Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Technology

Advances in virtual technology has a place in Archaeology.

Let's see if I can show you:


Well this won't let me turn this into a link any longer.

The blogger boys have changed the format recently.

I am sorry. You will have to copy and paste.

I think you will enjoy this site. It is just a preview of coming attractions!

New technology hasn't gotten to the blog!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Desert Trip

On survey and site assessment, in Pinal County a couple of weeks ago I went down!

I was walking along on level ground.

Someone called my name.

I looked up and the next thing I knew I was flat down.

Literally, face down on the desert floor!

Slowly I did a ‘systems’ check.

Everything moved.

Nothing hurt.

I heard a voice yell out, “Is she breathing?”

“I am ok,” I whispered rather dazed.

Now getting up was another thing.

I couldn’t just get up!

I had to slither backwards on my belly until the “you are clear” was said.

I had fallen between two prickly pear cacti and apparently ‘brushed’ them.

I was covered with cacti thorns: arms, shoulders, thighs, belly and my chin!

It took some doing but we got the thorns out – sorta, mosta!

I was on my way again.

Looking down and


Sunday, August 14, 2011


 We were out in our archaeological monitoring area last week.

Wow! Amazing what a bit a rain does to and for the desert.

So many little vines and tiny plants blooming: the true desert poppies with their bright gold petals, barrel cactus with luscious red and orange flowers, pink trailing 4 o’clocks and the very sweet smelling devils claw (the Tohono o’odham use the seed pod in their basket making).
Some of the trees were in full flower: Sweet acacia and Creosote the most conspicuous. Tamarisk (salt cedar) too with it lovely pink plumes of flowers - a pity this Russian plant is such a scourge in riparian areas. It grows so thick it forms a barrier to wild life. Heck even birds can’t deal with it, and man can’t get rid of it.

Then there were the caterpillars! They were about 3 inches long, yellow and fat. I stopped to watch one as it dug a hole. 

Huh? Caterpillar digging?

Yep! It really was digging. I called my crewmates over to see and we were stunned and mesmerized.

The dig was more like digging a cave or over hang - not straight down but digging horizontally just ¼ inch under the ground. We watched it shove the dirt aside and move into the ‘cave’ (overhang). As we left that caterpillar and moved on we saw more of them doing the same thing.

We should have had video equipment with us so all could view this astounding sight, as we are sure no one will believe us!

Excavation/digging without a permit is a felony offense you know. Hmm-- this would never hold up in court!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


We have had rain! Enough so that the Forests and County areas are open again. We are allowed to go into our site monitoring areas.
We returned the first day the bans were lifted.

We were thrilled to see: a mountain lion, small herds of deer, Red coach whip snake, a desert tortoise and water!

The animals had been without humans visiting for a month and a half and seemed rather shocked to see us. Deer stopped their feeding to stare at us!

One rattler was very intolerant to our presence - he rattled a warning from under a bush next to our feet!

Puddles of water stood in the roads at the small wash crossing areas. Large Collared Lizards were scurrying back and forth across the road at our approach. Why so many lizards on the road? A short stop to investigate: lots and lots of ants! The lizards were feeding.

A trickle of water flowed over the falls and the Creek had a slow moving trickle too. Dace minnows were in the small pools. At our approach a great blue heron flew up from one of the big cattle tanks, now full with water. Ranchers had moved the cattle out of the area, as there was no ground feed for them. The full tanks have no takers except for wild life.

With the rain came the quickly sprouting seeds. The air was resplendent with the smell of the Devil's Claw vine blooming; small pincushion cacti were blooming; trailing 4 o’clocks were having their way. The creosote bushes that were brown/bone dry and crinkly to our touch were green and in flower.

Hillsides one month ago that were brown with death are now bright green - a touch of Ireland!

The archaeological sites were all ok. The rain had caused some sheet washing across the sites but that had exposed more artifacts, some of which were on dirt pedestals as if to say, “Hey, here we are!”

In the now damp soil, rocks held tight to their hillside position against our boots onslaught - no rolling out from under our boots making the hillside climb a dangerously slippery/sliding event.

Our return to all areas of the Forests and County Preserve was truly wonderful.

The only exception: our month long unused muscles now scream at us!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What A Day

This is very hard for me to write. Those of you who have followed my blog know I usually write about situations I have been involved in but from my very torqued perspective. But this one is different as it is about an event where the Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission honored me, among others.

In Jade I told you about the announcement that really knocked my socks off! I was to receive this big honor for which I felt I had no right to.

Well the event took place on the 24th of June.

My daughter flew in from Texas to be at the event that she called “The Oscars of Arizona Archaeology!”

As she drove us to the Conference Hall she was trying to convince me not to throw up! “This honor is pleasing to all who know you.” All her words were very comforting and supportive. I didn’t throw up but I shook! I just wanted to go home.

