Jack began doing California archaeology at the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University in 1992, where he studied the practice of geoarchaeology and its application to cultural resources management. His primary research interests include late Quaternary geology, paleoenvironments, landscape evolution, landform chrono-stratigraphy, site formation processes, the structure of the archaeological record, and the problem of locating buried sites. As an advocate for improving the multi-disciplinary relationships between archaeology and the earth sciences, he regularly integrates and synthesizes geological and archaeological datasets to identify where buried archaeological sites may or may not be located. He has directed hundreds of archaeological and geoarchaeological studies throughout California, including such large and complex projects as the Los Vaqueros Reservoir/Pipeline and the Sonora Bypass, and developed region-wide geoarchaeological overviews and assessments for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Districts 2, 3, 6, and 9, with others underway. Jack joined Far Western in 2006 where he is currently a Principal Investigator and Geoarchaeologist.
Jack’s Featured Projects
- Caltrans District 2 Geoarchaeology
- Caltrans Districts 6 and 9 Geoarchaeology
- Sonora Bypass
Far Western’s GIS Department received the prestigious Map Gallery Award for outstanding analytic presentation—Modeling the Prehistoric Extent of San Francisco Bay and Potential for Cultural Resources—at the Esri Users Conference in San Diego, CA. Paul Brandy, a Far Western principal, and GIS Supervisor Shannon DeArmond led poster and web application development, presenting and summarizing data and research spearheaded by Jack Meyer and Phil Kaijankoski. Be sure to check out the animation at the end of the story map.
This year, the Map Gallery at the Esri Users Conference showcased over 900 maps. Far Western had two maps on display. The award-winning Modeling the Prehistoric Extent of San Francisco Bay and Potential for Cultural Resources accompanied the highly impactful Visualizing the Depopulation of Native Communities in the San Francisco Bay Region. The second map, and supporting research by Brian Byrd, is an engrossing demonstration using data from Dr. Randall Milliken’s Community Distribution Model to visually understand the impact of historic-era missionization on native communities. Click images below to enlarge.
Nearly 18,000 professionals attend the Esri Users Conference held annually in San Diego, California. Esri is an international provider of GIS (Geographic Information System) and spatial analytic software, web GIS, and geodatabase management applications.
March 9th – 12th 2017: Braving an impending storm – fortunately, a forecast that wasn’t – over 800 archaeologists attended the 51st Annual Society of California Archaeology Meetings in Fish Camp, California, just outside Yosemite National Park on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.
Organized by Far Western’s Dr. Adie Whitaker (Program Chair), the overarching theme of “Sharing the Past” was vibrant throughout the venue and symposia. Friday morning’s Plenary Session included a stellar line up of speakers sharing highlights of recent research in the foothills and mountains of the central and north-central Sierra. The Plenary Session officially opened the 2017 meetings as Dr. Eric Wohlgemuth of Far Western discussed the challenges of archaeological field methods in California’s conifer forests. Eric spoke alongside Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, Carly S. Whelan, Kathleen L. Hull, Reba Fuller, Brian Codding, Ron W. Goode, and Mary L. Maniery.
The meeting then dispersed into a buzz of presentations, posters, forums, and roundtable discussions. Far Western contributors and participants provided strong presence throughout the weekend.
As the meetings closed on Sunday, Far Western past-President Bill Hildebrandt took on a new presidential role, joining the SCA Board as Incoming President. Bill begins his service this year as a member of the seven-person board and will serve as President of the SCA from 2018-2019.
Organized Paper Symposium
Organized Poster Symposium
Far Western was awarded one of the coveted 2016 Governor’s Historic Preservation Awards for the Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past project. The California Office of Historic Preservation chose the project as an exceptional example of historic preservation efforts on behalf of California’s cultural heritage. The project, directed by Far Western Project Manager and Principal Investigator Patricia Mikkelsen, was a collaborative effort among the Native Chumash community, the District 5 Central Coast Specialist Branch of the California Department of Transportation, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Foothill Resources, and Tiley Research.
Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past showcases seven archaeological sites that underwent initial salvage excavations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with final analysis nearly 40 years later.
The California Division of Highways (precursor to the California Department of Transportation [Caltrans]) carried out three highway realignment projects along State Route 166 in Cuyama Valley. As the project pre-dated the birth of modern Cultural Resources Management practices (i.e., funding was not set aside for analysis of cultural materials unearthed during infrastructure projects), the assemblage was never formally documented. As a result, the collection sat untouched in the UC Santa Barbara archives. Dr. Valerie Levulett, Chief of the Caltrans Central Coast Environmental Specialist Branch and one of the original archaeologists who participated in the salvage excavation work, submitted a Caltrans Transportation Enhancement grant proposal to address the long-delayed processing of these important collections. With the grant approved, Far Western, under a Caltrans cultural resources on-call contract, was tasked with the challenge of not only analyzing the collection, but recreating the excavation itself through numerous field and photograph logs, field notes, and maps. Far Western also reached out to others who were part of the original project, including Dr. Jeanne Binning, Al McCurdy, and Max Farrar, to help set the scene.
Prior to this endeavor, little was known about Cuyama Valley prehistory. Minimal formal archaeological work and few publications have focused on the valley—a corridor that once connected the prehistoric population centers of the Central Valley and Central Coast. The data compilation brought to light a wealth of information about the history and lifeways of the Native people of the region.
Far Western catalogued approximately 3,000 flaked and ground stone tools, including over 400 projectile points, and nearly 5,000 shell, stone, and glass beads and ornaments. These types of discoveries allow for an array of research opportunities and contributions to the archaeology, ethnography, and history of the region.
- A graphic representation of local temporal indicators across time, as well as temporal charts of local projectile point and bead types
- Identification of, and focus on, site-specific temporal components
- Extensive original research and discussions on landscape evolution and geoarchaeological sensitivity, including a map of buried site potential in the Caltrans right-of-way in the Cuyama Valley
- A detailed description and discussion of a fully exposed Chumash structure
- Analysis of yucca-roasting ovens, including feature descriptions, plant identifications, and preparation methods and resulting archaeological evidence
- A contribution to the ongoing debate on artiodactyl abundance
- Patterns of technology, settlement, and social interactions.
- Estimates of non-mission populations in Cuyama Valley, and the effects of European-borne diseases, especially on children
- Discussions and complex diagrams of social interactions between Cuyama Valley inhabitants and surrounding villages
- Detailed kinship charts of Native individuals associated with Cuyama Valley villages
- First-hand accounts from court dockets of Cuyama Valley Native Americans in the 1840s and 1850s
- A focus on the concerns and activities of today’s Chumash who are carrying on the traditions and languages of their ancestors
Contributions to the History of the Region
- A documented history of Cuyama Valley’s early settlement and land use, with special reference to the occupation of sites during the Spanish and Mexican periods in California
- Evolution of transportation corridors through the valley
- Development of adjacent road- and highway-related features that have encroached upon the seven Cuyama Valley sites.
Public Outreach Efforts
The project produced four genres of public-oriented interpretive material designed in collaboration with individuals from the Northern, Barbareño, and Ventureño Chumash tribes for use in educating the public about the unique prehistory of Cuyama Valley—a booklet, exhibits, bookmarks, and tool replicas.
Far Western prepared a full-color, 70-page booklet, entitled The Long Road Traveled – Archaeology, Native Americans, and Europeans in Cuyama Valley, which discusses the Cuyama Valley project, the region’s prehistory and history, Chumash culture, and living descendants. It concludes with a short glossary of archaeological terms and suggestions for further reading. Caltrans printed 1,000 booklets and distributed them free to Native Americans, Cuyama Valley residents, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and local libraries, museums, and schools.
