Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thank You

Thank you dear readers for following these stories! And most of all for passing the site on to other readers from 18 countries. I am, indeed, in awe of this 'cyber' community!

My intent was to amuse so I hope these stories have given you a chuckle or two.

The Search has ended. I hope you enjoyed my one and only attempt at fiction.

I welcome your comments!

There are a few more true stories to follow but as the holidays approach I will wait to post them. We are all too busy for stories!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Merry Holiday season.

The Search About day 60

Camp/Town news:

Today a baby was born. He brings us pleasure and most of all hope.

We are coughing less. Our skin is not as red as the rashes are almost gone. Nausea has passed for the most part.

We have found food. Jeanne cooks for us.

We have shelter.

We have a shower.

We feel healthier with each passing day.

The sun is shinning a bit brighter each day. The air is somewhat clearer.

We depend more and more on each other.

We had a laugh last night. It felt good.

We have come to understand our situation and have formulated plans for our survival.

We have developed a routine and we have some comfort.

We are not sure if the food we found is harmless but we need nourishment. There is little of it.

Plans need to be made to grow crops. Can we learn to be farmers?

Most of the town ‘stuff’ tends to disintegrate when we try to use it.

How much do we try to make? Can we learn how to do this?

We have no answers. Each day is a new beginning and a time of learning for us.

Our mutual interests had drawn us together at the beginning. Now, we must draw together to continue our survival and the survival of the species.

We can do it. We will follow in the footsteps of those who came before us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Search Day 9

Decamped news:

We awake late but it is dark. The eerie world around us is covered in ash; the ground is black. The sun is on display — cool, not burning, a pale brown seen through a fine yet thick haze of smoke.

The ground beneath our sleeping bags is black; we are black. We are hungry. We are panicked. Our breathing comes with difficulty. Coughing continues; red rashes worsen.

In our vehicles, bumper-to-bumper, slowly we continue the crawl to the tiny town thru the haze, thru a blackened world.

The forest has burned and what little we can see through the haze reminds us of used matchsticks placed upright, row upon row. It is a sickly, ghostly sight.

The fire had been close to us. No wonder the Rangers did not get to us.

The dusty 2 track ends and the track widens to pavement. We can see the road better and we spread out a bit. Bumper to bumper driving has been unnerving; too close, way to close for comfort.

The town is dead. A light ash dust devil swirls the main street for a moment. The only sound is of a door flapping on its hinge. It is quiet, the wrong kind of quiet. We join the silence and walk the town.

It is static. It is horrific. A few people lay dead on the sidewalk. Men and women, we all cry. We are very afraid and in shock. Houses, businesses are still. Cars abandoned. Nothing but the ash swirl, which has kicked up again, moves, then it too is stilled, quiet.

Someone notices a telephone kiosk and tries to make a call. The line is dead. The expected rash of cursing ensues. Tears flow.

A newspaper in a sidewalk rack screams out at us:

World Nuked World on Fire

What day is it?

Our thoughts:

We are a small band. Just the ten of us.

One pregnant lady.

Three college girls in their 20s.

Three college men ~ same age as the girls.

One woman in her 40s.

One young man in his early teens.

One 50 year old man.

We are diverse in our jobs and life’s experiences and more diverse in our hometown living situations, but we are a band. We have worked, lived and so far survived together.

We are alive. We have been ill. We are exhausted from worry. We are bone sore from work.

We ten have survived a world catastrophic event.

Are we the only ones to have survived?

Will we ever have the answer to this question?

to be continued

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Search Day 8

Camp news:

Most of us tossed and turned the night. Sleep was poor.

Breakfast was poorer. Tempers short. Spirits are flagging. Bodies are sluggish-weak.

Breaking camp started and delayed as we constantly stopped to splash water over ash-covered faces. Everything is finely layered in ash. Coughing continues, eyes burn and tempers explosive but contained.

We are not happy. We are slow and grumbling.

The ash rains down on us, yet we see no fire. We are a worried, scared, tired and grumble-ly lot. Now, we are sure, we have been forgotten by the Rangers.

Packed up we move on - to home.

Visibility is so bad we caravan slowly down the 2 track. The town, 2 hours away may as well be a million miles.

Five hours of driving, bumper to bumper, crawling and not many miles, we come to a cabin. We stop and call out but get no answer. The ground around the cabin is burned, barren—ugly and scary. Timidly, we enter the cabin.

He is on the bed - dead, covered in ash. His skin appears to have been burned, but he is fully clothed. The cabin reeks of vomitus and other body fluids. The cabin is static — everything in place — no trace of fire.

Nausea sweeps over us. In a mutual panic, we get in our cars and leave; bumper to bumper; we continue the crawl for mile after mile of fear.

Another cabin – the same scene greets us.

Another, then another.

It is dark. There are no lights to greet us.

We think we are in the forest but trees are black and limbless. The ground is barren and black. The fire was close to us!

We press on and accomplish but a few miles.

It is night; true night and we stop to rest next to the road. Sleeping bags are rolled out and hastily scattered on the blackened ground. We have not eaten. We don’t think to.

We are frantic and weary. Stomachs are in knots. There is little talk and no laughter.

Actions are slow. Tempers are fast.

Sleep gathers like a cloud and overtakes us.

There are no dreams in this night of hunger, exhaustion and fear.

to be continued early

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Search Day 7

Camp news:

We all slept late this morning. There was no agreement to do so, it just happened.

It is darker, if that can be. Air is thick and we can taste the smoke. Feel the ash.

Jeanne still not happy but enjoyed her breakfast “in bed.” Straw drawers cooked up their favorite breakfast. It was hearty and well taken but not by all.

We are sluggish in our approach to the day. We seem to be malcontents. Most of us are coughing. Some seem to have strange rashes, which look more like burns. We all profess to weariness.

Lunches are packed but there is much dithering about the start. Everyone wants to stay in camp.

Our hike today will take us back to the spot where we were yesterday, as site mapping needs to be completed. The PI tells us we will do a full surface collect and that gets us out of the ‘stay in camp’ mode.

The hike is slow and plodding. We follow the path we made yesterday but our feet are heavy and daypacks are heavier.

We take breaks; talk is limited and not animated. Coughing is rampant. Rashes are redder. Moods are somber.

On site, we noodle and find! Artifacts are point plotted on the map; collected, numbered and bagged readied to be carried down the mountain, readied for the lab.

We have planned to take everything collected to camp for later study and identification.

Someone gets nasty about not wanting “to carry those damn rocks.”

We huddle and agree for each of us to carry just a little in our day pack-no more than anyone can do so comfortably. Comfort is the key word. We are tired and coughing.

Most of the artifacts will be left behind. It is a disappointment. We go over the collected material very carefully and decide upon each artifact as to its research potential. Only tools such as bifaces, retouched flakes, ground stone or true diagnostics will be taken back to camp.

The long trek back to camp home is exhausting. We have found what we came for; it is the theme of the light trail talk.

No shower! The branch has broken, the water is cold and everyone is just too tired to try to mend what ails the camp.

We try to keep up our wounded spirits. It is not working. Even dinner is a drag. Jeanne has cooked, but is not happy about it. She has remained with us though, which is welcome news.

We are careful with each other. Actually, we almost cling to one another as worry overcomes us.

The fire, rather the smoke, is taking its toll. We can see the ash. We can smell the smoke. We can taste its acrid nature, but we don’t know where it is, and we are in full bloom worry.

We talk of action but decide we don’t know what action to take other than leaving and going home.

Another try at the car radio brings the expected door slamming, but this time joined by explosive cursing.

Home! The talk turns of home and we become animated.

Spirits rise. Energy is renewed. We develop a plan.

We will break camp in the morning after breakfast, after the chores and packing is done. We will head for home. We will be leaving a few days early but, so what! We found what we came for.

Paleo Indian was at high altitude; we found them. The sites are fully documented for later recording and future research.

We clink our glasses of wine and salute the next day.

So, off to bed we go, dirty and tired, but with hope and remembrances of home.

to be continued (early)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Search Day 6

Camp news:

Some of us don’t feel well today, just a general malaise. Coughing is getting worse for some, that is tiring.

Breakfast is quietly taken, not much appetite. There are a hearty few, as always.

The skies are darker than yesterday. Our tents and trailers are covered in the fine dust and ash.

Jeanne is complaining about not being able to keep the kitchen free of ash. She is a stickler for cleanliness and for that we are grateful. No one wants to be over-come with camp ‘runs’!

Today we go to 11,000 feet. Our highest trek yet.

Heads down we trudge our way to the top. Rocks roll underfoot and we stumble along. A few promising rock shelters are investigated. Nothing is noted.

The plotted survey map shows us to an open rocky area, a basin, that looks very promising.

Visibility is awful. We cannot see the next mountain. To the south, we see a dark blanket covering the forests, but no fires - strange.

The moraine and old glacial edge are identifiable on the map, as is a small lake. For most of us, this is our first look at a moraine and its attendant lake.

If the Sundance Paleo Indian model is correct we should find many artifacts of early man. We are excited.

On archaeological survey, we walk about 5-10 meters apart in a horizontal line and call out to each other when something is noticed.

Today the calls start right away. “Lithic!” “Chip stone!” “Proj point!” “Ground stone.” My, Oh My! We have hit the jackpot. Now to try to figure out what we have. Mapping and setting the site boundaries takes precedent. There is much scampering about and much light chatter. We settle down to the work at hand.

We know the moraine lake water is cold but we check it any way! At lakeside lunch, we talk about the moon and its landscape probably looking like this.

Moon? There has been no moon! We have been too tired and have gone to bed so early each night, we have not noticed nor have we looked up to the heavens.

We are camped in a light pollution free area; the heavens should twinkle for us. How strange we have not looked.

We decide we will stay awake later and check this out tonight.