We got to the location at the appointed time and found our reserved table. There was a sea of tables! There were about 400 people present for this event. Thankfully, those at ‘my’ table were well known, and long time friends of mine, whose very presence put me at ease.

Many people whom I have known through archaeology over the years came to the table to wish me well and to congratulate me. I think – I hope - I hid my embarrassment well as I smiled and said, “Thank you,” amid the lite chitchat.

I say ‘embarrassment’ as I really haven’t figured out what to call this deep feeling I have. Honor Yes! Pride Yes! But over all - embarrassment- caught with my hand in the cookie jar of sheer fun! I didn’t think anyone was watching!

I was the second person to be called to the stage for an award. When my name was called there was a loud cheer and much clapping - I was told. I didn’t hear it.

For each honoree there was a quick power point of pictures: mine - in the field with crew and dirty as all get out! Yep! T-shirts and dirt!

During the presentation of the award to me it was announced - as a surprise - a fund had been set up in my name for the Site Steward program and that $400 had already been donated! This was a wonderful surprise indeed and a wonderful gift from a crewmember friend.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful. I am humbled,  thrilled and overwhelming honored to receive this award but, too, I really feel it is unwarranted.

What a day I had. To my great relief I didn’t fall off the stage, make an idiot comment or tumble down the steps, but then I had worn my Jade!


Monday, June 13, 2011

What A Mess!

For the first time in my 16 years doing Site Steward monitoring of archaeological sites here in Arizona we are closed down. Forest Service, National Park Service, County Lands and BLM areas are closed to the public. Most of our higher altitude parks and picnic areas are closed too.


They rage to the south and northeast of Tucson. Our valley has been filled with smoke for weeks. Our beautiful mountains are haze covered. Our normally azure skies are a milky blue.

The desert landscape looks awful.

Bushes and trees that normally have some semblance of greenery – life – are a withering crispy brown.

Grasses crunch underfoot.

Cacti are withered and look so thirsty!

The Creek that normally flows, at least trickles, near some of the sites we monitor, is dry. I have never seen it totally dry.

The fierce three-day winter freeze, our 20 year drought and our very low humidity of 3-7% with 100°F temperatures have culminated in plants and trees dying. A true trifecta of circumstances! Or is that a quadfecta?

The last time I was out monitoring there was NO moisture in the ground. That means rocks do not hold when one is climbing a hill. They roll down banging into one another.

Hmm. Didn’t early man start fires by getting sparks when they hit two rocks together? They used chert (flint) as I remember.

We have lots of chert!

Catalytic converters on vehicle pose a danger - one spark and the dry grass goes whoosh!

There are houses near-by in the desert ridge tops and if those BBQ grills are not closely monitored or improperly used they can cause fires too.

We are beginning our monsoon season. Usually at the outset we have ‘dry’ storms – big booming claps of thunder and lightning, but no rain.

Lightning is the cause of many of these forest fires. It ranks right up there with human caused.

So home we sit or clean house or read a book - bored and anxious to get “out there.”

The houses are clean - books have been read and we continue to wait.

The sites will wait for us.

There is no rush.

They have been there for a 1000 + years.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Museum & Buttons

 I would wager a bet that all of you have visited a museum at least once in your life.
Do you really know how much work has gone into the exhibit(s) you visited?

I would like to take you “behind the scene” in the museum were I volunteer one day a week and have done so since 1995.

And keep in mind I only know the protocol in the museum where I volunteer.

An item has been donated/gifted/curated (archaeologically excavated) to the museum by X. Once accepted by the committee it is given a unique Catalogue number and an Accession card is created that includes all the information one has been able to obtain regarding this item. Photographs are taken for documentation. Each item is labeled with its unique Catalogue number. Finally, it is given a storage location - its museum home!

Now you decide to do an exhibit.

Depending on the theme and number of items, the behind scene preparation time could be months or days. One exhibit we did was one year in preparation. Most of the small exhibits I do take but a few days.

Here is what I have to do for a small exhibit - approximately 10 objects:

Pick a theme: Buttons in this instance.
Survey the museum collection for items that fit the theme.
Catalogue cards are pulled and copied for each object.
List of the item(s) is made for insurance purposes and a copy given to the Registrar.
Remove object from storage location.
Items are examined for any defect(s).
Decision made as to stability of artifacts for exhibit: consider lighting effects on fabrics or in this case, humidity for Ivory, or wood buttons.
Items are researched for past history or for new information that will give the viewer an appreciation of the object.
Exhibit case and location are decided upon.
An exhibit case identifying tag is printed for each item that includes: age of item, maker of item if known, culture, donor, brief description of item as relates to the theme, and the Catalogue number.

A brief researched text is written to give the viewer an insight to the theme such as: History of Buttons.

Then comes the fun part: placing the object(s) in the case! One has to consider: balance, color, angle, and height - just the over all appearance of the object(s) in the case.

