GIS Awarded 1st Place at Esri Conference

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.

Allika Ruby (1969–2017)

Allika Ruby (1969–2017)

Allike Memorial

A loving wife, mother, friend, and colleague, who left us too soon.

Allika was an invaluable part of the Far Western family.  She was always ready to take on any challenge, and excelled in all her endeavors here. Her writing skills were exceptional, as evidenced by her recent Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for Salvaging the Past, a document prepared for CRM students. She was a joy to work with and we will miss her greatly.

In honor of Allika, and with her knowledge, a College Education Fund (the Calla Ruby Trust) was set up for Callie—Rick and Allika’s nine-year-old daughter. If anyone would like to contribute to the fund, you can make checks directly payable to the Calla Ruby Trust and send them C/O Far Western– 2727 Del Rio Place, Suite A – Davis California 95618.

 

 

 

 

 

Far Western and Institute for Canine Forensics Identify Emigrant Grave

As part of the NV Energy Assets surveys and site evaluations on the Tahoe National Forest in 2011, Far Western recorded a possible historic grave site on the Overland Emigrant Trail near Truckee. At the request of Forest Service Heritage Program Manager Carrie Smith, we contacted the non-profit Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF) to investigate. The ICF has worked on many archaeological sites, including the Donner Camp, a WWII aircraft crash in Goose Lake, Oregon, and graves under the chapel floor of the Santa Barbara Presidio. Currently they are in the South Pacific on an expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society to look for remains of Amelia Earhart and her navigator, missing since 1937.

Dogs

(Left to right) Piper, Jasper, and Kayle alerting on the emigrant grave, Tahoe National Forest. Photo Credit: Vickie Clay

On June 6, 2017, three ICF dogs and their handlers met with Sharon Waechter and Vickie Clay to “sniff out” the possible emigrant grave. The ICF dogs are trained in Historic Human Remains Detection (HHRD), and can differentiate between human and non-human (animal) remains. The dogs and their handlers use a search strategy designed to fit the specific terrain and conditions. For our project, the handlers allowed the dogs to “wander” freely, making zig-zag transects across the small meadow where we had recorded the possible grave. All three of the Border Collies stopped briefly to investigate the stone pile before continuing on. In each case, they returned several times to the stone pile, and eventually all three dogs “alerted” on the pile by sitting or lying next to it. The grave was confirmed!

Our thanks to dogs Jasper, Piper, and Kayle (and young Jett, still in training) and their handlers Adela Morris (ICF President), Lynne Engelbert, and John Grebenkemper. For more information on ICF and their amazing dogs, check out this web site: www.HHRDD.org

 

Dog Alerts On Emigrant Grave Video Credit: Sharon Waechter

Sharing the Past – Far Western Contributes to the 51st SCA Annual Meeting

2017 SCA Program

Click image to view entire program

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.

In addition to behind the scenes work organizing the program by Adie Whitaker, Production Supervisor Nicole Birney produced the program using a database designed by Partner Jay King

A special thank you to Nicole Birney and Jay King for assisting with program organization and to Tammara Norton for contributing to our 2017 SCA presentations. 

Organized Paper Symposium

Organizer: Kaely R. Colligan

Organized Poster Symposium

Organizer: Allika Ruby

Papers

Brian F. Byrd, Patricia Mikkelsen and Shannon DeArmond
Kaely R. Colligan
Jay King
Jack Meyer
Patricia Mikkelsen
Andrew Ugan, Katie Bonham, and Justin Wisely
Justin Wisely
Eric Wohlgemuth

Posters

Angela Arpaia and Eric Wohlgemuth

 

To learn more, please visit the SCA Proceedings compiled by Proceedings Edtior, Allika Ruby

Experimental Archaeology at Far Western

Use arrows to explore the images or click on individual images to enlarge

Volunteers from Far Western, Sacramento State University, UC Davis, and the archaeological community gathered in the Far Western lab at our headquarters in Davis, California, to participate in a set of experiments using ground stone tools. The tools used in the experiment were replicas of milling gear found in archaeological sites.

Tamara Buonasera, Ph.D., visiting from the University of Arizona, led the experiments; her work is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Buonasera specializes in the economic and social aspects of food processing among hunter-gatherers and has an extensive background in the preservation and taphonomy of ancient lipids. She pursues her research through analysis of organic residues and stable isotopes building on her studies in experimental archaeology, ground stone technology, and use-wear analysis in California, Alaska, and the Southwest.

Buonasera opened the experiment by presenting background on her own research and how the results of these experiments will contribute to studies of prehistoric food processing world-wide. These and other grinding sessions are part of a larger project aimed at evaluating relationships between milling tool design, human mobility, and resource use.

Nearly 20 participants paired-up on the cement floor of the Far Western lab to get their hands dirty through first-hand experience using a variety of milling tool designs. The tools ranged from large basalt mortars to flat sandstone grinding slabs. Each volunteer processed Indian rice grass seeds or acorns, known to have been used by Native Californians, into flour over two 30-minute segments. Our experimental results will provide information needed to model the relationships between tool sizes and shapes, raw materials used for grinding, and wear and tear on the tools used. Product output and labor costs (time) can also be calculated. The outcomes will help archaeologists interpret wear patterns and guide the best techniques for sampling organic residues on milling gear found at archaeological sites.

