Friday, April 30, 2010

The Ceremony

Hi! I thought you might like to hear what happened this morning. A very beautiful ceremony that took place at the Rio Nuevo dig sponsored by The Center for Desert Archaeology.

We arrived at the downtown Rio Nuevo dig site early 7:15 am and two Tohono O’odham Elders greeted each of us. Each Elder had a wand made of eagle tail feathers attached to a handle. One wand handle was made of carved bone the other was brightly beaded. Both were about 18 inches long and beautiful.

They said they had come to talk to the ancestral spirits of the site. Eleven of us stood in an arc as the Elders told us how much they appreciated our work. They said they were hoping this dig would give them information as to their ancestry as there is a “break” in their oral tradition.

The Elders explained to us that even though their ancestors are dead their spirits continue. They, the Elders, wanted to make sure the spirits of the ancestors knew why we were there and to assure them we would treat them with respect and for them to trust us.

The Elders told us:
Dirt is the body.
Water is the mind.
Wind is the emotions.
Fire is the energy.
Smoke is the spirit.

They started their incantations, facing their wands to the 6 directions: first facing east, then west; north then south; the sky then ground. A small piece of leather was being burned and held by one of the Elders throughout and the smoke swirled about the two of them.

I could see the Tucson skyline. An airplane flew overhead, commuter traffic went by, and I could hear a train in the background. 21st Century and here we were in a ceremony of unknown years! Yesterday meeting today!

At the end of the ceremony to the spirits and the 6 directions, the Elders came to each of us. With their wands they touched our hands, then our feet, next the top of our head, then each shoulder all while the chant in their language continued.

When the individual blessings ended they came to each of us and shook our hands and thanked us.

This was all so incredible that I just had to tell you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh Dear

I have written about urinating in public and the difficulty we experience when out on survey in remote areas.

My crew was given several mesa/ridge tops to survey for the day. Not a blade of grass higher than an ankle was on those mesa tops.

Well –ahem—when one has to go one has to go!

I shouted, “I have to find a loo. Eyes right everyone!” All the crewmembers obliged my request.

I slid over the edge to get some bit of privacy. Just as I was dropping my drawers I heard, “Hi Cherie.”

I looked to the next ridge and there was another crew waving and laughing at me!

See what I mean?

The Court Order

It was a typical day in Arizona clear and warm.

Our core group had been formed into crews and we received our paper work and assigned survey area for the day.

We had been doing this survey for Michelle for quite some time and had a good working knowledge of the core group. We had the occasional visitor join us for a day and we were used to doing “training” on the go as additional duty.

I was assigned to Michelle’s crew and we had a newcomer.

On this particular day the area we were to survey consisted of open fields and mesa/ridge tops. Now to us in archaeology the openness poses a problem—ahem—were do we go to the loo?

At morning break off to the side I asked Michelle who this young man was. She gave me his name and said, “He has been court ordered to do community service with us.” When I asked his crime, Michelle said he had been caught and convicted of urinating in public!

Whoa! And thorns to that judge who didn’t seem to know we all had to be rather –un private---trying to find a bush can be difficult atop a mesa/ridgetop where there is nothing higher than a blade of grass!

Do you think that young man learned anything? We were all urinating in public!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Collecting the Unusual

I received a call from Rich who had a very, well let us say, strange request. He knew we were to do survey work for Michelle the up-coming weekend and he asked for –cow patties!

“Cow patties?” I asked.

“Yes, and they need to be dry! And we need about 4 large garbage bags of them. Would you and the group do this for me?”

Rich explained the cow patty need. The Museum was hosting the Annual Arizona Archaeology Month. Booths for various demonstrations were to be set up and one booth was for making of pottery the prehistoric way. Cow patties were to be used to fuel the fire.

How can one deny such a request for largely education? And from such a thoughtful person!

I explained to Michelle Rich’s request for the ‘collection’ for the up-coming weekend survey.

“Cherie, we can do this but YOU have to ask the group!”

The area of survey we were in at the time was still being used for cattle grazing and there were lots of patties about in the fields. We arrived at the survey area, parked, milled about a bit and Michelle said, “Cherie has a request.”