There is a general feeling of unease amongst us. Chatter is not up to our usual. We know we are tired, that this altitude has slowed us down.

It has been a grueling 10 hour, 10 mile, 11,000 foot altitude, day for us. We are tired, happy with our finds and we are dirty!

Showers are needed. The branch holds, but again our solar water is barely tepid. Some grumble and gritch. We ask to have some water heated over the propane burners. Jeanne snaps at the request.

Jeanne is not happy at all. Ash is everywhere. She doesn’t feel well. She is coughing. In addition, this is our poorest meal to date.

We try to make Jeanne happy to no avail. She is talking of quitting. “Leaving right now,” she says. Lordy! That means we will have to cook! We talk her into staying at least for the night. We tell her, “We will do breakfast.” She agrees to sleep in. Straws are drawn as to who will be on duty. No one is happy.

Visibility in camp is worse than when we left. At 11,000 feet, we had not noticed the change as we were in a protected basin. And we were busy looking down at the ground, as trained archaeologists do! The dark blanket covering the forest to the south we had seen seemed far away.

We do stay up later to see the stars and the moon. There are none.

Where the bright white moon should be is an orange-ish, blurry blob. There are no stars. We are concerned.

There is much talk about the fire. Is it closing in on us? Maybe the Rangers have been trying to get to us and have been unable to do so. The PI did say visibility was bad for her but those Rangers are trained to go where none of us dare. Where are they? Have they forgotten we are here?

We are glad we are camped lakeside, as we know we can get into the water if the fire comes into camp.

We discuss leaving but then realize night visibility is too poor for us to go.

We wonder about the outside news.

Someone tries their car radio — static.

Anger explodes.

The car door slams!

to be continued

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Search Day 5

Camp news:

Dark and early wake up calls again.

There should be a dawn light but it is dark.

The air is thick and smells acrid.

Bones and muscles have for all stopped their screams and moans. We are acclimated to the long, high treks and early morning hours.

Hunger needs to be satiated.

At breakfast, the PI announces she will go to town today. Her assistant will lead us on the survey. She is a bouncy little gal who sets a pace faster than we are used to. We will slow her down!

The daily camp chores are done by the stand-down person. We take turns at camp duties none of which is over-whelming.

After breakfast,the stand-down places lunch and goodies out on the long table for individuals to put together for the day; dishes washed; toilet paper restocked; surface trash, of which there is little is picked up and bagged. Then aid the cook in dinner preparations.

We start our trek, slow and a steady up we toil.

At this altitude of 10,000 feet, the gnarled trees begin to look skimpier. They look as tired as we feel. The ground seems drier. Grass, what little there is, crunch under our boots.

We do not need much shade, as the sun has not been full on our backs. It is muted even more today.

We haven’t found any signs of early man by lunch time and that is taken in the little shade thrown by scraggly, beetle eaten trees. Branches are brown and thin. It is worrisome.

We see more animals too. They seem to be frantic, are grouping and running down the mountain. They make us nervous as we think they know something we do not know about. It is too quiet.

Where are the birds? The fire! How close? Should we be getting out of the area? Surely, the Forest Rangers would tell us to get out if we are in any danger. We calm a bit.

No finds all day much to the disgust of the assistant who was so hopeful. That is ok. We still had a good but tiring day.

Camp home looks good.

Our PI is there waiting. She could not get down the 2 track to the main road, as visibility was so bad further away from camp.

We are not pleased with her report and tell her about the animals. She saw many also. We are worried.

We talk about leaving, but then again decide Rangers would have notified us to get out if we were in harm’s way. She tells us she tried the car radio, still no reception.

We all pitch in to help with the dinner dishes and general clean up.

Showers are next. The branch has held, but the water is cold; the filtered sun has not warmed the water.

We decide not to have a campfire as everything looks, feels, and smells too dry. A swirling spark could get us into trouble.

We are tired, worried and go to bed early.

to be continued

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Search Day 4

Camp News:

My God! It is dark. It is hard to get out of bed. The alarms shriek.

The air is thick and smelly. Some of us are coughing. The fires must be nearby but we cannot see them.

Today we will be higher on our search, about a thousand feet above where the projectile point was located yesterday. Smokers have decided to quit, as the air is thick! The sun is warm but muted again. It seems filtered.

Our daypacks seem lighter. The trek easier with less brush and rock to deal with. There are no trails. We have turned south which takes us up to a high flat basin area. Mountains surround the tiny basin. We have no view to speak of other than the next high mountain and the low open basin.

We noticed some animals today. Usually they manage to stay out of sight but today they run openly before us. The lake where we ate lunch has a funny dusting of ash on it. We saw a few small animals in the water. The fires must be bigger and closer than we imagined.

The PI mentions a need to go to town 2 hours away and she will check on the fires. We have not had contact with anyone outside our camp since we arrived 5 days ago. None of us thought to bring a radio. Several of us have tried our car radios but there is nothing but static so we are truly out of touch with the world.

It is wonderful to leave the world behind for this short time. No one cares about anything other than our work and our simple camp life.

So far, the personalities of all seem to mesh quite well. The PI has chosen her crew well. There is a mutual respect with acknowledgement of differences in experience and desires. We are working well together. The gentle teasing has begun which is a good sign of camaraderie; of becoming a family.

As we leave our lunch area K. notices a light scatter of lithics. We noodle about the area and find a Clovis projectile point base, stone debitage and an outré passé flake.

Clovis is the only stone technologist in North America to do this type of knapping with resultant outré passe flake. We have found the earliest Paleoindian — they were here right where we had lunch! We are excited. We are exhilarated.

Mapping takes up the rest of afternoon and it is really getting dark; we will arrive in camp in the dark — not good.

Solar showers will be cold. UGH!

After a wonderful Italian dinner, more chatter around campfire about early man.

Is there an Old world, Solutrean, tie-in as some speculate? Did early man cross the Atlantic Ocean? Or, did early man walk across the Bering Straits as the glaciers receded and opened up a land bridge from the north?

Bedtime is really early as we are super tired.

The long 10 hour, higher altitude trek has us exhausted.

Dreams are a mix of paleo questions and psychedelic firings of our oxygen starved brains.

to be continued

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Search Day 3

Camp news:

Alarms go off at 5 am. Early start of our day is necessary but, wow! A few more minutes of sleep would be great especially since it is dark.

We stumble and grumble to breakfast. Jeanne knows we need extra fat to sustain us at altitude and for the long treks. Breakfast is good and provides us with what we need, want or crave.

This day is longer in time and length of trek. We are getting stronger; we huff and puff less even though we are higher in altitude. Our daypacks are heavy. Our muscles moan. Some bones talk to us.

We climb and stumble our way up. One skinned shin is in need of attention. Be wary of the rocks, some look stable only to roll underfoot and throw one off balance. New lessons are learned along the hard way.

As usual, we comb open areas and crisp babbling stream-sides for any sign of early man.

The sun looks strange again today. The day is darker. There is a little breeze. Fires must be huge and close by.

Lunch break is again time for chatter about our work.

We found a paleo-point (arrowhead) just before lunch; mapping and paperwork are done and the high fives to M. for finding it. Good eye, M! So know we know they were here!

The archaeology model “Sundance” is good. Whoever wrote it knew what they were doing! We have the proof and we know more is to come.

Back at camp, showered we eat and talk about the find.

Excitement reigns.

What will our next day bring?

We will do a 10-hour trek tomorrow and will be at about 9000 feet.

to be continued

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Search Day 2

Camp news:

Wake up calls from the alarms shrill thru the camp. Breakfast is healthy and filling.

The air is dusty today. The sun seems lightly muted.

Our trek along a ridge takes us to 8000 feet. We huff and puff but continue our search. We scramble over rocky and cliff type terrain. There is not much bramble and brush to impede our progress. The trees are our umbrellas.

We stop our trek and survey each open area we come to. Rock shelters are peered into. Nothing! It is warm but comfortable up here.

Self-packed lunch eaten next to a small cool lake is a welcomed relief from the scramble of ups and downs we have been through.

The sun looks strange. We talk about it. Must be a forest fire nearby, we decide.

The day of searching continues. Heads down, eyes searching the ground but there is nothing.

We take a slightly different path home still nothing is found along the way.

Sitting around the campfire after a wonderful dinner, talk turns to why we are at altitude.

Why look here in this inhospitable environment for early man?

The PI tells us that early man was known as big game hunter and big game seemed be drawn to the thawing glacier’s edges. The glaciers drip nitrates, a natural fertilizer. As they melt the abundant growth of fine fern and moss resulted, the big game animal was attracted to the nutritious feed. Early man, it is presumed, followed the herd.

Ah! So early man was one clever individual we agree. He knew where to find food. We can find our kitchen!

The branch has held. Showered and early to bed, as we are tired; 7 miles and a long 8 hour day!

to be continued

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Search Day 1

Camp news:

Last night we had a wonderful meal prepared by our camp cook, Jeanne. Sitting around the campfire after a meal has been a long time favorite, a time to laugh and tell lies, as some say.

Introductions are complete and the basic methodology of our work presented, questions and answers accomplished. We are absorbed in and by our ‘town.’ Our thoughts are of our pending work and our chosen estrangement from the world. Our quick excursion to ‘our’ lake has made us comfortable.

The camp looks good — the tree branch holds – so far! Tents and small trailers scattered around in a tight area give the appearance of a small town, albeit a rather shabby, shantytown, one.

Night sleeping was exceedingly warm.

We gear up for the day’s trek into the unknown. Water bottles filled; individual lunches packed. We leave an hour after breakfast. Routine has started.

We follow a trail for a short way single file, then bunch up and then break off trail into low brush. The forest towers above us. It is cool and comfortable. When we come to an open basin area we spread out survey style and our work begins.

