Seventh-graders from Sandia Prep found a Native American pot, about 18 inches high and 14 to 16 inches wide and possibly 900 years old, while on a field trip last month in Cibola County.
"It was like a gray pot, with zig-zag stripes and dash patterns all the way going around it," seventh-grader Isabel Jerome told KOAT-TV. "Yeah, it was a really incredible find."
State officials aren't revealing the artifact until they consult nearby pueblos.
Teachers contacted U.S. National Park Service representatives who then contacted the Bureau of Land Management.
This week, BLM archeologists removed the pot. They estimate the age to be 800 to 1,000 years old because of clues from the pot: size, shape and design on the pot, and comparisons to other artifacts already dated.
"None of this is an exact science, but BLM archeologists are telling me, when finding a pottery shard, it's hard to determine because of its small size and not being intact," Stephen Baker, BLM public affairs, told the Gallup Independent. "Because the pot is nearly intact we get a lot of clues and because of other archaeological studies that have been done, can look at it and determine what research tells them, and can estimate its place in history."
The last significant discovery on New Mexico Bureau of Land Management land was a decade ago.
Anthony Schoepke, a computer and filmmaking teacher at Sandia Prep Middle-High School and one of the three who found the pot, said it was found while 75 seventh-grade students from the school, including some Polish seventh-graders on an exchange trip, were exploring caves.
The field trip was part of the Outdoor Leadership program at the school.
"One of the teachers was showing a light and it caught something bright near the floor, I looked down and it was this pot underneath a bunch of rocks," he said. "One of the parents on the trip had a lot of knowledge of the artifact law and Native American pots and we all agreed not to touch it, or try to remove it, and to notify authorities."
Schoepke described the pot as being cream colored with a complicated design of diagonal lines in either black or dark brown.
Donna Hummel of the BLM said the find could be unique and the students may not fully understand its importance. "This is very significant. We hope they appreciate that this could be a once in a lifetime discovery," said Humme.
When told that the pot could be around 900-years-old, students expressed amazement.
"That's crazy. I think we were probably some of the first people to see so that's really cool," seventh-grader Cole Schoepke said.
There are 13 million acres of New Mexico Bureau of Land Management land, most of which has been scoured by researchers.
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