Archaeology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jeanne Schofer. Peter Pilles.

    During the 1930s, federal New Deal programs financed and supported a number of archaeological projects in northern Arizona. Within National Parks and Monuments, surveys and excavations were undertaken so that people could see archaeological sites, and visitor centers were constructed to display and interpret archaeology for the public. Several major expeditions by the Museum of Northern Arizona were also supported by New Deal programs. Excavations from 1933 to 1939 were directed by professional...

  • New Deal Archaeology at Buena Vista Lake in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Madre Mountains: The 1933-34 CWA-Smithsonian Institution Project in Southern California (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Steven James.

    Perhaps the earliest Federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) archaeological project in California was conducted during the winter of 1933-34 at five sites along Buena Vista Lake in Kern County by the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE), Smithsonian Institution. The project location was chosen for several reasons: mild winter climate, high number of unemployed men from nearby oil towns, and large, deep prehistoric sites. At the height of the excavations, the labor force amounted to 187 men. BAE...

  • Ruins and Restoration on the Colorado Plateau: Earl Morris and the PWA (Public Works Administration) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kelly Pool.

    In 1934, the Carnegie Institution "loaned" archaeologist Earl Morris to the National Park Service to supervise the repair of ruins in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, and Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico. The NPS had received funding in 1933 for long-term development projects through New Deal emergency work relief programs, one of which was the Public Works Administration. The PWA provided money for physical improvements in parks and monuments, including funding for restoration and...