The long day’s search for early man in the high open basin has given us brief hints, an artifact or two of lithics but not what we are looking for, yet we record the area and do a simple map. We are tired and dirty!

The day’s trek was about 5 miles without much altitude change. The solar shower branch held so we are clean and refreshed.

Dinner is served.

Routine is looking good.

We get to know one another around the campfire. A glass of wine and a few stories then, off to bed.

to be continued

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Search Day 0

Out there became nothing and we didn’t know it. How could we?

Early people came into North America sometime around 14,000 years ago. Paleo-Indians we call them. We know little about them.

We, as an archaeological group, are here to look for their detritus; the signs of their life, of having passed through, high, high up amid the scraggly gnarled trees and cold clear lakes, most times open basins.

We are drawn together by this interest. Nothing more.

Day 0
Camp news:

We have straggled in, one by one, to a US Federal Forest area next to a small lake; we are in the process of setting up camp where we will live for the next ten days.

The forest campground is very primitive. Cell phone reception is zero. We will see no newspapers for 10 days. This a big plus for there has been nothing but bad to horrid news, War in Iraq, Iran and North Korea both presenting problems. We have potable water and a porta-potty chemical toilet but no electricity, no showers. We have the greatest gift that an archaeology survey crew can have - a cook.

New arrivals are warmly greeted and old friends hugged; minimum time is spent in talking as we have individual camp set-up needs to attend. Night is approaching and it does so with speed in the mountains, in the forest.

The cook, Jeanne, has arrived with the kitchen and food supplies. The kitchen set-up job is tackled by everyone. Pots and pans find a nesting spot; food is stowed; propane refrigerator is started; camp dining tables in place; dish washing area is selected; and finally the 4 burner propane stove is set. This show of first team effort is a good start on our adventure.

Little tents pop up, trailers are favorably positioned.

First order of community business after individual survival interests is the camp shower. What area is the best for the shower set up? Which branch will hold our solar water bags and privacy stall? So many of the trees look worn out, beetle eaten out and drought dry. The area is scouted for a strong low branch that will fulfill our needs.

We expend all our energies on our immediate short-term needs. We are completely absorbed in obtaining a semblance of comfort for ourselves. We make a home away from home. We want comfort and a semblance of normalcy. We like routine next to comfort.

For us this means the shower works, the kitchen is working and the walk to the shower or toilet is not only pleasant but also short!

Jeanne calls us to dinner. How did she do this so quickly? It is a light tasty and filling meal. We are delighted to have a cook. We are lucky indeed!

Early to bed is the best defense against tiredness at altitude. We have come far. We have worked hard in establishing the camp, our home.

Tiredness overtakes us, but we still have the Introduction of the Project to go through next to the campfire.

to be continued

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Readers

I am at the end of my 28 years of archaeology stories - my adventures or misadventures, points of irony or incidents that were just plain fun for me! All have been true. Thank you for reading them.

Several years ago I wrote a story for a friend's birthday, totally fiction and definitely not researched. It is all make believe; it came out of nowhere, entered my brain, traveled right out my fingers onto the keyboard!

I present it to you hoping you will enjoy it.

I will post it starting tomorrow, 1 day at a time, on Mondays. It is called The Search. It starts with Day 0.

Meanwhile, here is a quickie - not archaeological but shows you the kinds of things that happen to me in everyday life too that tickle my fancy:

I was buying lipstick. I do not like luster or sparkle in my lipstick.

Lighting in the store was poor and I couldn’t tell if the color I picked was matte or lustrous/sparkly.

There was a very young woman standing next to me.

I said to her, "Would you help me? My eyes are failing and I can’t tell if this lipstick has luster in it. Would you check it for me?"

She said, "Just a sec. Let me get my glasses!"

Friday, October 15, 2010


Thank you for asking the question. PI stands for Principal Investigator. I should have been clearer! My apologies.

Thank you to all of you who have been reading my stories. You have come in from all over the world and have given me great delight. What fun to know my stories are being read by so many.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who Owns The Land?

As an Arizona Site Steward it is important to know whose land I am traversing. I have agreements with all the land agencies (BLM, Forest Service, County and State Trust) so this information is not as vital to me as it might be to someone who is accompanying me.

An agreement with various land agencies means I have medical coverage IF something untoward happens to me. It also means I am not trespassing!

Knowledge of landownership is imperative in Archaeology also, as one does not want to do something on land or be on the land without permission from the landowner.

But knowledge of landownership can be a problem in Archaeology and in Site Stewarding. Let me give you a few examples.

BLM asked me to check out a site in the San Pedro River Valley. I took a fellow Site Steward with me. Yikes! There was damage to this site. We determined the damage was due to cattle trampling through and over a wall. BLM was notified and given the UTMs for the damage. Their reply: “The UTMS show this is State Trust land!”

Another: Several of us monitor sites along the Cienega Creek, area owned by the County. We crested a hill and noticed an excavation in progress. We had not been notified about this excavation, as is usual practice. We went to the excavation area and talked with the PI for the project and we were told this site is State Trust land, and not County. The PI showed us the Permits for the excavation. Only a few acres of land not owned by County within thousands!

Here is a biggie: After 3 grueling months of negotiations with a landowner in Colorado the PI had the legal “go” for excavation for the field school. The first day of the dig our PI was approached by a man who said, “What are you doing on my land?” The PI said she had permission from the landowner to excavate. He said, “I have NOT given that permission.”

This land sat on 2 county lines so the PI sent staff to the 2 county seats to view all the landowner records. Yep! The land belonged to the 2nd landowner! Lucky for us he was thrilled with the excavation and agreed to let us continue. Gee, he even provided dinner for us one night. The 1st landowner was not happy when informed the land was not his!

As you can see from these 3 examples Archaeology and land ownership can be tricky!

And in Arizona we get into ownership of land on top (surface) and land under (subsurface)! I won’t even touch that one!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Site Visit

Three of us were asked to go to a large Hohokam Village Site to evaluate some recent disturbances - a site where pothunters are known to frequent. They had vandalized it many times by digging in the trash mounds, around the room walls and had collected surface artifacts.

The lovely site lies to the north of Tucson. This area has very gentle sloping hills that afford good site visibility when looking down hill.

We walked the main area and saw boot prints. There were a few ‘collectors’ piles of sherds. No digging though, just some recent animal disturbances. Javelina (collard peccary) love to dig at cacti roots - their handiwork is very distinctive.

We drove the many dirt roads that surround the site then parked upslope of the site. We decided to sit in the desert and look down on the site for a time. A nice 'munch' break in other words.

We heard a car. And sure enough some people, we thought two, parked and got out. They began to walk the site. We could see them bending over - picking up stuff!

Val got out her binoculars and hid behind a bush. Mike, who is a photo-buff, said he would take zoom pictures of the vehicle and people if he could. I paced and scanned!

The binoculars passed back and forth. We went from bush to bush trying to get a good view.

“Mike?” I called, as suddenly I could not see him. No response. Val called too. No response.

One of us saw a third person at the site, who had something long resting on their shoulder. Oh Dang! They have a gun - not uncommon for pothunters.

We could not high tail it out of there, as Mike, on photo recon, was not responding to our calls.

Val and I darted across the dirt road into the nearby wash and went into hiding. Hunkered down and out of sight we whispered about “what to do next.”

Finally, we heard footsteps and a twig snap. We softly called, “Mike?” He answered. Whew!

“Mike, we need to get out of here. They are now 3 and one is carrying a gun.”

“No, there are only two. I talked with them and told them they can’t pick up stuff. It is a felony,” said Mike.

“Mike, you should not have gone near them - they had a gun.”

“No they didn’t.”

“Well we saw something”

“You saw the big cow bone I carried as a club!”

We really caught the devil from our land manager over this incident. Here is what he told us to impress on us the “do not approach” rule.

One of his rangers saw a man, woman and 2 children on a site. The ranger approached the family to tell them they were trespassing. The man pulled a gun and chased the ranger. “Never, NEVER approach anyone on site” he said. “No matter how nice they may look they mean business and they can BE mean business.”


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Hot Case

Four of us, 3 Arizona Site Stewards and one student, had gone to a large site on the NW side of Tucson to monitor for vandalism on State Trust Lands - a permit required area.

As we neared the site we saw a vehicle parked along the dirt road at the south portion of this huge Hohokam trincheras site. We were headed for the north portion but we got into the monitoring mode very quickly.

We crept along the road and we scanned the area for people. We saw no one.

As we approached the parked truck, one of us drove, one got out a notebook and pencil, another got ready to identify make of vehicle, style, color, license plate number and anything that distinguished the vehicle from others such as bumper stickers and the fourth did landscape surveillance.

There was no paper work on the dashboard of the vehicle for this “Permit Only” land. Not a good sign!

All information written down, we went slowly on our way to our parking spot still scanning the massive terraced hill for human activity.

On foot, we toured the area and suddenly the four of us noticed a man with something long slung over his shoulder - a shovel? We were too far away to tell. Well if it was a shovel and he had been digging - we had him!

We went about our business and soon another man joined the first at the vehicle. They got in and drove away.

All the information we had written down about the vehicle, two men, a possible shovel and time of day was called in to Law Enforcement of State Trust Lands.

The next week I was talking to P. F. Professor of Anthropology/Archaeology. I told him we had just been out to the Trincheras site and turned in a report on 2 men and their vehicle - no papers on the dash etc. and we sure hoped that there had not been any digging/vandalism. But we had them hot!

“Yes I got a call about it,” he said. “That was my truck. I had a student with me. Thank you for watching over my research site.”

The hot case went cold! We had turned in our own professor to the cops!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I am not sure how to write up this fiasco as it was so confusing but I’ll give it a try.

We were formed into 3 crews for the remote area survey – each crew with a vehicle.

We were to be 4 crews but one was a no show.