I really did this small exhibit on Buttons! Who would guess that buttons could be so interesting? I found a fabulous book on the history of buttons - earliest known circa 2800-2600 BCE excavated in the Indus Valley. It had wonderful pictures, too, of 14th Century women with three different styles of buttons in one picture. Buttons primary function early on was ornamentation. They were too expansive for all but the wealthy! I used the book in the exhibit also.

In our collection I found buttons from all over the globe and made from: ivory, plastic, stone, metal, clay (pottery), bone, leather, grasses (fibers), glass, jewels, coconut shell, cloth and yes - seashell.

Some of the buttons were incised; clays were hand painted; plastics had molded designs, woods were carved, and so it went! Oh! And the different shapes! Round, square, oval and globular.

And there you stood – looking at the exhibit - and you thought we had just pulled items out and placed them into the case!

We have done our job too – stimulating your curiosity - if you are examining the buttons you have on your attire as you read this!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


A young archaeology student that I know and work with was doing a research project on reworked prehistoric pottery sherds.
Reworked means the sherds - broken vessel pieces - were reshaped, usually by grinding the edges, for an additional use.

Sherds, particularly decorated sherds, were reshaped to be pot lids, gaming pieces, jewelry, spindle whorls and for other uses.

Recycling by prehistoric people is not uncommon in the archaeological record at least here in the southwest.

The student thought some larger pieces had been used as holders or stands for ollas (pronounced oy ya) – large water jars. He explained the shape and size to me.

Wow! I thought I knew where some such sherds existed on a site out side of town.

He wanted to see and photograph them.

I called a few Site Stewards who monitored the site regularly. We made a date to visit the site and take the student with us.

The sherds, as the others and I remembered, were extruding from a small rivulet next to the dirt road.

We walked right to the area in question.

They were gone!

We could see the shovel marks, brand new shovel marks at that. The pothunters had just been there.

Those sherds had been there the month before, in fact, 1000 years before and some slob, “blankety-blank” of a pothunter had decided to dig them out and take them.

For what use?

Sell on eBay?

I doubt that as U.S. Federal agents now monitor eBay. Pot hunting and sale of the artifacts is a felony you know.

Will they be recycled in their home as MONOPOLY gaming pieces? Or used as an ornamental display – proof of their felonious minds and activities?

I have no idea what use they would be to a pothunter but I do know the felons took away some of our past and robbed us of past cultural knowledge.

This is not my idea of recycling!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I really love jade and have thought for most of my life that jade has “good luck” properties!
It is a very pretty stone that comes in many different colors.

I have a jade bead necklace of a variety of colors: white, green, black, and coral.

I have rings and bracelets too but those are the typical green jade.

The other day I was feeling rather down and had an Archaeological “DO” to go to. So as a pick me up and to foster that ‘good luck’ myth I wore 2 jade rings, a jade pendant and a jade bracelet.

At this ‘DO’ when the MC was announcing the speaker he said he had late breaking news:

One of us sitting in the audience had just been awarded the Governor’s Public Archaeology Award.

Then he announced my name!

I was and am dumbstruck.

I am sure I over did the wearing of the jade!

Friday, May 13, 2011


On our way to the survey area we passed thru the old, 1866, town of Florence once the Pinal County seat.
The historic district is fun with its Victorian style and ornately painted buildings.

Main Street is old style in that the sidewalks are wood covered. One can imagine hitching posts and spittoons along the walk!

Florence is the ‘home’ of Arizona State Prison and several other detention centers.

Hey, what did that small store sign say?

Prison Outlet Store


Turn around. Enter and park in the big dirt parking lot with tall stacks of baled hay ($6.50/bale).

Outside, a few men in orange jump suits are hosing down the patio and off-loading a semi truck bed with its very small load. No guard is visible.

A small low slung, dark wood building, ala 1880’s cowboy style, greets us.

Inside of the long, bowling alley type room: oil paintings, t-shirts, origami, other art works, loaves of freshly made whole wheat bread and cookies at 99 cents, hand painted cards for all occasions and FREE beets grown in the prison gardens.

We are told the purchase money goes to the prisoner who made the item.

We browse and buy. One orders a specialized license plate. One buys origami and greeting cards.

I buy a white t-shirt with black lettering that reads:

Florence Prison
A Gated Community

To see a picture of the Prison Outlet Store:


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recap of Survey

During the last 4 months we, a crew of 4, have relocated, evaluated and surveyed more than 40 prehistoric Hohokam sites.
Read a quick bit about Hohokam. See:


During this time we:

Saw 1 Gila Monster: See:


Relocated 5 ballcourts. See:


Discovered 3 oval mortars (not normal!) See:


Had 1 flat tire: See:


Saw too many jack rabbits to count. See:


Traveled the naked desert floor.

Walked through jumping cholla forests. See:


Saw a pygmy owl in a saguaro: See


Viewed the desert from ridge tops.

