Michelle was doing her dissertation on archaic settlement patterns in the southwest, Arizona to be specific.
We had surveyed the Empire and Cienega areas every other weekend with Michelle for about 2 years. Now it was time to do data recovery (collecting).
One site we had found earlier in the survey was particularly heavy with archaic lithics. Unfortunately, for us it was in a low-lying Mesquite bosque (forest).
We arrived at the site about 9:30 in the morning. We walked the site for about ½ hour and saw nothing. Very frustrating to embarrassing, as we had promised Michelle a wealth of artifacts from this site for her study.
Michelle said we could still salvage the day. We moved on to nearby ridge tops that Michelle had decided to include in data recovery.
We worked all day. First we pin flagged artifacts then Michelle looked at what we had flagged; next if it was deemed diagnostic for her studies it was point plotted, numbered, and bagged. All items would then go into the lab for washing, labeling and analysis-- from there they would be moved into perpetual curation status.
At the end of our workday we trekked back the way we came. Across ridges, down slopes, up a few slopes, along dry washes and finally back into the area where we started in the Mesquite bosque.
The ground was solid with artifacts!
How can this be? How had we missed them in the morning? We all laughed and discussed the situation and determined it was the lighting.
Effects of fluctuating light can be intensified in archaeology, be it seeing artifacts on the ground, seeing the subtle ground color changes or even seeing rock alignments.
We recovered the day completely by working a tad longer and going through our usual artifact data recovery.
This lesson in lighting has served me well over the years. If you don’t see it now wait a awhile, it is there!