The project could not have been accomplished without the following individuals:
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Under the auspices of the Northern Chapter of the Colorado Archaeological Society, and supported by the Colorado State Historic Fund, Far Western Principal Investigator Ryan Byerly and Senior Archaeologist Joanna Roberson, along with Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology and Paleoanthropology Charles Egeland of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, report on recent survey and test excavation at the well-known Coffin Bison Kill.
The Coffin Bison Kill in Jackson County, Colorado, occupies a topographic gateway between the basin and range country of Wyoming and North Park in the Rocky Mountains. Located in a valley at the headwaters of the North Platte River, which is known as “buffalo pass” to some Native groups, the site is an important point in the cultural landscape of the indigenous people who inhabited Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming during the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric periods. It was also a landmark for eighteenth-century Euro-American explorers and trappers.
Their work at Coffin Bison Kill revealed separate activity areas including a kill area, utilizing a local rock outcrop as a drive or blind, and nearby camp and/or retooling areas. The site’s artifact assemblage included hunting weaponry and processing tools along with a wide variety of projectile points, “Shoshone knives,” and ceramics. At least three bison kill and processing events are evident. These span the late fifteenth to nineteenth centuries and imply that one of the last kill events in the region occurred around the time that Euro-American explorers entered North Park.
These findings demonstrated that the Coffin Bison Kill has the potential to contribute significant information about local subsistence economies and social interaction during a tumultuous period of Euro-American infiltration.
The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) met in San Francisco for their 80th Annual Meeting – their largest meeting yet! The SAA is an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage for the Americas. This year, Far Western was well-represented with many successful presentations, including the opening session, and poster sessions. Learn more about the Society for American Archaeology HERE.
Use the buttons below to see abstracts from Far Western presentations and collaborations!
The Martin A. Baumhoff Special Achievement Award is given for lifetime contributions to California archaeology. The award focuses on an individual’s career accomplishments, personal and professional highlights, scope of influence, and other achievements. At the 2015 Society for California Archaeology (SCA) Conference, this March, Far Western’s founding member William Hildebrandt received the Baumhoff Special Achievement Award, presented by Kelly McGuire at the banquet event. We are honored as a company to benefit from his lifetime of dedication to and professional achievements in the field of archaeology.
The Golden Shovel Award recipient Edward Mike was introduced by Far Western Senior Archaeologist Michael Darcangelo. Ed has worked with Far Western for over twenty years. Patricia Mikkelsen was also awarded the President’s Award for Exceptional Service to the SCA.
Overall there was an outstanding showing and participation at the SCAs again this year by Far Western Staff:
- Laura Brink presented Patrilocal Post-Marital Residence and Bride Service in the Early Period: Strontium Isotope Evidence from CA-SJO-112, a paper she co-authored with Jelmer Eerkens and Candice Ralston. Laura also co-authored a second paper, Trophy Heads or Ancestor Veneration? A Stable Isotope Perspective on Disassociated and Modified Crania in Pre-contact Central California with Jelmer Eerkens, Eric J. Bartelink, Richard T. Fitzgerald, Ramona Garibay, Gina A. Jorgenson, and Randy S. Wiberg.
- Kaely Colligan served as this year’s Program Chair, gave the Welcome speech and organized the Plenary Session Beyond Boundaries, as well as co-authored Small Sites with Big Potential: Survey Results from the Cabrillo College Field School with Dustin McKenzie, Emily Bales, and Violet Navarrete.
- Jill Eubanks presented The Importance of Field Records, Notes, and Maps for Future Research at the Poster Symposium.
- Molly Fogarty and Stephen Hennek instructed the workshop Can I Touch It?: Workflows to Create Journal-Quality Images and Interactive Graphics with 3D Scanning and Photography.
- William Hildebrandt was a symposium discussant and presented Native American Rock Features from South-Central Oregon and Northeastern California, a paper he co-authored with Paul Brandy, Nathan Stevens, and Amy Foutch Porras.
- Philip Kaijankoski presented his poster Assembling the East Bay: Subsurface Geoarchaeological Explorations for the Silicon Valley-Berryessa BART Extension Project.
