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Roads to the Past Preserving Signs of the PastWhere Are They NowAbout the ExhibitionEducational ResourcesHome The Path from Forager to Farmer

Between 6500 BC and the beginning of pottery production between AD 200 - 400, called the Archaic period, the people who inhabited New Mexico subsisted as hunters and foragers of wild plants. Through the seasons, they moved their camps as food became available in different places. In their travels, most carried few possessions and left behind small camps with little archaeological evidence. Because few archaeologists studied these cultures prior to the 1950s, little was known of their customs or lifeways.

Highway archaeology has significantly advanced our understanding of these early people. Careful excavations of rockshelters, deeply buried cultural remains, and exposed camps have recovered information about their diets, seasonal movements, techno-logies, and social communities.

New Mexico's Earliest Residents

The hunters of the Archaic period were not New Mexico's first residents. The earliest people to come to the region, called Paleoindian by archaeologists, arrived more than 12,000 years ago. They moved over vast territories following now extinct game animals. Although fragments of their distinctive spearpoints have been found on highway projects, no well preserved sites dating to their occupations have been located.

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click to view artifacts


A roasting pit excavated at the Townsend site, dating between 490 to 250 BC. Hunters and foragers cooked food in roasting pits.

Four of the Archaic structures excavated along New Mexico highways. Click to learn more.