Researchers discover prehistoric campsite at Holloman AFB

Researchers discover prehistoric campsite at Holloman AFB

A recent discovery in New Mexico is shedding new light about humans who walked the Earth almost 10,000 years ago.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A recent discovery in New Mexico is shedding new light about humans who walked the Earth here almost 10,000 years ago. 

Researchers describe what they uncovered as rare for a few different reasons. 

“Discoveries like this is what you wake up for in the morning, and most you don’t encounter them every day,” said Matthew Cuba, a Cultural Resource Manager with the 49 Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight at Holloman AFB.

Cuba has been an archeologist for 18 years. He says discoveries like the one he recently helped unearth at Holloman Air Force Base are very rare. 

Cuba says two visiting researchers were just driving along a road on base when they saw something out of the ordinary. 

“That’s how a lot of archeological discoveries are made is right people, right time. And those two guys were the right people,” said Cuba. 

What they spotted by total chance? Remnants of a what scientists say is a prehistoric campsite. Carbon dating of the charcoal found there dates back 8,200. 

Cuba says this discovery is a hidden gem – literally – it was buried six feet underground by the fine sand of the Tularosa Basin. 

“It’s right at the time period where the Paleoindian periods ended, the Archaic period has started to begin, and this site hits that sweet spot between the two. So we hope just to see how these people were adapting to the changing environment,” Cuba said. 

Usually, sites found in New Mexico are above ground. 

Along with charcoal remnant, the research team also found 70 total objects. For example, a rare early ground stone. 

Cuba says the items paint a picture of how some of our state’s earlier settlers lived. 

This isn’t the first time a major archeological discovery was made in the area. Just a few years ago, the oldest signs of life in the Americas were found at White Sands National Park – human footprints dating back over 20,000 years. 

“When you have these massive geographic areas that are basically set aside, controlled access, inadvertently preserves that archaeological record. And so I think in the future, there’s only the possibility for more sites to be found,” Cuba said. 

Because of that, it leaves opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime finds like this. 

“For me personally, it’s an honor to get an opportunity to manage resources like this and get to work with them, because they are so exceedingly rare,” said Cuba. 

Cuba say they have been working on the campsite for about a year now. That initial discovery was made last May. 

Because of how rare the site is, Cuba says the researcher’s main priority now is to preserve the site. That means at the moment, no more digging will be done as they begin to study what they’ve already found. 

Following a tradition in the unit, the site is named after the original discoverer and is known as the Gomolak Overlook.