Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Heather B. Trigg

Second Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Third Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman


The state currently known as New Mexico has a storied culture, from its Indigenous history, through two periods of Spanish colonial occupation, to its present as a US state. Throughout these times of trade and colonialism, a variety of crops for food and other vital environmental resources, such as firewood and timber, were exchanged between the parties involved. Spanish colonists introduced new plants to the Southwest while incorporating native plants into their new daily lives. The arrival of Europeans in the American Southwest changed the natural landscape, and eventually led to the development of a unique culture, in which a cuisine is one of the main characteristics.

This thesis discusses the plant remains at two different archaeological sites that date to the two periods of Spanish occupation. The first site is LA 20,000, an estancia, or ranch, granted to Spanish colonists during the earlier period of Spanish colonialism. This site would have been inhabited by Spanish colonists and Indigenous servants. The second site is located further north in the Spanish village of Dixon, New Mexico. This area was settled during the second occupation of New Mexico by later generations of Spanish colonists from Mexico. This thesis uses these two sites to describe the types of plants found at each and begin a conversation about the use of these plants over time. The goal of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of how colonialism has contributed to shaping the New Mexico environment. It includes some discussion of the ethnic identity of New Mexicans and the influence that personal choice and environment exert on one another. However, the major focus of this work is to richly describe the environmental context, especially the plants, at LA 20,000 and Dixon to set the stage for future research regarding identity formation and cultural development. By setting the environmental background and environmental-human interactions of the region, this research serves as a starting point for more nuanced investigations.


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