Were in boulder strewn mountain canyons with trees in bloom. See:


Saw about six sites of just petroglyphs: See


Saw lots of Hohokam pottery sherds. See:


Were followed by 2 Blackhawk helicopters: See


And had more fun than is legal!

Oh! Did I mention the new racing stripes along my vehicle sides?

Addendum: I tried to click the URLs and they worked for me. I hope they work for you too. I guess if they don't --well just copy and paste! Sorry
but enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lickin' Good

I was in archaeology field school in a survey training session many, many years ago.

Buff B. was our trainer. He was an old cowboy who had become enamored with archaeology. He even owned his own archaeology company somewhere in the deep south, Mississippi, I believe.

In full survey mode, we made our sweep along the desert floor and not much was showing up.

Suddenly I had a sherd all covered with caliche - you know that white calcium carbonate stuff that covers up everything here in the desert and may mask a design element!

Well, not willing to use water from my water bottle to soften up the caliche, I licked the sherd.

Buff saw me!

“A few years ago,” he told me, “I was on a dig down south. I was lickin’ the sherds just as you are doing. My crew chief said, ‘Buff, do you know you are digging a privy?’ I ain’t licked a sherd since.”

And, my friends, neither have I!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


To all of you who have a subscription to Archaeology Magazine.

I have just received a bill to renew my subscrition.

The bill comes from PBA (Publishers Billing Association) Reno, Nevada

My subscrition does not expire until August 2012!

I contacted Archaeology Magazine subscription department: 1-877-275-9782
They asked for all info on the bill and said the bill is bogus - a scam! They have turned all infomation on the bill to their legal department.

Call them if you receive this type of bill and please don't pay!

google: Publishers Billing Association and you will see how they scam you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Now everyone who hears about an excavation (dig) has the fantasy of BIG treasures! Gold! King Tut and all his belongings!

Sadly, and profoundly wonderful there is little of that, at least here in the Southwest! Digs bring forth human detritus that archaeologist study for past human behaviors.

For prehistoric digs we are talking broken ceramic pots, broken stone tools, broken pieces of shell, left over dinner in the form of bones. Sometimes there maybe something whole, which is a thrill especially if it is different such as a Hohokam finely etched shell amulet.

For every hour of excavation I think there are about 5 hours spent in the lab. Long hours!

To give you an idea of what happens to the ‘finds’ let’s follow an artifact from soil to report.

The site has been given a datum and it is ‘ground zero’ so to speak. All measurements are taken from the datum.

In your excavation pit you find a painted (decorated) sherd. This item is provenienced in-situ by you. In other words, it is placed within the world in its exact location: northing, easting, and elevation. Once this is done your sherd is given its own identifying number and placed in its own bag that has its own inventory number (field number).

On the bag you place site, item number, field number, date and again the provenience information-- northing-easting-elevation. And don’t forget your name or at least your initials. The bag is entered onto the log (inventory).

The bag goes into the lab right along with all the others for the day or days.

Your item is removed from the bag, carefully washed with a soft brush (usually a tooth brush) and water; rinsed then placed on a rack to dry. The bag is kept with the sherd. After the sherd is dry, about 24 hours, it and the outside of the bag go into a new clean, acid free, plastic bag.

Multiply those simple steps by 10,000, as that could be the number of artifacts removed during an excavation. One small dig I was on, we removed 27,000 artifacts and each one had to be handled separately.

Actually, the next steps are rather more involved as each artifact has to be labeled. We use a lazer printer to make the numbers on acid free paper --tiny numbers about font size 6-8. The tiny number is glued onto the artifact with Rhoplex. We use fine watercolor paint brushes to do this. The item is allowed to dry again before returning it to its bag.

Then comes the analysis. I can tell you it is a long process done by experienced and well trained/educated archaeologists. Items are looked at with a lens or a microscope. Some artifacts are sent out for separate analysis; an example would be Obsidian, that is sent to a laboratory for sourcing. Sourcing will tell you where the peoples you are studying got the material - how far they traveled or traded for the material.

Your decorated sherd may have the temper checked - petrographic analysis. The design will be looked at and matched with other decorated sherds from the site. Design matches will give a time frame (date) for the site. Petrographic analysis may tell you were your vessel was made.

Are you tired or bored yet?

I have spent hours processing artifacts, which includes: washing, tagging, re-bagging and correcting/doing the inventory and sometimes, data entry.

You start getting a ‘feel’ for the site - Hmmm lots of decorated pottery and it all looks alike - or Hmmm where did that come from? - that is different. Sometimes you make a discovery while processing. Sherds may refit together, or one that I had that was a thrill, 2 pieces of worked stone fitted together and formed a small, decorated breastplate. Each piece was from a different bag and area of the site!

At the end of a processing/washing day you will have shriveled hands, aching back and a fine tale or two to tell.

Or, as in my recent case, very orange nail beds from the red Georgia clay!

