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49th CES assists in uncovering archeological site on Holloman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isaiah Pedrazzini
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

The Tularosa Basin is renowned for its unique environment and historical significance from the White Sands to the Three Rivers Petroglyphs. Nestled near a road cut in Holloman's borders lies an extraordinary discovery that will help uncover more about New Mexico's ancient history.

Buried two meters below the surface, geomorphologists and members of the 49th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight uncovered a campsite approximately 8,200-years-old belonging to some of the first settlers of New Mexico. The official name of the site is LA202921, but following a tradition in the unit allowing the discoverer to name their discovery the team refers to the site as Gomolak Overlook.

"The formation of the white sand dunes inadvertently buried the site, with windblown silt protecting the delicate archaeological remains," said Matthew Cuba, 49th CES cultural resource manager. "This site marks a pivotal moment in shedding light on the area's history and its early inhabitants."

Upon further digging at Gomolak Overlook site, the 49th CES discovered various artifacts that provide insight into the Paleo-Archaic inhabitants who resided there around 8,000 years ago.

"Found on the site were approximately 70 items, ranging from flake stones to a rare example of an early ground stone, providing valuable clues about past human activities," said Cuba. “We also uncovered a series of hearths, or community campsites, with remnants of mesquite charcoal which is a tremendous find in and of itself.”

With archaeological findings predating even the White Sands dune field, Cuba stated that the Gomolak Overlook site offers insights into early human adaptation and environmental changes. Sites like these showcase the early settlement patterns of these Paleo-Archaic peoples as well as how long they have occupied the area in their seasonal travels.

One of the challenges faced with the site's location is its vicinity to the construction area of the 704th Test Squadron's future test track. Yet the 49th Mission Support Group and the 49th CES are taking precautions to mitigate damage to the site while continuing the project.

"Adhering to the National Historic Preservation Act, we will ensure that all necessary steps are taken to preserve the site's integrity while facilitating the progress of the test track project," said Scott Dorton, 49th CES environmental chief. "The prospect of building the test track is quite exciting for us as it offers a unique opportunity to explore further and delineate the archaeological site."

This site is one of 400 archaeological discoveries found within Holloman's gates and has the potential for future sites to be uncovered.

"The Department of Defense's stewardship of vast tracts of land, including areas between White Sands and Holloman, inadvertently protects numerous documented and undocumented archaeological resources," said Dorton. "As a result, some of the best-preserved archaeological records in the Tularosa Basin reside on DoD land."

As the 49th CES delves deeper into the Gomolak Overlook site, they aim to contribute to New Mexico's history while preserving cultural heritage and revealing more about the region's past.

"As stewards of these resources, we must ensure their preservation and documentation for future generations and ensure that cultural resources are protected while also allowing for progress and development," said Cuba.