Jacqueline Kocer
Jacqueline Kocer holds an ancient ceramic artifact of the Gallina people.

University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology graduate student Jacqueline Kocer was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship Award. The purpose of the awards, which are given yearly to graduate students in a variety of subject areas, is to promote innovation and vitality within the nation’s scientific community.

Kocer’s focus is the study of an ancient people known as the Gallina, who inhabited a region of New Mexico, roughly 60 km as the crow flies, east of the famed Chaco Canyon. “These people were functioning independently of Chaco, around 900 to 1300 A.D. and their identity hasn’t been fully described,” she said.

As a native New Mexican of mixed heritage Kocer’s interest in the subject came naturally. In addition to the material culture of the Gallina, she is also interested in the ethnic identity of the ancient people.

Her work has focused on three kinds of artifacts in particular. One of these, a conical vessel, unlike those used by any other native peoples in the region at the time, is of particular interest to her work, but there are also projectile points and faunal remains.

“The Gallina aren’t claimed by any native nation, Native Puebloan cultures don’t claim them, so they are kind of alone in that respect,” she said. They have some distinct cultural features like their ceramics. “They are colored black on white, and the conical shapes are usually associated with highly mobile groups,” she said. This association may mean the Gallina moved through the area seasonally. Their identity and their movements are just some of the questions Kocer hopes to answer.

As a native New Mexican of mixed Hispanic and Oglala Lakota ancestry, the topic of identity has always been of great personal interest to Kocer. She was raised in Taos, N.M. and the coexistence of multiple ethnic groups in her community was a significant part her life. She did her undergraduate work at UC Davis on a soccer scholarship, double majoring in international relations and Spanish, and captaining the soccer team her senior year. Kocer went to work in the financial sector after graduation but knew before long it just wasn't where she wanted to be. Not long after that realization, she began taking the steps that brought her to UNM and the NSF Fellowship Award.