Return to the Canyon: The 2016 Eagle Nest Canyon Expedion


The 2016 ENC Crew stands in the canyon bottom.


After a several month hiatus, we’re back!  Yesterday was the first day of the 2016 Eagle Nest Canyon Expedition. Although we didn’t get our hands dirty, we introduced our new crew members to the canyon. We are very excited and are looking forward to an excellent field season. After missing most of the field work last spring, Dr. Steve Black is back in the canyon full time and along with Charles Koenig will be leading the project. Steve and Charles are joined by the largest field crew to ever work on an ENC project (10 total people), including project veterans Bryan Heisinger, Emily McCuistion, and Victoria Pagano (see Back in the Canyon 2015). Bryan and Emily both return to the ASWT project after spending their summers working for the National Park Service (Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve, respectively). Victoria began the Master’s program at Texas State this past fall, and will be carrying out her thesis research this spring under Dr. Black.

This season the returning crew members  are joined by Amanda Castaneda,  Spencer Lodge, and Stephanie Mueller. We also welcome our two 2016  interns: Kelton Meyer and Justin Ayers.  We’ll let each introduce themselves.

Stephanie Mueller:


The 2016 ENC Crew stands in the canyon bottom.

Greetings!   I’ve been running around the Lower Pecos Canyonlands for about 15 years, first as a curious history student from Sul Ross State University working on a minor in Anthropology.  My parents had acquired a hunting lease near Comstock..  When my dad returned from his usual early morning deer hunt, we would spend the rest of the day exploring the area, often finding dry rockshelters nestled inside the walls of a canyon or the occasional upland historical site.  Wanting to know more about what we were seeing, we visited Seminole Canyon State Park and toured White Shaman Shelter.

Somehow, my mother found out about the Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center signed up for an adult class they offered.  She absolutely loved the experience and told me all about it.   We learned that they were going to offer their first formal field methods in rock art field school through Texas State University in June 2006.  At the time I was working on my Master’s degree in Museum Science at Texas Tech University and needed a good field methods class.  I enrolled, got completely hooked on Lower Pecos archeology, and learned a ton in the process.

I soon got more involved with Shumla as the “Prewitt Scholar” for nearly year and a half and then continued to help out with programs and assist with field projects whenever I could.  After graduating from Texas Tech, I landed an assistant curator position at the Witte Museum. I spent almost five years at the Witte managing and researching the Anthropology Collection which includes a large amount of archeological materials excavated during the 1930s from several dry rockshelters in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands.  When I wasn’t working with the collections or assisting with an exhibition, I would take time off and return to the Lower Pecos volunteering with ASWT or helping Elton Prewitt with field trips in the region.

I am proud to say that I am now a resident of Comstock and very excited to be a full crew member for the 2016 ENC excavations. I’m looking forward to working with a very talented group of individuals and learning all about the cutting-edge methodology being used to record Lower Pecos archeological sites.

Spencer Lodge:


Spencer in Eagle Cave.

I’m from Portland, Oregon. Since graduating in 2008 with a B.S. in Anthropology from Portland State University, I primarily worked as an archaeologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a USFWS archaeologist, I traveled to refuges throughout the west to conduct surveys, document archaeological sites, and write reports for various Section 106 projects. In 2012, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to work as the refuge archaeologist at Desert National Wildlife Refuge. There I was tasked with monitoring the installation of a new visitor center, as well as documenting earth oven sites (known locally as roasting pits) found scattered throughout the Refuge. My research with roasting pits led me to Texas State University where I am pursuing my Master’s degree under the guidance of Dr. Stephen Black.

With the beginning of the new year, I look forward to getting back into the field and working in such a special area. I am primarily excited to see how earth oven use within the LPC compares to dthe roasting pit sites I recorded in Nevada. I am also eager to utilize Structure from Motion and learn more about the geoarchaeology of the area.

Kelton Meyer:


Kelton looks on in Skiles Shelter.


Hey everyone! I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in History in 2014, and continued on to my field school in the following months. Since then, I have worked as a cultural resources field, lab, and office technician for CRM companies, and as a field researcher for academic projects. I love to travel, and have been lucky to work in a strong variety of geographic locations (Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming). This past summer I worked with Colorado State University, where I visited incredible sites in the alpine and sub-alpine high in the Rockies, and small rockshelters along the Cache la Poudre River. I’m grateful that archaeology has shown me a multitude of site types, and I am looking forward to seeing all that the Lower Pecos Canyonlands have to offer in the way of prehistoric cultural material. The level of preservation in the Lower Pecos rockshelters will be a new and exciting experience for me, and I am truly looking forward to working with a fun crew on an in-depth project!

Amanda Castañeda:


Amanda in Eagle Cave.

I was born and raised in San Antonio until I boogied up I-35 to attend Texas State for my bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. A fortuitous decision led me to the field methods in rock art field school, hosted by Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center, where I fell in love with the beautiful and majestic landscape and archaeology of the Lower Pecos. Upon graduation, I took a year-long internship position with Shumla which then turned into a full time job for three years. Throughout my tenure at Shumla, I was afforded numerous invaluable opportunities such as guiding site tours, getting an in-depth understanding of research design, and leading work on the Lower Pecos Rock Art Recording and Preservation Project.

With the excellent knowledge and experience that Shumla provided me, I started graduate school at Texas State in the fall of 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Steve Black. While in grad school, I wanted to continue to learn new skills and also contribute knowledge to an area of Lower Pecos archeology that had been previously lacking. Thus, my thesis topic analyzing the morphological variation of ground stone bedrock features (e.g., grinding facets, mortars) was born. I completed my thesis in December 2015 and I am thrilled to be back out in the Lower Pecos full time with the ASWT project. This project is so unique in many ways but my favorite aspect is that we are getting a really comprehensive understanding of the archaeological landscape of Eagle Nest Canyon.

Justin Ayers:


Justin studies the profile in Eagle Cave.

I am from southern and north central Idaho, if you only count the last 5 years or so. I got my undergrad degree from the University of Idaho in the spring of 2014 in anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology. I have been interested in archaeology since my early teens and I am glad I stayed true to my goals. This is my second job outside of college within the archaeology field and am loving every minute of it. My hobbies include most things outdoor related except for things that revolve around heights. My main hobbies are dirt biking and hiking. I have not seen the new Star Wars yet so do not spoil it for me! Cheers!

2 thoughts on “Return to the Canyon: The 2016 Eagle Nest Canyon Expedion

  1. Thank you so much for sending us these reports on the studies of the work being done by Texas State and allied entities. I have always been interested in the ancient history of the southwest and these studies have been very informative. It’s rewarding to see so many people carrying on the research. Looking forward to more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s