Michelle had given out the maps showing the survey areas for each crew.

I was on Michelle’s crew.

Off we go to our survey area.

We weren’t going anywhere - fast. She couldn’t get the vehicle out of 2nd gear!

Michelle and I took off in 2nd gear for the tiny nearby town. We left our crew members to cool their heels roadside thinking we might be stuck in town and the crew would meet up with the others - eventually.

I remember we left the vehicle in town and Connie came to get us.

Back in the remote area, Connie and I dropped Michelle off with the 4th crew,the no show. They had been stranded earlier with battery problems! They were roadside waiting with the rest of our stranded crew.

The next thing I remember I was with Connie. I think we were headed for the 1st crew to tell them to abort the day.

We proceeded to have a front wheel flat tire!

We did all the usual - jack the car up – get the spare out- take off the flat. Ah heck! You all know the miserable routine!

As Connie and I were changing the tire a man in a pick-up truck pulled up next to us. He offered to help. As I talked with him I looked in his vehicle window and saw a very ugly hydraulic bow and arrow resting on the front seat. I thanked him but said we were almost through changing the tire. “But thank you for stopping.”

I rolled the spare tire to Connie and the two of us lifted it up and put it on her Jeep.

Whew! We did it and were on our way! Nope the car would not budge.

We had put the tire on backwards!

Jack up the car again - undo the lug nuts- put the tire on the right way!

Now we were finally on our way and met up with the rest of the crews.

Only one crew had been able to survey - partially. The rest of us were tangled up with cars one way or tother!

Finally we were all together sitting roadside eating, bemoaning the lost day and laughing about the day’s fiasco when I saw the final insult:

The Jeep’s metal symbol announcing it was a “Jeep” unhinge, swing and dangle!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Fire Starter

We were camped at Flaming Gorge for Utah State University’s Archaeology Field School.

There were about 15 students who were newcomers to archaeology. They were young, strong and all had an abundance of energy - unending energy and all with a sense of humor too. A lot to handle for this old broad!

We had a cook! Wonderful Barbara, who normally joined us in the field school training but was injured. She had agreed to cook for us so her husband, Carl, could assist with the training.

In front of the cook’s tent was a nice rock fire ring. Every night one particular student, John, would start a roaring fire. Now this student professed to be THE fire starter for the camp.

He would gather firewood, trash and whatever he could find to burn - all the necessaries for a big roaring fire. We would sit around the fire ring swapping stories and singing to the guitars. There was much laughter!

At times Barbara would say we were going to have hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner and those were to be cooked over the fire. We had fire!

We were to move camp to a higher altitude for survey but because of bad snow weather at the higher altitude we moved across state to the BLM Resource Center at Heber where there was a nice ramada with tables and grills.

The first night Barbara asked THE fire starter to do the honors as we were having hot dogs and hamburgers. He stated emphatically he would have nothing to do with grills. And by golly he didn’t!

A few of us set about to light the fire grill for our dinner. John was nowhere to be seen.

He went to the local eatery in town!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Yellow Sign

Outside of Idaho Falls is a big Folsom site. Our field school group was invited by the local archaeologist to have a tour of the site.

The ride out of town into the middle of nowhere was long and well - boring.

The long fences on each side of the road sported signs saying such things as: No Entry; US Federal Property; Do Not Enter; No Trespassing. We were in the middle of the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory; 900 square miles of it - a nothingness!

Our Folsom site tour guide suddenly took a left onto a road that came out of nowhere.

There was building with a ramada, water and latrines. The brick building was built in 1950s – the world’s first Nuclear Power Plant! There were two immense Atomic powered aircraft engines in the parking area. The engines were never used, as they were too heavy for existing aircraft.

We were invited to use the facilities but to tour the building later upon our return.

We were given ‘visitors passes’ for the US controlled entry to the Folsom site.

The Folsom site was very large and was fairly untouched, almost pristine. There were obsidian lithics/tools scattered over the entire area. No excavations had taken place that I remember and because it was on “Laboratory” controlled property it was fully protected from pothunters or other loot seekers.

It was overshadowed though by a huge concrete capped Nuclear Waste dump. Red warning signs “Radio Active” were located around the dump. What looter wanted to be near that nuclear, radio active, dumpsite any way?

On return we stopped at the 1950s building to tour the World’s first Nuclear Power Plant.

There was a yellow sign to the right of the front door – the sign read:



Thursday, September 16, 2010


I had a thousand mile drive ahead of me, and dang if my radio didn’t go out. A real bummer for me! I love to listen to the radio on a long drive.

I was near a small town and pulled into an L strip-mall. The local ‘drug’ store had a cheapo battery operated radio. Good.

Back at my car - I couldn’t get in. I had locked the keys inside.

I went back to the store and asked the lady at the desk to call AAA for me. She did.

They were a ‘no show’ four hours later! It was a Saturday and the AAA contacts quit at noon!

I paced the sidewalk in front of the store wondering what to do - police would not come nor would the fire department.

I saw a yellow cab enter the mall parking lot.

I went up to the window - tapped on it and said, “Would you happen to know a gang member who could get into my car for me? I have locked my keys in there.”

I really did say that! And the cabbie was just as incredulous as you are!

He pulled into the slot next to my car. He got out; I swear he looked just like the “Mr. Clean.” A really big man, shaved head had it all.

He opened the trunk of his car. I saw wires, tools and HUGE machete with wire wrapped around it.

“I am dead! He’ll kill me right here in this parking lot. And no one will see it” I thought.

He opened my car in less than 5 seconds!

I was so grateful I cried.

I reached into my wallet and got a $20 bill out. As I gave him the bill I gave him a hug.

Hugging me back he said, “I thank you and my six kids thank you. I am an out of work county investigator!”

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Case for Witches

Following the "Murders in the Bog" excavation Jim and I had an unbelievable number of untoward incidents that included: personal body attacks; serious life threatening illnesses requiring hospitalizations; car thefts or accidents where we were not at fault- our list was extensive - 30 plus entries.

More than disconcerting. It was frightening! And, to boot, Jim told me about an excavation crew who were all killed or died within one year after their excavation. Very unnerving and here we were experiencing something astoundingly awful.

Normally all of these incidents in this span of time would seem to be normal to a group of individuals but I will remind you they happened to just the 2 of us - just the two of us did the excavation - they started right after the Murders excavation and happened in a 2 year time frame.

I don’t really believe in so called paranormal but when it comes to Native Americans well, I am a believer.

Here is a quick story to explain what I mean.

We had had so many incidents that I sought help. And that help came from an Elder on the Tohono O’odham reservation.

I called Elder Ed – gave him an abbreviated account of what had occurred. He suggested a Cleansing Ceremony.

I contacted Jim, a skeptic, who cautiously agreed and we made an appointment for the Ceremony to be preformed on the Tohono O’odham reservation.

Before the Ceremony, Elder Ed sat with us under a ramada and asked us to explain again and thoroughly what had happened and why we thought we needed this Ceremony.

Jim did the talking – explaining. This is normal when dealing with the Tohono O’odham Elders - women take the back seat!

The Elder asked me if I agreed with what was said. I said, "Yes."

After the explicit and detailed explanation to him about our need, he went on to tell us that, yes, he knew about the murders!

The BLM crew had called the nation and four Elders went to the site, but the Elders had fled and did not do the “Spirits Appeasing Ceremony” as they normally do.

Three of the Elders had the Cleansing Ceremony as soon as they returned to the reservation. They were well.

The fourth Elder had refused the Ceremony and became very ill. The doctors did not know what was wrong with him. He was near death.

Elder Ed told us we really needed to believe in the Cleansing Ceremony or it would not work for us. I told him I believed - I had to believe, as there were too many awful happenings to us. Jim, as I said, was a skeptic but he too acknowledged his belief.

Elder Ed did the half hour Ceremony for us: the burning of the leather thongs, whirling the smoke about us, lighting the incense, waving the feather wand to the 6 directions, and the chanting - lots of rhythmical chanting in his native language.

I really felt a sense of peace and relief when the Ceremony was over.

From that day forward we have had no major untoward incidents! Oh both of us have had a few minor incidents but nothing to be worried about - all very normal trials in one’s life.

One item on our list: Jim’s extensively researched report on the Sobaipuri murders had been turned down 3 times by the BLM ranger as she didn’t like his conclusion: the 2 murdered men where witches. Turning down a report is unheard of. The dissenter normally writes a paper explaining their disagreement with the reporter/investigator’s conclusion. That is how science works.

The unchanged report was accepted after the Ceremony!

The Elders thought they were witches!

This story is my way of saying: they were witches.

Some things just are and are inexplicable.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Murders in a Bog

Phone calls have a way of setting one’s life on ear! This one—“Would you be willing to help with a burial excavation—tomorrow?”

The two burials were located in and extruding from an embankment along the Cienega Creek, in the BLM Empire Ranch area. Recent rains had threatened to break up the bank and release the bones and all possible information down stream; in fact, some portions had been washed away. The bones had been found by a BLM Herpetologist, several days before the call came in.

A BLM crew had already removed one individual; had identified the burial as Sobaipuri period, aka: protohistoric (roughly 1540-1750?) and they had run out of time to complete the rest of the excavation. They called Jim V. of Center for Desert Archaeology who is doing his PhD dissertation on the Sobaipuri. Luckily, I had been working with Jim on another Sobaipuri site and he knew I was interested.

Thursday morning was hot and humid. With the full sun on our backs, we started mapping, profiling and trying to ascertain the best way to attack the remaining portion of the excavation.

Jim determined right away the soil profile, which gave us an idea of the situation/soils in which the skeletons were located. Bog! They were on the edge of a bog when they were “thrown” in, that had a drop off to deeper water. Huge rocks, including a metate, had been thrown on top of them—to hold them down? The rocks had been removed by the BLM crew.