- Jack Meyer and Jeffrey Rosenthal co-authored Paleodietary Analysis of a Central California (CA-CCO-696) Burial Population using Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopes with Candice Ralston and Jelmer Eerkens.
- Patricia Mikkelsen introduced the Poster Symposium and also presented her poster Prehistoric Structures and Yucca Roasting Ovens in Cuyama Valley. She gave out over 100 copies of The Long Road Traveled.
- Mark Hylkema and Far Western’s Tammara Norton designed the Program cover, the Archaeology Month Poster, and stunning labels for wine bottles this year.
- Jeffrey Rosenthal also co-authored Using XRF to Reconstruct Mobility at the Skyrocket Site (CA-CAL-629/630) with Carly S. Whelan, John H. Pryor, and Jeffrey R. Ferguson.
- Allika Ruby co-authored The Antiquity of Patwin Occupation in the Capay Valley of Central California with Al Schwitalla, and Mike Taggart.
- Nathan Stevens presented Changes in Technology in the Cuyama Archaeological Record at the Poster Symposium, and he also presented A Reevalutaion of Tuscan Obsidian Hydration, which he co-authored with Michael Darcangelo.
- Adrian Whitaker was a guest speaker in the forum “Women in Archaeology: Mentoring and Connecting.”
- Eric Wohlgemuth presented Change and Stability in Late Holocene Plant Use in the Cuyama River Canyon at the Poster Symposium.
A huge thank you to the fantastic Far Western staff including Kathleen Montgomery, Nicole Birney and the Graphic Design and Publishing Department; Art Director Tammara Norton; and Paul Brandy, Jill Bradeen, and the GIS and Cartography Department for their extraordinary work creating maps and graphics for the posters and slide shows for those who presented. Also, thank you to the wonderful Administration Department for their cool and collected organizational skills and helpful work in support of the Far Western contributions to the conference.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the California Division of Highways carried out three highway realignment projects along State Route 166 in Cuyama Valley, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Salvage archaeological work was conducted at seven sites, but the resulting extensive collections were never formally catalogued or documented. Some 40 years later, a Caltrans Transportation Enhancement grant proposal to analyze and document the Cuyama Valley Archaeological Collections project was awarded to Far Western. The result was a five-volume set entitled Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past.
The archaeological volumes (I–III) include: (1) a graphic representation of local temporal indicators across time, as well as temporal charts of local projectile point and bead types; (2) identification of, and focus on, site-specific temporal components; (3) extensive original research and discussions on landscape evolution and geoarchaeological sensitivity, including a map of buried site potential in the Caltrans right-of-way in the Cuyama Valley; (4) a detailed description and discussion of a fully exposed Chumash structure; (5) analysis of yucca-roasting ovens, including feature descriptions, plant identifications, and preparation methods and resulting archaeological evidence; (6) a contribution to the ongoing debate on artiodactyl abundance; and (7) patterns of technology, settlement, and social interactions.
Ethnographic/ethnohistoric Volume IV includes: (1) estimates of non-mission populations in Cuyama Valley, and the effects of European-borne diseases, especially on children; (2) discussions and complex diagrams of social interactions between Cuyama Valley inhabitants and surrounding villages; (3) detailed kinship charts of Native individuals associated with Cuyama Valley villages; (4) first-hand accounts from court dockets of Cuyama Valley Native Americans in the 1840s and 1850s; and (5) a focus on the concerns and activities of today’s Chumash who are carrying on the traditions and languages of their ancestors.
Historic Volume V includes: (1) a documented history of Cuyama Valley’s early settlement and land use, with special reference to the occupation of sites during the Spanish and Mexican periods in California; (2) evolution of transportation corridors through the valley; and (3) development of adjacent road- and highway-related features that have encroached upon the seven Cuyama Valley sites.
