The Archaeology of Trails
Seminar - UHON 401

Instructor(s): Troy Lovata

Course Description

This is an interdisciplinary, experiential course that allows students a first-hand opportunity to study how culture plays out across the landscape through walking, hiking, backpacking, and camping.  

Students will gain an understanding of cultural landscapes through the disciplines of Anthropology, Archaeology, and Cultural Geography as they examine trails and the artifacts that people create to navigate, claim, and mark their place on, and the ways they move across the land. Students will walk, observe, and study prehistoric, historic, and modern recreational and utilitarian trails in the across Central and Northern New Mexico. This course is an opportunity to study how a wide range of peoples have traveled, used, and marked the landscape in New Mexico and compare that to the world beyond. It requires students to make explicit and meaningful connections between readings, seminar discussions, and field experiences. 

This course takes place both inside and outside the classroom as it combines typical Honors College seminar discussions with the opportunity to explore real-world examples through a series of field trips and field studies. These include, depending on weather and site access: excursions across campus and Albuquerque during scheduled class time; a weekend day trip to the remains of Tsankawi Pueblo in the Jemez Mountains; and a two day, one night camping and hiking trip to El Morro National Monument. Students will also be required to participate in a 3 1/2 day, 3 night backpacking trip along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (in either the San Pedro Parks Wilderness Area near Cuba, New Mexico or in the Carson National Forest near Tres Piedras, New Mexico), where they will study how modern trails overlay historic and prehistoric trails. Weekend field trips will be held on Friday, September 9; Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, September 23-34; and Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, October 13-16 (during UNM’s Fall Break). 

Because of the nature of the field trips in wilderness, undeveloped, and wild lands; students must be physically able to hike, backpack, and camp in the outdoors and must provide some of their own hiking, backpacking, and camping equipment. There is $85 required course fee to cover some travel, gear, and food expenses. 


A series of academic journal articles from the fields of Archaeology, Anthropology and Cultural Geography available for free download in PDF format. 


Grading will be based on seminar participation, a series of field trip worksheets, and a research project entailing cultural mapping and analysis of information collected during several day long and overnight field trips across New Mexico. Students must, because this course contains significant field components, be physically able to travel to and hike, backpack, and camp outdoors in a variety of weather conditions and at high elevation. 

About the Instructor(s): Troy Lovata

Troy Lovata, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Honors College and Faculty Affiliate in UNM’s Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, where, for two decades, he has taught courses on landscape, culture, and how the past is defined in the present. He holds degrees in Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from Colorado State University (Bachelors) and The University of Texas (Masters and Doctorate).