The archaeologist PI (Principal Investigator) then takes all the information that has been received/reviewed from other specialists and writes up the report. The report is usually VERY technical in that it may have charts, comparisons of artifacts from other sites, dating mechanisms and the list can go on.

If the site gets the News media attention the newspaper article may say, “Decorated sherd discovered and points to long term travel between x & y.”

You, although unmentioned, are a discoverer!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Almost Nabbed

Last year my Site Steward partner and I looked over a Hohokam prehistoric site way to the south of Tucson - not too far from the border.

We were on a big ranch owned by the County - within the boundaries of our monitoring area.

Access is tricky. To get into the site we have to call the County office to get the combination lock activation number. They change the combination frequently and we only go out there every few months.

The County contact, of course, asks for the car type, license plate number, our names and everything else but our blood type!

Now after many phone calls and combination number in hand we were on our way.

Once we were past the combo lock we traveled a dirt road past the old ranch house, went through a couple of more gates then, eventually, arrived at the hill top prehistoric site.

We spent about three quarters of an hour on site then headed out to more sites just outside of the combo locked gate.

As we were leaving the site driving the dirt road and approaching the combo locked gate, a truck was headed towards us. In keeping with countryside niceties we slowed, came to a halt and rolled down the window to have a ‘howdy’ chat.

“Were you ladies just up on that hill?” asked the anxious and worried looking driver.

“Yes. We were there. We are Arizona Site Stewards.”

We produced our Site Steward papers authorizing us to be on county properties.

He gave our papers a careful scrutiny then said, “Oh! Ok. No one notified me you were to be here. I called the Border Patrol on you.”

I looked at the passenger in the truck and sure enough there was a young, grinning Border Patrol Officer!

Grinning back at him I said, “Shucks! You missed out on nabbing two beautiful dames today!”

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Out in the quiet desert we hear and see two low flying Black Hawk helicopters coming towards us and hear their “Whap! Whap!” - sounds that cut through the desert peace.

They are very low. They look ominous! The desert peace is truly broken.

Many questions come to mind: Are they practicing? Are they watching us? Are they after someone?

We have driven to this area down a long, deep in silt, dirt road.

Dusty is an understatement. The dust is pinkish in color. It swarms and swirls about us as we drive along. The vehicle and its windows are covered in dust.

We have parked on the dirt road and have walked to the south out of the way of the sparse mesquite thicket — thorny you know!

We continue our survey, keeping the helicopters in sight.

They hover - hover for a long time at the base of the mountains that are to our northwest less than a mile away.

We finish our survey and head back to the car.

The helicopters are still there – hovering.

Bruce H. says, “They got someone!”

“Who?” We ask.


We are in the mesquite thicket and thru the branches we see a camouflaged vehicle.

Startled I say, “There is their car!

We need to go back and get out. Wait a minute!

That is my car!”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Challenge

The last words I heard as I left Andy’s office were, “Find a ballcourt!”

Ballcourts have been found on large pre-classic sites but they are not common. The Hohokam had ballcourts from about 750 -1000 AD. It is thought to be a Meso-American influence – some 1500 miles away - according to Haury in his writings on Excavations at Snaketown.

No one really knows why but the ballcourt system was abandoned. Then, Hohokam built large-scale platform mounds, either used for ceremonial rites or at times living structures. A full cultural shift at about 1000 AD is clearly in evidence.

Andy is leading an office crew for another County’s Resource Planning.

I am leading a field crew that is four strong; each of us has about 25 years field experience; we love a challenge and now we have one! Find a ballcourt!

Mainly though, our challenge on this survey project has been re-locating the sites!

The sites were discovered in the forties to mid eighties and map plotting was not the best. They were using 15’ topographical maps so the change over of re-plotting to 7.5’ topographical maps has caused some problems! And now the maps are changing from NAD (North American Datum) 27 to 83. And GPS (Global Positioning System) units were not existence at that time either! Yikes! What a confusing mess!

We re-located and surveyed a large Hohokam habitation site dated to the pre-classic time frame about 800-1000 AD give or take a few years depending on whose chart/writings are being used!

Sherds were everywhere along with ground stone and lithics. Very large trash mounds were also evident along with general large scale pot hunting activities. Pit house depressions were noted.

I had told the crew about Andy’s parting and challenging words to me, “Find a ballcourt!”

We found several large depressions and did our usual measurements and GPS’d the exact location for the site card.

As we were leaving the site we heard Ken F. in a soft voice call out, “Hey, come see this!”

We converged on the voice and WOW!

A ballcourt! We are sure it is a ballcourt.

It measured the same as the small ballcourt at Snaketown (court-2 Santa Cruz phase); has nice berms, the orientation is North – South not just a willy-nilly orientation as cattle tanks or water catchments usually have.

