2010 Archives

History hunter: Fred Wendorf leads off UNM-Taos/SMU lecture series


The following is from the September 8, 2010, edition of The Taos News. Fred Wendorf is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at SMU and the author of Desert Days: My Life as a Field Archaeologist, as well as more than 30 other books. In 1987, he became the first SMU faculty member elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Read more about Professor Wendorf.

Fred Wendorf
Fred Wendorf

September 9, 2010

History is beneath our feet all over the Taos area, but progress is a constant threat to maintaining this legacy. If it wasn’t for the scientific mind of people like Dr. Fred Wendorf, who knows what the Pot Creek area might look like today? Wendorf is planning to deliver a free lecture titled “Discovering Fort Burgwin” Wednesday (Sept. 8), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

Wendorf’s lecture kicks off the second annual Fall Lecture Series, a 10-week succession of events focusing on the art, history and culture of the Taos area. The lecture series is brought to you through a partnership between Southern Methodist University-in-Taos and University of New Mexico-Taos, the town of Taos and Taos Center for the Arts. All lectures are free and open to the public.

In the lecture, Wendorf “unlocks the history embedded in the artifacts found at Cantonment Burgwin,” a former pre-Civil War-era U.S. Army post south of Ranchos de Taos on State Road 518. Central to fort’s contemporary birth and development is Wendorf, whose book (with James E. Brooks) titled “The Ft. Burgwin Research Center” (2007 Southern Methodist University) tells the story.

“I wrote the book because I discovered that a lot of people did not know about the history, in fact they had an incorrect impression of what really happened and how Ft. Burgwin came to be,” he told Tempo writer Deonne Kahler. “I think (the book is) reasonably accurate; of course it always helps being reasonably accurate when you’re the last one alive.”

In 1956, Wendorf came upon a map of Cantonment Burgwin (1852-1860), and was almost certain he knew where its ruins stood. “It was a very exciting thing,” Wendorf said. “I knew if we found (evidence), Mr. Rounds would be very generous and I’d have a very good project.” So launched Wendorf’s two decades as one of the founders and then director of what eventually became SMU-in-Taos.

Reconstructing the site and then developing it into a center for the study of archeology was a full-time job in itself, but that wasn’t all Wendorf was doing during those early years. He was also an associate professor at Texas Tech University, director at the Museum of New Mexico, and head of both an ambitious archeological project on the Nile River in Africa, and the first pipeline archeology project in the country that ran from Farmington, N.M., to California, where he attempted to restore the relics and history that was destroyed in the wake of the digging. 

Read the full story.

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