Dr. McCafferty really knows his dirt.
Gary Milner/The Gauntlet

Roadside archaeology

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several years ago, University of Calgary Professor Dr. Geoff McCafferty noticed something on the side of the highway that peaked his academic interest. To most of us, it would have looked like a big mound of dry dirt, but to Dr. McCafferty, it was a potential archaeological fiesta waiting to be excavated.

This spring, thanks to a recent Mexican highway expansion project, Dr. McCafferty returned to the Oaxaca valley in central Mexico, grant money in his pocket and eager students by his side, to finally put shovel to earth. This Wednesday, October 23rd, in the first of the Department of Archaeology's lunchtime talks, Dr. McCafferty unveiled the most recent findings from his roadside sanctuary.

"The site that we were working at, called Macuilxochitl, is cut through by the Pan American Highway. Oaxaca, to the west, is one of the favourite tourist destinations and the government is investing quite a lot of money in upgrading the highway system," said Dr. McCafferty. "When the first paved road was cut through the area, no archaeological work was done other than cutting straight through some of the dirt mounds and tossing things aside. That's where we came in this time."

Among the notable archaeological discoveries at the Zapotec Indian site, Dr. McCafferty and his team excavated several mounds containing the remains of rock walls, plaster floors, drainage systems, pottery, carved figurines and the skeleton of a small child which appeared to have been buried inside one of the mounds after the original site was abandoned.

The department of Archaeology, in cooperation with Chacmool; the department's Student Association, plans to hold similar hour-long, lunchtime presentations throughout the year. For more information, contact the Department of Archaeology or visit Chacmool on the 8th floor of the Earth Sciences Tower.