Following the measuring, GPS-ing and mapping we had a chatty, congratulatory lunch Bermside of a Hohokam ballcourt! (Listened to the roar of the crowds?)

The challenge thrown. The challenge met!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lighting Again

Earlier I talked about lighting and how it affects artifacts or rather viewing of same in the field.

My Site Steward partner and I had discovered a new site. We asked our Land Manager, an Archaeologist, to come out with us and officially record the site for the Arizona Site Office. This recording gives it an official number and map plotting for future Archaeologists.

On site we take her to our datum – a rock feature.

We start walking the site and there are no artifacts!

We had done a full pin flag, controlled inventory/survey just months before and had the artifact list with us.

Now, no artifacts? Boy! How embarrassing. We were wasting the Land Manager’s time and we sure looked like idiots!

I walked away to sit by myself and think about this embarrassing - revolting - development.

On the surface next to me - obsidian flake - then sherd - then more lithics! I called out to the others and showed them the artifacts.

Soon they too began calling out artifacts they saw. Jasper flakes, tools, cores, chalcedony flakes, pottery sherds, ground stone and since we were next to the Rail Road lots of historic glass and metal.

Lighting! With the passing of a few minutes and the sun’s movement across the skies the artifacts once again began to reveal themselves!

At the end of the recording session, the Land Manager said, “This is an exciting and wonderful site.”


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Off Road

When one travels, especially off road, one should have the vehicle well maintained so pursuant to that belief I take my vehicle in regularly for oil change, tire check, air filter change and all of that good stuff.

On one visit not too long ago, I asked the service manager what others thought about their vehicle like mine, a 4x4, in the off road setting.

He said, “You are the only customer I have that goes off road.”

He called another man over to look at my tires and they both laughed.

I thought, “Tires? They are fairly new. Now what?”

They continued to laugh then said, “Look at those thorns on the side walls!”

Heavens! I am out in the desert off road!

The desert has cacti.

What do they expect?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rare Find

We had a new crewmember join us on our weekly rounds of the Cienega sites.

He had just been introduced to archaeology through the Site Steward classes.

He was quick to identify ceramics - pottery sherds - on the ground but was having trouble identifying lithics – stone tools or debitage.

We found four projectile points one day and he was disgusted that he was not one of the ‘finders.’

Last week I heard this emphatic “YES!”

He walked to me hand outstretched on which he had a projectile point.

It was dirty so I cleaned it off a bit.

“Wow! Bingo!” I said to him.

“You have an archaic point and it is obsidian! A rare find indeed!”

I held the point up to the sun and by golly it was green obsidian - very rare in this area.

“You have green obsidian to boot. It comes from Mexico,” I said to him.

“Yep! I purchased it for $2.00 at the Gem and Mineral Show last week!”

I am such a fish and get hooked easily!

Friday, February 18, 2011


With an excavation expedition comes a cooking story - it has to! Right?

We were in Lake City with about 16 students for field school. Actually, we were about 30 miles in the middle of nowhere outside of Lake City.

We had a wonderful cook. She not only cooked she made the long trip into town to do the shopping.

The local grocery store had a special on bananas so she bought a ton of them.

We put them in our lunch bags – great for mid day snack or just as a treat for lunch. But we were not eating them fast enough and they were going brown/black then everyone ignored them.

She made banana bread but there were still a lot left and she was in the process of tossing them when I asked her if I could have a few.

“Sure but they are rotten.”

I grabbed a frying pan, a lump of butter (margarine doesn’t work) and proceded to peel the bananas, slice them in half lengthwise and fry them out.

This was after dinner and the students were playing board games but one came over to see what I was doing.

In my opinion, curiosity is the mark of a good student!

“Hmm-that smells good. May I try some?”

When really ripe bananas are fried out in butter they candy/carmelize and are delicious over ice cream!

“Oh! This is wonderful,” she said as she scooped fried banana with the attendant brown syrup and ice cream into her mouth.

Her ohs and ahs immediately caught the attention of the rest of the board players! They left their games to see what we were doing.

We cooked up more bananas - cooked until all the bananas were gone! No one had ever had this treat before they said.

We had this treat several more times during the excavation.

And no banana went wasted again!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Topo map in hand. Sites plotted on map. Site cards (description of site) in hand. GPS in hand, and a very experienced survey crew. All things necessary to re-find sites recorded in 1972!

The area we are to survey for these 3 sites is flat and quite barren. Not quite the same as we are used to in the Tucson area. The creosote bush is smaller and grows further apart but then this desert is almost 1000 feet below the desert area we are used to. It is also hotter during the summer. It has been reported that the desert surface during the summer can reach 165° F.

First site.

We are at ground zero according to the UTMS/GPS. Nothing here. Land looks sheet washed and has areas of deep erosion. Hmm - there should be something here in the eroded areas. Not a sherd or lithic! Has the site been buried since it was first recorded in 1972? We have had 2 major flooding situations. But something is usually on the surface and in the eroded area! Nada.

