Museum celebrates Texas archaeology month with free tours


Nina Titovets

The Museum of Archaeology off Transmountain houses artifacts, replicas and authentic instruments from the native cultures of the land we inhabit.

Stephanie Hinojosa, Contributor

At the end of the winding highway that runs through the Franklin Mountains is the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, home to artifacts and depictions from El Paso’s 14,000-year-old prehistoric and indigenous history. The museum and the grounds that surround it offer an archive to the development of tribes and native nations in Southwest Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico that have otherwise been forgotten.

Upon entering the museum, visitors are introduced to the role of archaeologists and their contributions to the understanding of human nature. Visitors are then led into the south gallery, where they learn the history of native tribes that have dwelled in caves surrounding the Franklin Mountains since the Ice Age through the 20th century. Pueblos that have been excavated near the museum are accompanied by dioramas depicting the daily lives of these natives.

The north gallery holds artifacts and pottery collected by archaeologists from the Southwest region of the country. Also on display are pictorial tablets of native beliefs and tales that were popular in the region. At the end of the museum tour, visitors are encouraged to venture out into the 15 acres of the Chihuahua desert garden and nature trails, where indigenous plants used for food and remedies by the natives have been preserved and tended.

“I think it’s awesome that we have this museum here in the city, I really feel like I found a hidden treasure,” said first-time visitor Ana Bencomo. “It’s important because we get so caught up in our present-day lives that we forget where we came from and how this city came about, I feel like it made me appreciate the city more.”

The museum’s modest appearance and three-room setup give the impression that the facility’s sole purpose is to provide information and display artifacts, but the establishment has been contributing archaeological discoveries and developments for 39 years. The museum welcomes archaeologists to take part in their research, while students from UTEP and NMSU frequently come to study the grounds to further their thesis preparations.

“While being an anthropology student and museum studies minor, I’ve had the opportunity to merge both of my studies through the museum,” UTEP student and museum intern Ayleen Gutierrez said. “I’ve gotten amazing insights into the functions of both fields through an educational and diverse institution outside of the university. I’ve learned to work the different aspects of the museum from collections to educational programming for different audiences, and the people that I’ve worked with love what they do.”

The El Paso Museum of Archaeology offers the willing learner a glimpse into their ancestors and the people who knew these mountains before they were called the Franklins. The museum is open to the public free of charge and hosts free daily tours. They will be screening the documentary “Ancient America: The Southwest” every Saturday of the month in honor of Texas Archaeology month.

Admission to the museum is free and tours are available upon request. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Stephanie Hinojosa may be reached at [email protected]