The remaining skeleton, partially exposed, was lying on abdomen; right wrist appeared to extend under right pelvis in “an ouch!” tummy holding position; left arm extended along the body with palm up; ribs were fractured, splintered; skull was facing to left (not face down) and severely fractured, we think by a rock; lower legs were missing.

The two individuals had been in a head to toe arrangement so most likely some of the bones intermingled. Our individual’s right hand was not recovered so this may have been part of the intermingling or perhaps - cut off! I think the individual we were recovering was alive when thrown into the bog. Why was the skull facing left instead of face down?

This was not a burial. This was a demeaning, brutal attack with a graceless disposal of bodies thrown into the bog in a final show of contempt. Sobaipuri buried their dead in a pit often in vertical seated position.

I had to stand on a stool to excavate, and was just getting used to this stance and had barely scraped a bit of dirt when I saw a projectile point in situ. I said, “Jim I need a bag for this point” by the time he brought the bag to me I had four more points! So, it continued throughout the next days. The “I need a bag” became a point of laughter as Jim would say, “How many?”

We point provenienced all artifacts: northing, easting, elevations and bearing of shots — all tedious, exacting, time consuming measurements but will do well for possible 3D mapping at a later date. Jim took photos of the points in-situ for further documentation and he maintained extensive notes and maps during the excavation process.

To make the seven, 10-hour day, and hot excavation story short—and to the point! —Pun intended—This individual had been shot with 77 projectile points and stabbed twice, all of the points are Sobaipuri who, by the way, were known to poison their projectile points! I think there were five shooters, rank speculation on my part. Bearings on the points may tell us this after computer data is processed.

Whole points were recovered from the abdominal cavity; many whole points from the rib/lungs but some had broken on impact with the ribs. This poor soul had projectile points in hips, both “buns”, kidneys, wrists, hands, neck, and one point went through 2 lower vertebrae horizontally. I would assume this caused instant paralysis. Upper neck was not spared either. Both arms were broken/shattered and full of points.

Most of the ribs were broken/shattered and at each break site there was a projectile point and sometimes up to five. Same with the arms and clavicles (collar bones), projectile points at each break. More projectile points than I have ever seen. Fingertips of the left hand were smashed—stepped on maybe?

About four projectile points were recovered from the 1/8th inch mesh screen—oversight on my part. These points are very small, about 1-2cms long and will go thru a ¼ inch mesh screen, as they are narrow.

Are we talking over kill here? Boy, was someone angry!

Exactly what happened? Why? Who were these individuals?

None of the analysis has been done. We are just out of the field.

No metal was recovered in-situ, so we doubt they are Spaniards who had just made “contact.” Were they Apache warriors? Were they Sobaipuri from another tribe and had been caught doing something wrong? Were they witches? Sobaipuri had witches as documented by the Spanish priests (Father Kino). Was this murder, justifiable homicide or was this war?

The only piece of metal was a Winchester Repeater Rifle 44 shell casing—1880s—but a rodent burrow was nearby and rodents love shiny objects. Time frame is a mind boggler especially with the one piece of pre-historic pottery recovered! A conundrum! We think these two artifacts lend nothing to the story; are just ‘background noise.’

About 5 days into the dig, we uncovered a bone and fragments of what appears to be cow—Spanish brought in the cow about (1693?) This would date the site to after 1693. Or, it could be Bison? The Sobaipuri traded for Bison meat and skin—but bone?

Not the ‘right’ teeth were in place for Indian vs. Anglo identification to be made on site. Indian incisors can be shovel shaped at the back. The gracile appearing pelvis was smashed at the symphysis pubis by points so we may never know gender—Mandible looked rather thin though –could this be a female? Or, an old individual, as the few teeth in-situ had cavities and were very worn down. One tooth cavity exhibited signs of stick ‘cleaning’ as the perfectly round hole was worn and shiny. Most of the mandible had been without teeth for a long time—long enough to heal over completely without a trace of teeth ever having been in place.

The Tohono O’odham elders have been contacted and they have the final say as to what type of analysis can be done. We do believe that ASM will be able to look at the bones and do a limited analysis. We know the Tohono O’odham elders will not allow anything destructive so DNA recovery may not be possible—and they may not allow residue analysis of the points. Apaches will not allow any analysis and nor will not take the bones for reburial either.

We may never know what happened. So many more questions than answers!

Any guesses?

I do know this: I NEVER want to get anyone this angry with me! And, I know I will NEVER have this type of excavation experience again.

Addendum: Primary bone analysis by Lane B. of ASM; Our individual, male, between 50-55 years old—teeth were present but worn down so not visible by an inexperienced observed (me!) Incisors showed great wear with an “o” shaped opening appearing from eyetooth to eye tooth. The right hand had been cut off! Multiple cuts appeared at the wrist are peri-mortem. This man had slight arthritis in the shoulder. He had been beaten by a club, as many of the breaks were blunt trauma breaks. His skullcap had cut marks that seem to indicate “scalping” had taken place.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

High Altitude

I am a smoker and when Bonnie invited me to participate in her Paleoindian high altitude dig, I quit. I didn’t smoke for the three months before the dig.

I arrived at the trailhead motel a few days to get acclimated to the starting altitude of 9,000 feet. I drove to the trailhead to have a look at the meeting area. We were to hike to 12,000 feet carrying all our gear including food for 2 weeks. About a 65 pound backpack to tote, in other words!

The trailhead had three railroad ties as stairs. I climbed the ‘stairs’ and was huffing-puffing so badly I thought I was going to die on the spot.

Devastated at the prospect of being unable to do the hike to get to the dig area I sat in my motel room brooding and looking out the window at a horse stable/riding area. Horses! Yes! I could get there by horse.

I went to the stable and presented my case to the cowboy. Could he take me, and my gear, across the 12,000 foot mountain pass then down the steep path into Caribou Lake area? He said he would have to check with the owners but this is something he would really like to do.

The owners agreed. We set a price, date and time to meet for this trek.

So it was the cowboy, his horse, a horse for me and another horse for my gear.

We traveled a long open trail; then forest areas; open alpine fields and then hard scrabble to the rocky top at 12,000 feet.

The wind was so horrendous at the top I got off the horse and crawled on hands and knees to the edge. When I looked down at the steep 500 foot switch back path I choked, “I can’t do this!”

The path was barely wide enough for one person to walk never mind a horse and all the gear.

My cowboy said, “We are going. You are not going to miss this dig.”

We went. My eyes were closed most of the way. I arrived in camp riding fast and happy now that I was on flat ground! The crew was flabbergasted.

The cowboy’s name was Muir! He was a lawyer from Washington State, a grandson, if I remember correctly of John Muir the naturalist. He hated every minute of the closed in atmosphere of Lawyering so he left for Colorado, for the cowboy life.

2 weeks later he came back over the mountain to get me, bringing with him a wonderful lunch, of avocados, cashew nuts, fresh bread and cheese. So thoughtful of him to do for me and too, super tasty after two weeks of eating dried stuff.

The ride back up the narrow switch back trail to the top of the mountain was just as daunting.

Sometimes, I had to get off the horse to lead him around a tight switch back, other times I rode closed eyed or turned into the mountain! "Don’t look down! Don’t look down," a voice in me screamed.

We got to the top of the mountain, the way was open. Peril was over! Home free!

The ride through the forest was lovely but my horse was acting strangely.

The cowboy in a soft firm voice said, “A coyote is following us to my left. Keep your eyes open.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Los Robles

The Hohokam Los Robles platform mound is from the 13th century and is monitored by Arizona Site Stewards. Vandalism is frequently noted.

Three of us went to this site about 40 miles on the northwest side of Tucson.

One has to walk about 1000 feet through the desert to get to the mound. Unauthorized vehicles have driven in there so now there is a drive path to the base of the 2-meter high mound.

Even though it is a short walk we have all our desert paraphernalia with/on us: adorned hats, boots, backpacks with cameras, water, measuring tape - the works.

On this day we saw fresh boots and tire tracks in the path so we left the path and walked along side of it to preserve the prints if needed later for evidence.

At the mound several new and big holes had been dug. Plainware sherds stacked on top one another, presumably decorated ones gone. More boot prints - we were careful to not step on them.

We measured the holes, got GPS readings, took pictures and noted the soda can, tossed into the creosote bush (aha-good for DNA testing!).

Our work completed, we looked up and saw a vehicle approaching from the north. Dang! Could it be the perps returning?

“We better get back to the car,” someone called out.

The vehicle pulled in next to ours! No way could we get license number or other info on the vehicle we would need for our report. And how do we make a safe get-a-way?

Two people got out of the vehicle – man and woman.

They didn’t talk.

They headed towards us.

We left the mound and began a slow meander back to our vehicle. We spoke in loud voices pretending to notice flowers/plants along the way but whispered in clipped words the need of and how to get out of this possible dangerous situation we were in.

“He’s got a gun,” I whispered to my partners. Now we are scared, as we know pothunters can be very dangerous.

Nervously, we kept walking towards our vehicle. They kept walking towards us.

I noticed a logo over the left side of the man’s t-shirt and I was sure it read POLICE.

“Hey, you are Police. Whew! We are so glad you are here. The area has been hit again.”

He laughingly responded, “A BLM crew called in the vandalism report a few hours ago. We saw you drive up and thought you were going to resume pot hunting. We were sure you were the perps! We have been watching you from atop the hill. We saw the backpacks and flowers on the straw hat. Well, we have never seen a pothunter wear a flowered hat!”

Friday, September 3, 2010

Long Legs

We were at Flaming Gorge, Utah just north of Dutch John. Don’t you love that name? It conjures up the ole Wild West in my mind! Horses and gun slinging cowboys!

We had 15 students in Bonnie’s Archaeology Field School, all brand new to Archaeology. It was our job to teach them the right way.

