As we walked together as a group of seven, Tracy Murphy, curator at the Anasazi Heritage Center gave some simple instructions.
We are going to be heading back into a secure facility, Murphy said. Stay together, dont touch anything. The things we are going to be looking at are one-of-a kind.
We were taken through locked brown doors and inside an elevator.
When the elevator doors opened we were in the basement of the Heritage Center, it was cool, it was humid and fluorescent lights hummed.
Shelves and shelves of pots were ahead, all behind sheets of plastic.
Inside this facility is over 3 million artifacts, including 6,000 whole vessels, which are on the shelves behind plastic. Once a year, the Anasazi Heritage Center opens up the basement of the facility to the public for tours, taking people below the bright-lit, glass encased exhibits in the museum above.
Murphy explained that the center is a federal curation facility and curates artifacts from several public lands sites. Everything from boxes of potsherds to beautiful pots are inside the facility.
Every bit of history, even the boxes of potsherds are important.
Its important to preserve all history, including our prehistory, Murphy said.
Murphy held up a neck-banded jar.
For me what matters is the person who made this. They left their finger print behind. That is so special, she said.
Murphy also showed the group a pot with painted sunflowers.
The flower had five sets of mending holes in it.
Somebody cared enough about this bowl to fix it over and over, Murphy said.
Artifacts in the basement tell other stories as well.
For instance, mugs are rare in the artifact world, and generally only found around Mesa Verde. Murphy pulled out two mugs. That alone makes thes two, whole mugs rare.
But listen, she said, while shaking the mugs.
Hear that. They are rattles.
Someone made a false bottom on these mugs and placed stones inside, so that it would rattle.
Why would someone do that? Well that is a mystery.
Murphy also pulled out some sandals to show the group.
Murphy explained how as societies progressed, the sandals became less elaborate.
Some people speculate that the basket makers had more time, she explained.
Also on the tour, were 5,340 boxes of artifacts from sites that were excavated before McPhee Reservoir was finished.
In addition, soil columns wrapped and stored on a shelf.
That preserves history too, she said. Someone may want to see what the soil looked like someday before the lake was here.