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El Paso Archaeological Society members working on the excavation of Room 25, one of the deep pithouses under the pueblo. Left to right: Chris Ward, Betsy Smith, Martha Sharp. Chris Ward went on to become a professional archeologist. She studied at UT Austin, worked at TARL, and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado.
El Paso Archaeological Society members working on the excavation of Room 25, one of the deep pithouses under the pueblo. Left to right: Chris Ward, Betsy Smith, Martha Sharp. Chris Ward went on to become a professional archeologist. She studied at UT Austin, worked at TARL, and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado.
Film crew interviewing field director Tom O'Laughlin for segment in video documentary, "The Rock Art of Texas," a production of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Film crew interviewing field director Tom O'Laughlin for segment in video documentary, "The Rock Art of Texas," a production of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Dr. Vern Scarborough, then of UT El Paso, now of the University of Cincinnati, works with some of his students at Firecracker Pueblo. Students in anthropology courses used collections from the site in research projects and received extra credit for assisting in the excavations
Dr. Vern Scarborough, then of UT El Paso, now of the University of Cincinnati, works with some of his students at Firecracker Pueblo. Students in anthropology courses used collections from the site in research projects and received extra credit for assisting in the excavations.
University students participate in the systematic excavation on a grid of extramural areas.
University students participate in the systematic excavation on a grid of extramural areas.

Excavations at Firecracker Pueblo began in July of 1980, and fieldwork was completed in December of 1990. The length of the project and the proximity of the site to a major highway provided many opportunities to promote archeology and engage the public with the rich history of the region. There were the usual newspaper and magazine articles and a variety of television and radio programs featuring new finds or activities. There were also numerous informal and formal presentations of the "in-progress" investigation to archeological and historical societies and other civic or social organizations in Texas and New Mexico and the annual meetings of TAS and the Archaeological Society of New Mexico.

The location of the site within a few feet of Highway 54 did create an interesting situation. Throughout the project, everyone from truck drivers to people on the way to Ruidoso to ski to whole families would stop and ask what we were doing. These were not just a few people but a constant flow of people that probably numbered in the thousands over the years. It gave us an opportunity to show off the site and talk about the past and the role of archeologists. It also brought many volunteers to the project. Some people quit what they were doing that day and pitched in on the spot with the work at hand. Others became regular volunteers for the excavation and later for the lab work. Some joined the El Paso Archaeological Society (EPAS) and a few even went back to college for credit or non-credit courses in anthropology and history. In many cases entire families became involved, including several instances of three generations of the same family working together at the site.

Through the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, students were afforded the opportunity to earn credit for working at the site or through using materials from the site in analytical or laboratory courses. Also through the university and Insights, the local science museum, support was provided for a series, Art and Archaeology. This was a program for children 10 to 14 years in age that combined elements of art, archeology and Southwestern cultures and incorporated fieldwork at the site and classroom projects with artifacts from the site. As a separate project, Sunrise Publications produced in 1994 a children's book and companion video simply entitled Firecracker Pueblo.

There have been exhibits of photographs and artifacts from Firecracker Pueblo in museums and libraries of El Paso, and a large mural of what the site may have looked like during its occupation is installed at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. Finally, the 1986 TAS field school at Firecracker Pueblo was featured in a Texas Parks and Wildlife video called The Rock Art of Texas. All in all, Firecracker Pueblo found its way into a lot of things public.


On a bitter cold January day, EPAS members begin work on the site's largest structure, Room 6.
On a bitter cold January day, EPAS members begin work on the site's largest structure, Room 6.

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EPAS member Jerry Goff celebrates the 4th of July in his own way—it is, after all, Firecracker Pueblo.
EPAS member Jerry Goff celebrates the 4th of July in his own way—it is, after all, Firecracker Pueblo.
Fieldwork was conducted at Firecracker Pueblo over a 10-year period. Lab work ran concurrently and for another 5 years following the excavations. Once a week, the crew met to clean, sort, catalogue, identify, measure, and analyze artifacts, faunal and floral remains, and flotation samples. They are the unsung heroes of this project.
Fieldwork was conducted at Firecracker Pueblo over a 10-year period. Lab work ran concurrently and for another 5 years following the excavations. Once a week, the crew met to clean, sort, catalogue, identify, measure, and analyze artifacts, faunal and floral remains, and flotation samples. They are the unsung heroes of this project.