We had spent days on excavation techniques and it was time to get them out to survey.

I was crew chief for 4 students: 2 tiny young ladies and 2 very long legged young men.

Archaeology survey is a very tight drill. We transect an area spaced about 5 meters apart. Going off track is a real no! No! One is surveying for a reason, to find what is there and plot it correctly.

I had given instructions to my crew about calling out artifacts when they saw them and the need to stay in a tight side-by-side line.

The morning survey went well and I was so proud of them. The ladies had stayed in line to my left and the men to my right doing it just right with a few minor off track instances - those long legs raring to go.

After the lunch break we started up again.

We were in a large, high grass, field near the base of a small knoll. I noticed the 4 long legs were not at my right as they were supposed to be. They had strayed up the knoll about 25 meters from me.

As luck would have it I spotted a grass covered rusty mass to my right. Two long legs should have found it. It was on his transect path.

I called, “Hey, you are too far off track. Come on back”

They responded, “We can see everything from here. We are fine.”

“Then you saw this car!” I called.

Four long legs roared down to the spot, very embarrassed but thrilled with the early 1920’s car that they could not claim as having spotted!

Somehow the 1920’s car didn’t meet my ole Wild West imagination of horses and gun slinging cowboys but it sure made a good strong impression on the 4 legs in survey techniques!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Great Expectations

Jim had decided to do a very controlled surface collection prior to excavation.

A grid system was put in place and each ‘block’ as I remember was 10 meters x 10 meters.

The Taylor ranch in the San Pedro Valley is a Sobaipuri protohistoric site (1450-1700 AD).

Sobaipuri artifacts are extremely small; pottery sherds are usually no bigger than your small fingernail and Sobaipuri projectile points, even though made of lovely red or yellow jasper that stand out on the desert floor, are also very tiny averaging about 17 millimeters in length. It is the point base that we long to find as it is diagnostic for date and culture.

What this tinyness of artifacts meant to us was normal ‘survey’ techniques (up right and walking!) could not be used. It was ‘on hands and knees’ to search the ground. We crawled every square inch of our blocks. Once in a while someone would mutter about a sherd or a lithic.

A point base! I found a point base.

Proudly I took the base to show Jim.

“Is that the best you can do?” he said as he fondled the artifact.

Harrumph! I’ll show him! That droll sense of humor!

I went back on hands and knees grabbed something, arose, marched to Jim and said, “Will this do?”

“Yep! That will do.” Jim grinned.

I had a whole point!

The beautiful red Jasper point was handed around for all to see. It was found but a few centimeters from the point base but as I said it had no more archaeological meaning than the point base except it was so pretty!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Trailer

Valerie C. and I went to the northwest side of Tucson to monitor a couple of prehistoric sites for the Arizona State Trust Land Department. The area is well known as a hot bed of drug and illegal immigrant smuggling activities by gun toting men - not nice guys at all.

As I have said elsewhere, we are Arizona Site Stewards. We are trained to monitor sites for vandalism, mainly the type that pothunters do - dig big holes on sites looking for saleable artifacts.

We are trained in handling hot and cold cases and because of this training we are curious, observant, brave, nonchalant, determined – calm, cool, collected in our work in other words.

We drove into the desert on a dusty, bumpy dirt road. Recent tire tracks in the 2-track put us on high alert.

We entered a clear area of the desert and saw a trailer about 200 feet off the road. A big house trailer! It was sitting lopsided, very dirty, windows were out - it looked abandoned and very eerie.

Valerie said, “Let’s go have a look at it. Maybe we can get some information for our report.”

She parked the SUV and we started walking side by side about 5 meters apart to the trailer.

“I’ve got footprints here. Do you?” I called.

“Valerie,” I shouted at her. “Did you see the size of these foot prints leading to the trailer?”

Still walking I yelled to her, “I don’t like this. These footprints are huge and I don’t want to see who ever they belong too. My lord, they are huge.”

She cooly responded, “The place looks abandoned. I think it is ok.”

“Valerie,” I screamed, “They are huge! These are the biggest footprints I have ever seen. I am out of here!”

I turned and high tailed it to the safety of our vehicle.

As I said, “trained to be brave, nonchalant, determined - cool!”

I need more training!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting There Can Be Daunting

The protohistoric Sobaipuri dig site is an hour’s ride, half of which is on a bumpy dirt road. Morning coffee ‘hits’ about mid point and luckily for us there is a very active gas station and mart.

As I am heading back to the ladies room Jim comes down the aisle looking very worried. "Man is down in the men’s room. Can you see to him?"

In I go! My eyes looking for the man- I see him. "Call 911 anyone," I say loudly to who ever is there.

Men in stalls, men at the urinals I really don’t see them.

Elderly man, 80s probably, and he is braced against a stall, one leg tucked under him. I drop down next to him and start asking him questions. He mumbles.

As I talk I check his leg and it moves and he does not wince. He tells me the leg is ok and without pain. I have the leg out from under him and note the bleeding from his left ear. He responds but eyes roll back into his head. I place my fingers under his right jaw and monitor his pulse as I lift his jaw to maintain an open air way. His pulse is erratic.

He comes to and says he wants to go home. In talking with him, I find out he is driving by himself to home about 30 miles away. He has heart problems. He tries to get up. I talk him out of it by telling him the EMTs are on the way.

His pulse is irregular. He slides out of consciousness again.

EMTs are here - scissors are out and "there goes the gray shirt," I say to Jim – an inside joke. We laugh a nervous laugh.

I give the EMTs a quick report and leave. Inside the car I shake.

I attended another accident months later and emailed Jim about it. His email back is priceless:

"Our morning in the men’s room pales in comparison!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Barger Gulch is located in Middle Park, 12 miles from the dusty, sleepy town of Kremmling, Colorado. The town is at the confluence of three rivers, one being the Colorado so fishing and mosquitoes are big time there. Kremmling city fathers made a bad mistake years ago selling the town’s water rights to Denver so the town was always in a water-tight situation. But I digress.

The dig site is a Folsom (10,500-10,000 BC) research project for the University of Wyoming. Todd S. and Nicole W., the principal investigators, are Ph.D candidates I had been working with at the University of Arizona and they graciously invited me to join them for the three month excavation.

The site was located on BLM property. The BLM agents were fantastic supporters of the dig in so many ways but the one I enjoyed more than – say a shower at their facility – was a day-off rafting the Colorado!

Lazy rafting, as it turned out, as the river was very low and slow. There was talk of portage for the rafts.

We had been floating along when the BLM guide said, “Say-would you guys like to see dinosaur tracks?”

“Sure!” was the immediate and excited response from everyone.

Further down stream we pulled the rafts to shore next to a little sign saying: DINOSAUR TRACKS

We followed a little trail into the brush. Having done archaeology survey work for years I was intent at looking at the ground for ‘evidence.’

We walked and looked and saw nothing.

As we neared a cliff face I said, “I am not seeing anything.”

The guide said, “Look up.”

The cliff face was covered with tracks huge tracks!

Geological uplift of the surface bed over a million plus years ago made the tracks appear to be walking up into the sky instead of ‘on the ground.’ We followed the base of the cliff for about 50 yards and it was solid with dinosaur tracks.

Hmmm-“Look up” is not something archaeologists do. I wonder how much we miss?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Barnes Site

A Folsom point (10,500-10,000 BC) had been found on the surface by the survey crew on the Barnes site in Colorado.

PCRG had said they would join in the dig as we were after all Paleo Culture Research Group.

I was assigned the 2x1 meter pit right at the Folsom point find.

Expectations were high. My partner and I excavated, bagged and carried that damn dirt for days! Nothing! When I checked at the water screening area for signs of artifacts from our pit: Nothing. Nil. Nada. We didn’t even have a rock!

I worked the south end of the pit. At about 20 centimeters down in the southwest corner I noticed a soil color change very faint but it was there. I excavated a bit more. Yep, it was there.

I made a trip out of the pit to see Stan and tell him about the soil change.

He comes, has a look and says, "I don’t see it."

Day 2 of color change: I am now down deeper and can really see the change in color and texture. Heck, if I can’t have artifacts surely I can have color and texture change!

Stan: "Nope, Cherie. There is no change in texture or color."

Day 3 of color change. It is there I see it, my partner doesn’t see it. I am really crazy.

Stan: "Nope. Nothing. There, there. It’s ok. You don’t have to have something." And he was saying this while patting me on the shoulder, as though I was a heartbroken little girl.

We are at the bottom of the pit, since there have been no artifacts then there is no sense to continue to excavate. Very disappointing.

I have been asked to assist at other pits. I endure the teasing!

Days later I hear my name called and the request to come back to my pit. The world is there.

Stan tells me a ‘soil man’ had really looked at the area I had been 'nagging' him about.

It has been determined "there is a change of color and texture" and they had decided it is Paleo soil.

I had been excavating the ‘side’ of a small ridge from Paleo times, that had filled in with silt over the thousands of years.

Stan was wonderful when he was telling me, "You are vindicated. You have a good eye, Cherie."

He said this to me in front of all the excavators. They cheered!

I smiled and said. "Thank you. Guess I do have good glasses!"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rains Came

This excavation year at Hellgap I wasn’t allowed to set up my tent next to the little wash. The rancher said it annoyed the cows as they passed by on their way to water!

I found a spot at the base of a rock outcropping and up hill from the main cottage that housed the kitchen and other central activities. A small group of trees nearby gave some privacy for the shower stall. In general, it was an ok tent spot and one that had me to the kitchen in quick order. And above all it was level. Yes! On the hill but level; almost a little landing carved out on the hillside.

We worked for about a week — our normal comings and goings; digging and washing artifacts - but then came the rains.

And it rained — and rained.