Second site.

Same scenario. Nada.

We survey great distances around the two illusive sites that are supposed to be quite close to each other. Another eroded area examined and it has sherds, lithics and a roasting pit. Is this the first site? Heck it is only about 400 meters off the official plotting!

We get the UTMs and record it on the map. Then do a quick write up of the artifacts. Hmm.

Third site.

Site map shows the site about ¼ mile SW of a huge cattle tank. We are at the cattle tank and there are sherds galore at the NORTH side! This area matches the description on the site card. There is nothing at the SW area. Is the site really on the north side?

The original recorders were here in August, 1972. Did they suffer from the desert heat and miss plot the sites? Or????

This situation reminds me of what a Ute girl told me years ago when we were trying to find a site we had recorded just the day before and now couldn’t find.

She said, “Our ancestors come and go. Sometimes they show up for you, other times they go into hiding.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

No Hable Espanola?

We were on survey in Pinal County Arizona, the county north of Tucson’s Pima County, to evaluate a number of sites for possible preservation and protection.

We traveled a long paved road that led us to a dirt road.

Horrors! There was a sign at the fenced entry to the dirt road:




Boy! This sign meant the owner really meant business! We had no permission from the landowner to cross the land.

I pulled off to the side of the road.

A small truck approached and started to enter through the open fence gate.

I flagged it down.

I walked to the truck and said to the driver, who was a wizened Mexican man, “May we cross this land to get to the pumping station at the aqueduct?”

He said, “No Hable Espanola?”

I understood this to be - don’t you speak Spanish?

I don’t! “No Hable Espanola,” I said to him. This and “respiree profundo” (breathe deeply) is the extent of my Spanish speaking!

One of the crewmembers came to my rescue.

He spoke in broken, haltering Spanish and the driver of the truck responded - I heard “publico-no problemo. Si”

Yea! We could cross the land! As I said I can understand Spanish! (yeah sure!)

As we started to drive onto the dirt road, my rescuer said, "If we get stopped by others we say", ‘Juan McDuff, Spanish speaking only, Georgia license plate, has given us permission to cross this private land.’

Only in Arizona!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thorny Humor

The Cienega Creek Preserve area is unbelievably beautiful!

But it can be treacherous too.

It has the full range of Sonoran desert plants including the dreaded Cholla (pronounced choy-ya) cactus.

Some call it 'jumping’ Cholla as its thorny stubs/clumps get into you no matter how careful you are.

To describe the clumpy thorns better just think of a ball full of thorns, all extruding from the sides. At least half those thorns get in you too! And those thorns hurt! I swear cactus has a toxin on the thorn tips that give rise to the pain the small thorns can cause. And the pain lasts for about half an hour.

Bend over and BANG! you are stabbed – nailed!

Just walking near a Cholla and you will hear a shout from a crewmember, "Check your right/left boot."

Some of our sites contain these nasties - other sites are calm quiet ones with just creosote bushes.

The 'jumping' Cholla nailed a crewmember in her butt. She just turned too quickly!

"Help me. I have Cholla in my butt," she called out.

We normally carry a small comb to remove the dreaded cactus’s thorny stubs.

I dropped my fanny pack to the ground to search for the comb.

While fumbling through the small pack I heard -

"Hurry! Why don’t you have it handy?"

Friday, January 28, 2011


Todd and Nicole invited me to join their Folsom dig in Colorado.

Colorado has some truly beautiful areas. Middle Park on the West side of the Rockies is one of those areas and this particular area hosts Barger Gulch with a Folsom site.

The crew camp is on a terrace above the Colorado River, that has many boggy areas.

There is a dirt road leading to a power relay station. We are camped just beyond the station. Not particularly pretty. We do look out over the Colorado River, there is a ranch below us with bison.

Because of the River's boggy areas we have mosquitoes. My! Oh my! Do we have mosquitoes! Lots of them! I hate mosquitoes! I cover myself with insect repellant.

They hang on the windows. They get in when I scoot in the door of my little trailer! At night I am a crybaby when they get near my ears and whine so I swat and spray before I go to bed. I always miss one.

They swarm in front of you, then leave with the slightest breeze. Thankfully, they are the slowest mosquitoes I have ever come in contact with and their bite doesn’t seem to itch for more than a second or two.

We set up a shower stall for our solar shower bags but who can stand the onslaught of mosquitoes?

I bathe in my trailer each night using the standby “Hospital” technique. I wash off the insect repellant, but the dirt seems to stay behind!

We are told we can shower at the RV site 12 miles away once a week, compliments of the expedition!

The showers are heavenly.

A shower with warm water!

Wash hair, dry off, dress, spray with insect repellant! Right back where you started - sans dirt!

For some reason the mosquitoes never join us at the actual dig site several miles away. While we are digging we don’t even think about them.

We are filthy from digging and screening. We get covered in the soft brown dirt of the area.