Three genres of public-oriented interpretive material were prepared in close collaboration with Northern, Barbareño, and Ventureño Chumash individuals. A series of bookmarks and exhibits was created to be used for public lectures and social events, and a publication entitled The Long Road Traveled – Archaeology, Native Americans, and Europeans in Cuyama Valley summarizes all relevant findings from this study for a more general audience. Some three-dimensional models of artifacts found at the sites can be viewed in the 3D Visualization Gallery.
Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past. Volume I: Archaeological Synthesis.
Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past. Volume II: Site Reports.
Gibson, Robert O., Chester D. King, Julia G. Costello , Jeff Parsons, Kenneth W. Gobalet, Gregory White, Elizabeth Honeysett, Jill Eubanks, Patricia Mikkelsen, Laura Brink, Emma Britton, Ronald Bishop, Thomas Origer, and Richard Hughes
Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past. Volume III: Analytical Reports and Data.
Johnson, John R., and Shelly Tiley
Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past. Volume IV: Ethnography and Ethnohistory.
Carr, Paula J., and Julia Costello
Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past. Volume V:. The Corridor After Contact.
All volumes were submitted to California Department of Transportation District 5, San Luis Obispo, California. For more information, or copies of the reports or public document, please contact California Department of Transportation District 5, San Luis Obispo, California.
Over a period of 12 years, Far Western has carried out cultural resources inventories of nearly 8,000 miles of rural highways in California for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), under the Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA). In the process, we have developed and refined the Caltrans Cultural Resources Database for TEA projects in seven of the 12 Caltrans districts. Each of these studies included a records search, inventory, geoarchaeological assessment, ethnographic research, and Native American consultation.
These inventories provided the various Caltrans districts with information about the location, character, and condition of cultural resources within their rural highway right-of-way. This was combined with existing data gathered from the California Historical Resource Information System (CHRIS) Information Centers, state and federal agencies, and other sources of previous studies, existing site records, and historical maps and documents. The results—GIS data on site locations—were integrated into a new database developed by Far Western and used by Caltrans as a standard for maintaining cultural resources information in digital format. The new database includes a Microsoft Access application that contains the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) 523 forms, links to a library of PDF files of archival site records, and management-related information such as National Register of Historic Places status and maintenance activity restrictions. It is indexed and easily searchable by county, route, post mile, and Caltrans project, and can be used alone or in conjunction with a variety of GIS layers.
Most notably, the geoarchaeological study for Caltrans District 4 has been published under the title Landscape Evolution and the Archaeological Record: A Geoarchaeological Study of the Southern Santa Clara Valley and the Surrounding Region by the Center for Archaeological Research at Davis, and won the 2005 California Preservation Foundation Design Award. Authors Jack Meyer and Jeff Rosenthal also won the Society for California Archaeology’s Martin A. Baumhoff Special Achievement Award for their study.
Far Western received the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for our work on the Salvaging the Past: A Case Study in Archaeological Inquiry Project. This included a technical report as well as a document specifically geared to archaeology students focusing on cultural resources management and contract archaeology,
The Society for California Archaeology presented Amy Gilreath with the Mark Raymond Harrington Award for Conservation in Archaeology. Read more about her award at www.farwestern.com/news.
Far Western received the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for our work on the Cuyama Valley: A Corridor to the Past Project. The project showcases seven archaeological sites that underwent initial salvage excavations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with final analysis nearly 40 years later. The project included a digital booklet, exhibit and 3D gallery.
The SCA President’s Award for Exceptional Service to the Society for California Archaeology was awarded to Patricia Mikkelsen.
The Archaeology Channel Film Festival presented the film makers of “Breaking New Ground” with the Most Inspirational Award.
Far Western received the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for our work on the Black Creek site in Calaveras County. This included a technical archaeological report, plus a public brochure, Stealing the Sun, which presents an archaeological overview and traditional Native Me-wuk stories about the area.
The California Preservation Foundation presented their Design Award to Jeffrey S. Rosenthal and Jack Meyer for their groundbreaking Geoarchaeological Study and Sensitivity Model for the Southern Santa Clara, Hollister, and San Juan Valleys.