We spent time in the center exploring and picking matrix from our units. Using an enlarging lens we removed with tweezers anything not found in the washing screens. Of course we grumbled about the rain and wondered if we had covered the excavation area well enough to prevent water damage.

On the third day of rains after dinner and a quick scamp to my tent I noticed when I got inside my tent a spongy feel to the floor. Nothing was wet but I had the distinct impression I was on water. The entire tent had the feel of a waterbed.

I grabbed an empty can and in the pouring rain I trenched around the tent. I should have done this at the outset - but oh well! I also noticed water accumulating at the back of the tent. I was pleased that the water began to flow down the hill away from the tent and it flowed and flowed and then some more. The water flowed down the little trenches but it continued to accumulate at the back of the tent so now I bailed and bailed and bailed some more. Exhausted, wet, discouraged and now in the “to hell” with it mode I went to bed.

I was tired so I slept and slept well. I slept dry!

In the morning, I noticed the floor of my tent still felt like a waterbed. On reviewing my trenching handiwork from the night before I could still see a hellva lot of water flowing around my tent.

And the rain had stopped!

There was only one thing to do at this point and that was to move the tent. Not a fun job when one has 2 weeks of clothes, bedding and all the other stuff!

When I had everything out of the tent and had it lifted off the ground I found water pouring out of the ground.

My ok spot was on top of a spring!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bison Jump Site

The dig at Hall’s Cave that contained a 1/4 million bats had been tiring and odoriferous!

Ernie Lundelius and Mike Collins, the PIs for the dig, decided to give us a break and take us for an outing into the countryside for some clean, fresh air - a site visit.

The outing was near Langtry, Texas a few hours drive north and west from our excavation.

The site we visited is quite famous: The Bonfire Bison Jump/Kill site.

Paleo-indians and then archaic-indians drove Bison-bison (now extinct) off a cliff into a narrow canyon.

One episode, it is believed, more than 800 bison were driven off the cliff - more meat than the band could butcher or eat. What was not taken was left to rot. It has been postulated spontaneous combustion set the great rotting mound on fire thus giving the site its name.

As I said, the location is down a narrow canyon with walls about 40 feet tall, craggy and sheer.

Ernie was walking along one such wall and called out to us, “Hey, come see this.”

He was standing over a very small mound of bones. The bones were about 12 inches long and very thin. Nothing compared to the great 20 foot mound of huge Bison-bison bones we had just viewed.

We were unimpressed until he said, “These are bat bones! Look up!”

We did and saw about 6 HUGE bats hanging from a small crevice. These bats were about 12 inches long!

Ernie said these big bats were from Mexico and should not be this far north.

Illegal Immigrants!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Skull

My Site Steward partner and I monitor Forest Service (FS) land in a canyon with about 35 sites ranging in age from 10,000 BC to 1880’s AD.

We hiked into a site and found a scattering of bones along a low ridge, but only one skull. We collected it and took to the Osteology department at University of Arizona (UofA) to be identified. We were told it was small canine, probably fox.

We notified our FS contact; told him about the bones and fox skull as ID by UofA.

A FS law enforcement officer met me outside of Tucson for the drive to the canyon. He spoke little, was grumpy but did say a helicopter was to be in the canyon to do aerial reconnaissance of the entire canyon's Creek.

I hiked the FS lawman to the site of the bones. We could hear the helicopter over head then saw it flying low along the many twists and turns of the Creek.

At the bone site, without a word, he dropped down into a small wash and was gone.

Feeling deserted, I roamed the site and saw a plant I had never seen before. Marijuana!

I sat on the bank of the wash for about 30 minutes awaiting his return and sitting there I noticed a rattlesnake about 6 feet from me. I scooted off to the side.

As he came down the wash I called to him, “Watch the rattler.” He was shocked that I wasn’t all shook up!

He said all the foxholes along this small wash were empty - spider webbed covered or were caved in. In other words, they were unused - abandoned.

The helicopter crew radio-reported to him they thought all the fox dens were empty along the Creek too. They had found more piles of bones! Piles and piles of bones along the entire Creek.

Their analysis for the canyon: all foxes had been killed - hunted for their pelts, “For sale to the Army for cold weather parkas,” he told me.

It has been ten + years and we have yet to see an active fox den.

Oh the marijuana plant?

He laughed and said, “Not even cows would touch that noxious weed!”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Hi to all who are not 'older than dirt' as I am.

I have been asked about "Brigadoon." Copy and paste this url to google I think you will be delighted.

Be sure to have your speakers on!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Hohokam Platform Mound

We were sent to a map a Hohokam platform mound, circa 1150-1300 AD, in the middle of the desert east of the Pichacho Peak area.

Arizona had had very unusual wonderful spring rains. Each side of the long desert dirt road to the site was blanketed with wild flowers. Absolutely covered in beautiful lavender as far as the eye could see in all directions.

This boded ill for mapping.

How were we to map the site if it was covered in vegetation? What could we expect to see? Certainly not the adobe melted, ground level walls of the rooms or the compound walls surrounding the platform.

We arrived, parked and did the usual shooing cows with a loud "Hi Ya" then rolled under the barbed wire fence.

The flat area approaching the mound was nude, just desert earth - no vegetation; an occasional potsherd here, a lithic there - but nothing astounding yet signaling greater things ahead.

We could see the mound rising up about 3 meters above the desert floor. It was covered in ground hugging weeds!

What we saw when we got atop the mound really astounded us.

The walls of the rooms and the compound walls were fully visible! On the entire site, walls were completely delineated by the lack of weeds - walls showing each room even the entryway into the rooms. The vegetation had grown right up to the walls but since the walls were adobe the weeds did not grow on them.

We spent ecstatic hours pin flagging, taking pictures and mapping each wall. We had a fantastic map of the site.

Later we learned: southwest archaeologists, who are used to dealing in 100 year spans, call this vegetation anomaly the “Brigadoon Effect”!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sassy Pays

Four of us were surveying an area north and west of Fort Huachuca. Our goal: to find prehistoric sites worth preserving on this private land, meaning a prehistoric site with structures or alignments. The rancher-owner had invited us in. He wanted to know what was ‘out there.’

The land is one of the original Mexico-Arizona ‘land grants’ and has been in the family for about 4 generations. The family had sold some land to Ft. Huachuca. The Fort was buying the property to keep ‘cyber-noise’ at the lowest level possible. The strip of land we were to survey was up for sale; to be split into house lots.

We were following a small wash and were in chest high dry grass. We had covered several acres-nothing-nada-nil! Oh we had an old bit of wood, a bucket and nails all signs of recent cattle ranch working; nothing that we were interested in preserving.

It was a tough slog through that dry, skin slicing, tall grass.

I called out, “Head for that tree to the south. There will be a site there!”

As we left the deep, chest high grass we entered an open area several yards from the tree.

The call, “I have a point!”

3 more points, other lithics, ground stone and pottery – yep! We had a site, unfortunately, not a site ‘worth’ preserving.

The call got me laughing as I was just being sassy when I said a site would be at the tree.

I just wanted out of that damn grass!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nightime Sounds

We were at Camp Gladwin, named for Harold Gladwin who visited the area in about 1928, for our continuing work in the Sierra Ancha cliff dwellings located in a wilderness area north and east of Phoenix.

Our camp was about 30 miles in from a small paved road. 30 miles of a rough and winding dirt road and we were 1½ hours from ‘town’ so when I say wilderness I mean it!

Elaine H. didn’t care much for tenting so she had fixed up the back of her SUV truck for nighttime sleeping-open hatch with screen surrounding the opening.

She had her truck parked in a mesquite bosque just off the dirt road and was about 1000 meters from the main camp.

She came to me one morning at breakfast and said, “I was awaken last night by a strange noise.”

She described it as a “breathy” hoo (pause) hoo sound.

The only thing I could think of that could possibly make that eerie sound would be a big cat! As it walked and put down a paw air would be ‘pushed’ out of it’s lungs causing this strange breathy sound.

This area has the highest black bear population in the Arizona but I didn’t think it was bear.

I said, “Lets have a look around your truck.”

Sure enough, when we looked at the ground around her truck there were huge cat prints circling her truck! Really big paw prints, sign of a huge cat-mountain lion, Puma or whatever other name this cat is called.

She and the cat were separated by a mere 2 millimeters of screen!

Elaine moved her truck closer to camp that day.

As someone said, "Good thing she didn't have a can of tuna in there!"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Indian Kitchen: an Emergency Inventory

Please forgive any errors or omissions as my memory dims with time but this is what I remember.

Max W., from the Tucson BLM office, called asking if I could round-up help for the BLM. People with archaeological experience were needed to do an Emergency Inventory at the Indian Kitchen site. BLM had been notified that bulldozer activity in the area had been heard in the 2 am hours on several occasions.

Calls went out and the Tucson Site Stewards responded as they always do.

A newly bladed road, we were told, ran through the BLM land for 8 miles. Were archaeological sites impacted? If so, how badly? We were to help with damage assessment of the archaeological sites.

Indian Kitchen is a Hohokam habitation site that dates to 1200 AD. About 20 or so mortar holes at the base of a rock out-cropping gives the site its name. The site located is south and west of Tucson.

When we arrived at Indian Kitchen the first thing we noticed was a wide, newly bladed road. I had been to this site several times and where there had been a dirt two track now there was a two-lane road; bulldozers had expanded the area around the rock out-cropping and made it look like a parking lot. Potsherds and lithics were poking up everywhere.

Our group, led by Max, followed the newly bladed two-lane road around the BLM land to its end. Along the way we noted Palo Verde trees, a variety of cacti, mesquite trees - actually all vegetation - up-rooted, lying twisted and torn along the road. Berms formed; washes gouged; Archaeological sites torn through. The two track, now wide-bladed, made strange turns and angles - a set-up for erosion and flooding. The area was a great twisted and mangled mess. The “main” road lead to the end of the property and at this area was a new aircraft runway. A few houses had been built way out here. A Wildcat housing development!

