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Professors, students excavating prehistoric site

In the first excavation of a Mesoamerican-style ball court in New Mexico, researchers from New Mexico State University and Illinois State University hope to find out how prehistoric cultures were organized, what rituals were practiced and how southwestern New Mexico fit in with the larger region in the 1300s. William Walker (left), an assistant professor of anthropology at NMSU, and James Skibo (right), an associate professor of anthropology at ISU, are leading a three-year archaeology field school at a site on the northwest frontier of the Casas Grandes culture.

The dig began in May at a site in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, called Joyce Well. About five staff and 25 students from NMSU, ISU and a few other universities have excavated the ball court and mapped and exposed the rooms of a large, 14th-century adobe pueblo. During the next two summers they will excavate the pueblo rooms, which they believe housed about 500 people, Walker said.