You can imagine the twitters and guffaws when I asked the group if they were willing to collect cow patties! 4 big bags full and they had to be dry!

They agreed and within minutes the gang had the required 4 bags, of course amid much laughter.

Afore mentioned bags were delivered to Rich. The pottery demonstration was a success. Rich was very thankful to all. BUT, the word went out: “Volunteers will do anything.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Mike Collins and Ernie Lundlius are the PIs for the dig in Hall’s Cave. There are three of us who have volunteered to excavate the cave. A PhD candidate Toomey is trying to establish the climate chronology for the Edwards plateau for his dissertation work.

WOW! The blast of bat urine hits the moment one nears the cave.

The Cave is huge and is home to 250,000 bachelor bats they tell us. A bachelor colony, not that common they say. We wear masks but that doesn’t help with the overwhelming odor. The bats, we are told, are at the back of the cave and shouldn’t bother us, as we will be working just inside the entrance. Swallows live at the front of the cave along the walls. Will we bother them? No one answers.

We dig and over the days we get used to the aroma and toss the masks. Toomey hauls out the bags of dirt that we dig. He coughs all the time.

We sit outside the cave entrance at dusk and watch the swallows fight their way in as the quarter million bats fight their way out. It is a swirling, noisy vortex that takes over an hour for each to find their way in or out. It is a repeat each morning too and they are our alarm clocks!

The property owners have never seen the bats leave the cave so we invite them to a camp dinner and promise them a surprise. The Mrs. brings us the best peach cobbler I have ever had in my life. After dinner we sit on the Cave’s outside ledges and watch in awe of the swallow/bat spectacle. The owners shake their heads and say, “We didn’t know.”

Several days after our dinner and surprise for the owners, I wandered to the back of the cave. My lordy! All those bachelors were having babies!

Monday, April 19, 2010


A casual comment at a party—“I didn’t recognize you all dressed up. You clean up good!” got me to thinking. For the past few years in retirement I have truly lived in T-shirts and dirt! My retiree life requires them. No longer a nurse in whites or scrubs, I entered into what has been an interest of mine since I was a kid, Archaeology.

I went to the field school and took courses at the local Community College for Archaeology before I retired.
Now in retirement I was into Archaeology full bore.

Early on I went on EARTHWATCH trips just to get ‘my feet’ wet. These were wonderful adventures and though I was working full time these “vacation” adventures were sure a relief from hectic hospital life. My daughter stayed with her God Parents in Connecticut while I adventured. My undying love and deep, deep thanks to Ray and Gwen for the many ways of encouragement they have given to both of us over the years. They have always been there for me, for us.

Here are some of my ‘archaeology’ stories; these tales of my adventures and misadventures are dedicated to the Ph.D. candidates I worked with and who have graciously allowed me to learn at their expense while processing their artifacts or excavating at their research sites, but mainly bugging them with questions! You know who you are!

Sweep That Floor

I had gone to the Pima Community College site to volunteer for the day, as I could not get enough of excavation. When I asked what I could do I was told by Buff, the field director, “Sweep that pit-house floor.”

I was stunned! “What floor?” I asked, as I looked down at the plain desert floor.

Buff drew a circle on the desert floor, supposedly outlining the pit house.

Broom in hand I started to sweep. Slowly the color changed and I could see the real outline, gray inside the circle and regular pink/tan desert color outside.

My mind tumbled as I swept.

Whose floor?

Dang! A woman may have swept this floor 1,000 years ago and here am I still sweeping it!

Does anyone care about the woman?

Who was she?

What did she like or didn’t like?

Did she have children?

Did she keep the house floor THIS clean?

Sweeping that floor changed my perspective on life!

Who gives a rat’s patoot as to how clean the house is. Keep it neat is my motto.

As for the archaeology lesson—it taught me to look for subtle color changes in the desert soil.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hi To All

Hi to all who venture here. I haven't the faintest idea what I am doing so bear with me as I learn!

Be it known though all the following stories are true and all stories are:

Copyright 2010