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!