A Security Police Officer arrived and closed off the end of the BLM road leading to the homes and runway. A couple of the homeowners arrived and were angry about the road closure. Very Angry! We left the soft spoken, polite yet determined, policeman to do his job. The road was closed and that was that!

After this drive-thru recon, we formed into crews and started our normal archaeological walking survey of the area along the roads.

We surveyed for 5 days, as I remember, walking each side of the road assessing damage to vegetation and noting archaeological disturbances made by the unauthorized bulldozer activities. We found historic mining activity areas had been impacted by the unauthorized dozer as had known prehistoric sites.

We found a couple of previously unknown sites; one was an archaic site; another, a site of unknown time frame, of interest because the inhabitants had used a material NOT normally seen in lithic manufacturing, quartz crystal.

At one time, when we were close to the main “Kitchen” area gunfire was heard and bullets whizzed overhead. We were not comfortable!

Mapping of archaeological sites was done by the BLM crew using a sophisticated GPS system; Video cameras were used to document the awful damage to vegetation, washes, and archaeological sites.

Now, it is 6 years later and in the newspaper this morning the news of conviction of 2 men - one Tucsonan the other from Las Vegas - for damages done to the Indian Kitchen site and surrounding area. According to the newspaper article, one man was convicted on 6 felony counts the other on 15 counts of the original 37 felony counts including: conspiracy, damaging archaeological resources, damaging public lands, trespassing, cutting down trees on public land. Their sentencing will take place in Nov 03. The fines could be up to maximum $250,000 and 10 years in jail for EACH offense, for which there were many! There was great damage to the area.

As I said, time dims my memory; I cannot remember all the names of Site Stewards who responded to the Emergency call but be it known, you did a super job and many a thank you comes your way. The archaeological sites we monitor are old and in ruins but the “thank you” is always new and strong.

Oh! Before I forget — I attended a meeting of the wildcat homeowners and BLM. The homeowners were furious that the road closure continues and they claim the developer has saved the government about one million dollars as the road needed to be widen to accommodate their needs! Now they will have to use the county maintained dirt road and it is not as convenient for them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Montana Night Skies

Mammoth Meadow was an EARTHWATCH archaeological dig outside of Dillon, Montana - way outside of town. People had come from all over the states to be involved in this paleoindian dig.

One quiet moonless night we were sitting around the campfire. A couple from a light polluted city in New Jersey sat looking at the sky.

They didn’t move. They seemed to be transfixed - mesmerized.

The darkness showed the stars in full splendor - twinkling diamonds on a backdrop of black velvet. Absolutely beautiful!

They couldn’t keep their eyes off the sky.

They were schoolteachers; he taught the 5th grade, she the 4th grade.

Finally, he broke the silence saying,

“Look at that Momma. We teach it but we have never seen it!”

Monday, July 26, 2010


Arrowheads or projectile points, as archaeologist call them, are truly wonderful finds.

The projectile point is diagnostic as to culture and time frame in prehistory. For example: Clovis culture (circa 12,500-12,900 calendar years before the present) made (knapped) points a certain way that did not carry into another time frame.

Four of us were in our usual survey mode about 5 meters apart, walking the transects of our survey area.

Bob called out, “Point! And another!”

I, too, called out, “Point. In fact I have several!”

Michelle and Valerie dropped their backpacks and came to our spot.

We had five projectile points!

We did the usual plotting of each artifact and then the bagging, tagging and mapping.

This all took a bit of time during which we also oh’d and ah’d over each point.

Finally, we were ready to restart the survey.

Michelle and Valerie went to their spots, picked up their back packs and called out,

“We have points under the packs!” They had two more!

We think we have had a super day when someone finds one point, but seven?

Surely, it was a bad day for some poor archaic hunter who had lost all these well knapped points.

But, what a wonderful morning for us about 6,000 years later!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Momma Calls

I had been invited to join an excavation at a Folsom site, The Black Mountain Site, elevation 10,600 feet, outside Creede, Colorado. Pegi J. of the Smithsonian Institution, the Principle Investigator, planned to do her PhD dissertation on this site.

A cowboy rode into our dig site and asked Pegi to keep all “dig dogs” in camp the next day as he and others were moving 200 head of cattle through the field below us.

“Dogs could bother the cattle or get injured,” he said.

The dig was on a narrow ridge above a fast moving Creek. The land below the dig to the east was a flat open field and contained the headwaters for the Rio Grande River we were told.

The day after the herd moved through I heard the awful, plaintive bellow of a cow. She was about 200 feet from where I was digging and though I was in a huge ‘weather-port’ I could hear-sense her distress.

She stayed in one spot and bellowed constantly for 3 days. I dug and worried.

I saw a cowboy riding by her going down the slope towards the Creek to the north of the data recovery area. I ran down to him and I asked him about the cow and her awful, constant bellowing.

“She is calling to her calf,” he told me.

The calf nearly drowned in the fast moving Creek they had forded on their way to greener pastures.

The cowboy had been going to the calf daily to medicate it.

“They get pneumonia especially at this altitude, you know,” he explained.

He thought the calf was going to be ok.

The next day I saw the cowboy coming up from the Creek with the calf slung over the front of the saddle.

The cowboy got out of saddle, lifted the calf down and slowly walked a very shaky calf to momma.

Momma nudged and licked the calf; it nursed a bit; then they turned and silently started a slow, unsteady trek across the field toward the rest of the herd.

I do believe the sound of silence was an indication of pure joy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


We were surveying a finger ridge in the San Pedro Valley, four of us, in the usual survey mode. It was about 10 minutes before we were to stop for the day and return to the car.

I had a rock wall!

I called to my crewmates, “Hey come see this!”

No response. I call again. Nothing.

I turned to go to the ridge edge to find my crew and I stumbled onto another rock wall.

At the edge of the ridge and far below me I saw my crew walking down the dirt road towards the car.

They had abandoned me!

“Hey! I yelled to them. “I have something.”

One yelled back to me, “Do we need to come back up?”

“Yes.” I shouted back.

Disgusted, they returned.

The crew chief looked at the rock walls and determined them to be a reservoir-not much of anything.

Weeks later Alan D. asked me to be on his crew, as he wanted to investigate the rock walls I found.

He determined them to be a dried laid masonry ballcourt, Hohokam culture 800-1000AD, the only one found to date in southeast Arizona. All ballcourts to date have been of dirt bermed style.

This ballcourt has been named for me.

Not a bad ending for me, the product of abandonment!

Monday, July 19, 2010


The Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwelling archaeological project with EARTHWATCH participants was to go into to a second year October session.

The year before we had a cook but what a pitiful cook. Food was nourishing but tasteless and without imagination. To give you an idea about the cook’s attitude-she had a sickly, listless dog that was fed a vegetarian diet only-no meat allowed-no treats. There had been many complaints about our meals.

This year we were to have a new cook. I was to be the camp manager for the month long session and had recommended Dino A. to the Principal Investigator (PI) as a cook with vast experience but not 'in the field' under trying primitive circumstances.

Dino was contacted. He agreed and was hired!

Amaterra, a group of professors who specialized in archaeological camping infrastructure, set up our camp as they had done the preceding year. They supplied: a huge tent for dining, propane stoves, propane refrigerator, table, chairs, and all the pots-pans, dishes and cutlery needed for cooking and eating. Not too primitive.

As camp manager, one of my jobs was to ensure the cook have the necessary help in food preparation for the 20 or so participants and of course to clean up after the meals. Kitchen Patrol or KP, as it is called, is a necessary chore and is to be shared by all.

The first afternoon at the PI’s "Welcome and Introduction" I explained KP duties to the group and said a sign up sheet had been posted and "please, the cook needs your help." We only asked for 3 people to stay in camp for KP duties on a given day. That meant they had to volunteer only one time during the session.

No one signed up, in fact, there was sort of a rebellion. "I have paid for this expedition to learn about archaeology, not to do KP!" was the grumble.

Dinner was wonderful- fresh salad, pasta and Dino’s wonderful Italian meatballs and fresh dinner rolls. Dino, another staff member and I did the clean up!

After that dinner I again announced the KP list was in need of volunteers. I also mentioned that tasting during the cooking was a perk.

I checked the list before I went to bed-we had 3 sign on for the next day! Yea!

Meal after meal was so wonderful and Dino so affable, the list became unwieldy with KP volunteers. They had tasted as they helped!

I had to trim the list each night to 3 and got sass! "But I wanted to stay in camp to help Dino."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fearless and Brave

We were camped at an empty and long abandoned corral area high up in the Sierra Ancha. We were there to continue work on the cliff dwellings in the area.

This was the first archaeological camping trip for my little dog, SILA, who at 4 months old weighed about 4 pounds.

As we prepared for dinner-long table and a potluck assortment of foods-the local rancher came bouncing, rattling in towing his old trailer, startling us.

He had two cows in his trailer-- cows now “feral” he said, missing from his herd for over 2 years.

We continued to set up our dinner not enjoying the prospect of sharing our camping area with cows and all their attendant noises and smells.

I looked around and my little SILA was missing.

Dinner was put on hold as we started a search for her. We called and called.


Several of us went to the corral and climbed atop the fence. Before us we saw this little four-pound poodle in a rigid ‘pointer-dog’ stance facing off the 2 ‘feral’ cows, each weighing about 1600 pounds!

She had them backed into a corner of the corral, butt to butt, and they were stark still, heads down just staring at her!

I jumped into the corral and grabbed her-handed her to one of the men sitting on the corral fence.

Of course, she ended up on a leash for the rest of dinner and time spent in the camp area.

But what a fearless and brave little dog I had.

By the way, I should tell you her name SILA- is an acronym for:

Sure I Like Archaeology.