I wonder if Folsom people kept their bodies covered with dirt to keep the mosquitoes at bay? Seems to work!

Each of us has our own dig pit, a 1 meter x 1 meter. The first two years I had wonderful recoveries. The next year I claimed to have the control pit—no artifacts!

I have been invited to join the dig this year.

Will I go?

Will I battle the mosquitoes and the ‘control pit’?

To quote a local rancher, “You betcha!”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Return to the Edwin Fox

As I mentioned before the Edwin Fox is an East Indiaman ship berthed in Picton, New Zealand. I worked on it during an EARTHWATCH expedition.

I was partnered with Mina, who was from San Francisco. I forget what she did in her work world but she was exacting in her work on the Edwin Fox.

Our job was to measure and record the measurements of the stern. Every single board!

We measured and measured again before we recorded the data.

We were VERY exacting. We worked hard.

In a December note from the Principal Investigator (PI) he indicated our measures were so extreme and doubtful that he had to institute another session to re-record our work.

We were devastated not to mention how horrified and embarrassed we were!

We had cost the project money and time. Dang!

The next January I received a note again from the PI stating the second team got the same measurements as we had!

His assessment: The master ship builder, who had NOT used blue prints, torqued the stern for the prevailing winds!

And he said, “Good job!”


Friday, January 14, 2011

No Trust

It was a spectacular day in the Cienega Preserve and we had completed, earlier than expected, the site visits we had chosen for the day.

On the way back to the vehicle we all agreed “the area over there” we had not ever investigated sure looked inviting.

So off we go to explore an unknown area – unknown to us, at least.

The area, a narrow strip of land, was at the base of 50-60 foot high palisades. Cienega Creek was between this strip of land and us. We crossed the dry Creek bed to the other side.

We walked this little strip looking for artifacts. Nothing.

A very sandy rivulet ran through the strip at the base of the Palisades. We were walking in this rivulet on our way out to the main Creek. CB was to my left and slightly behind me but I saw him go stumbling by me. He landed face down arms extended.

He said he was ok, but he was holding his right wrist.

I checked it and he winced.

“It is broken’ I said.

“No, just sprained,” he responded firmly.

We got back to the vehicle and wrapped his wrist with an ace bandage he had in the trunk.

“I’ll drive,” offered the other crewmembers - all women!

“Nope! I am fine.” he retorted.

He had trouble turning the key to start the vehicle.

The offer to drive was extended again and offer denied again.

He drove one handed the 20+ miles to our early morning meeting spot.

Later he called me and said the wrist was indeed broken!

As one crew member summed it up, “He still insisted on driving out of there with only one arm and in great pain. Wouldn't trust us women to drive!”

Friday, January 7, 2011


Many, many years ago a friend of mine was taking classes at the University of Arizona on Native Americans of the Southwest and their cultures.

One class, the Tohono O’odham culture, was having a dinner and my friend asked me to join her.

We were in a fair sized room. The Tohono O’odham women were in their traditional dresses. It was lovely. Talk was lively. All the makings of a great evening.

We watched and chatted as the women placed trays food on a long table. The aromas from the food were so tantalizing and I was hungry!

No one approached the serving table and we began to wonder what was happening. We waited; then awaited some more.

It must have been about 1/2 hour when a young woman approached me saying, "Everyone is waiting for you to start the food line."

"Who? Me? I am to start the line?"

"Yes", she said, "You are the elder and no one can eat until you start!"

I was holding up the communal serving/eating process.

What a shock to find out I was an elder! I had no idea.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Little Knowledge

On a beautiful Friday morning we were south and west of Tucson on private property to survey for preservation and possible acquisition of a Hohokam Classic period site (1150-1450 AD) if we could find it.

The long strip of land is owned by an old time Arizona family; given to them in a Mexican land grant in the 1800s.

I had volunteered at the Arizona State Museum on the preceding Wednesday and had done intake and condition reports on items for the up coming “CORONA” exhibit.

I had never heard of Salvador Corona! I checked in about 10 items; exquisite artwork done by Corona, a Mexican bullfighter of the 1915s; turned artist following a horrendous goring in the ring.

His work is very unique and I came to appreciate it in very short order. For the most part what I know about art would not fill a thimble!

When we arrived at the Rancher’s home he invited us in to see the home. As I entered the living room I noticed a painting over the fireplace and exclaimed, “You have a Corona!”

The rancher was flabbergasted that I knew about Corona! I explained to him how I knew about this artist. He told me he had the one painting but his sister had at least 6 Corona items. Corona and the rancher’s family had been long time friends.

I talked to him about the coming exhibit and gave him the name of the museum exhibit contact.

As the exhibit date drew close I was pleased to see the rancher’s painting and his sister’s items join the exhibit.

Oh! The survey – well, the rancher’s home was surrounded by artifacts as the house sits atop the classic period site!