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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU students find segments of Camino Real

New Mexico State University students found segments of the Camino Real trail during a recent anthropology field school course conducted by NMSU museum director and anthropology professor Edward Staski.

ld school found four segments of the Camino Real that were still visible and relatively well preserved, Staski said.

The segments range from about 20 to 150 meters long and the most significant segments of the trail were found near Vinton, Tex.

"We think we may have found one of the original campsites, or parajes, that was used along the Camino Real near Vinton," Staski said.

He hopes to conduct another field school to study and excavate the location, which is called Paraje La Salinera. Parajes usually appear along the trail about every 10 miles, Staski said.

The field school surveyed the area between Las Cruces and El Paso using Interstate Highway 10 as the northern and eastern borders, the Rio Grande River as the western border and Mesa Street in El Paso as the southern border.

"No one has surveyed this area before because most archaeologists and historians assumed most of the trail would have been destroyed by development," Staski said.

The Camino Real stretches about 1,600 miles from Mexico City to Santa Fe and was in use from 1598 to about 1880. People, goods, ideas and culture traveled through the area along the trail. Staski said it was one of the first long-distance trails established by European colonists in the United States.

"It is a historically significant trail because it played a big part in how history unfolded out here," Staski said. "If the Camino Real didn't exist, New Mexico would be very different culturally. Santa Fe may not have even existed."

Staski said preserving archaeological resources is important and he would like to see the enhanced protection of what is left of the Camino Real. He also said preservation could have a positive effect on the area's economy.

"If we can get people to appreciate our area's history, we could develop cultural tourism around the Camino Real and its historical significance," he said.

Twenty undergraduate and graduate students participated in the field school, which took place during the fall 2002 semester. Undergraduate students were given different assignments and responsibilities based on their experience and graduate students worked in supervisory positions.

For more information on the field school, contact Staski at (505) 646-3739.