Another grinding experiment with Dr. Buonasera is tentatively planned for early June, 2017. This experiment will feature the invaluable participation of Dr. Helen McCarthy of Davis, who has worked with native California elders for decades, emphasizing women’s processing of acorns and other plant foods.

Far Western, as well as the local archaeological community, would like to thank Tammy for coming out and hosting a successful evening. 

Far Western at the 35th Great Basin Anthropological Conference

GBAC 2016

October 6th – 9th 2016: Far Western researchers, along with colleagues from across the nation, gathered to present recent research and share ideas at the 35th Great Basin Anthropological Conference in Reno, Nevada. Organized around a conference theme of “Featured Landscapes of the Great Basin”, archaeologists from Far Western presented or contributed to nineteen paper and poster presentations. These included a poster symposium organized by Bill Hildebrandt highlighting the Ruby Pipeline Project, a plenary presentation by D. Craig Young, and new research from the Lincoln County Archaeological Initiative, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the Mojave Desert, the Naval Air Station Fallon, and the Soldier Meadows Area of Critical Environmental Concern. A full menu of Far Western presentation abstracts and viewable posters is provided below.

The Great Basin Anthropological Conference is organized biennially by the Great Basin Anthropological Association – Far Western’s President, Kim Carpenter, serves as Treasurer on the association’s Board of Directors. Conferences such as the GBAC are great opportunities for archaeologists, historians, ethnographers, native communities, and regulatory agencies to present and discuss new research and future directions.

A special thank you to our Art Director, Tammara Norton, for assistance with our 2016 GBAC presentations.

Papers

Daron Duke and D.Craig Young
Michael Lenzi
Michael Lenzi and Vickie Clay
Kelly McGuire and William Hildebrandt
Adrian Whitaker and Jeffrey Rosenthal
Justin Wisely
D. Craig Young

Posters Click on Title Link to View Poster

Ryan Byerly
Ryan Byerly, Lindsey Daub, Eric Gingerich, and Joanna C. Roberson
Daron Duke, D.Craig Young, Sarah Rice, Jaynie Hirschi, and Anya Kitterman
Tucker Orvald and Kathryn Ataman
D. Craig Young (Contributor)

Poster Symposium Click on Title Link to View Poster

Prehistory of Nevada’s Northern Tier: Highlights from the Ruby Pipeline
Project Organizer: William R. Hildebrandt
Kaely Colligan, William Bloomer, and William Hildebrandt
William R. Hildebrandt
Jerome King
Kelly McGuire and Nathan Stevens
Allika Ruby and Jerome King
Andrew Ugan and Laura Harold
D. Craig Young

Cuyama Valley- A Corridor to the Past
receives the 2016 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award

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.

Project Background

Excavation Cuyama

Excavation of the ethnographic village of Wenexe’l taken in 1970 by Crew Chief Al McCurdy. This impressive saucer-shaped depression was characterized by burned timbers, postholes, and hearth/pit features. Recovered artifacts from within the depression included flaked and ground stone tools, shell and stone beads, modified bone, bones, shell, and historic-period material such as glass beads and roof tiles. It dates to the Late Period-Historic-era, 600 cal BP–1806 AD.

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.

Archaeological Contributions

  • 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.

 

Ethnographic Contributions

  • 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.

 

Cuyama Exhibit

Far Western Art Director Tammara Norton worked closely with members of the Northern, Barbareño, and Ventureño Chumash tribes to create the displays depicted above for their use in educating the public about the unique prehistory of Cuyama Valley. Each tribe received a set of three portable exhibits designed to their specifications, for public outreach and education.

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:

Far Western

Pat Mikkelsen
Jack Meyer
Adrian Whitaker
Eric Wohlgemuth
Nathan Stevens
Deborah Jones
Molly Fogarty Starr
Tammara Norton
Elizabeth Honeysett
Laura Harold
Jill Eubanks

Foothill Resources

Julia Costello

Caltrans

Valerie Levulett
Jeannine Binning
Krista Kiaha
Paula Carr
Ed Schefter
Terry Joslin
Rochelle Vierra

Tiley Research

Michelle Tiley

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

John Johnson

Other Individuals

Robert Gibson
Kenneth Gobalet
Gregory White
Emma Britton
Ronald Bishop
Richard Hughes
Chester King
Jeff Parsons
Thomas Origer

Far Western Crew Unearths 12,300-Year-Old Hearth in Utah

Overview fish eye

Excavation overview of the Wishbone site, Utah. Photo Credit: Todd Cromar

Last summer, a crew of Far Western archaeologists working on the Hill Air Force Base, in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, sunk a 50-x-50-cm test probe into Utah’s arid ground and turned up something you would not expect to find in the desert: waterfowl bone. These were burned within a Paleoindian hearth now radiocarbon dated to 12,300 calendar years ago.

After exposing the remains, Principal Investigator Dr. Daron Duke, with Senior Archaeologist Sarah Rice, and Senior Geoarchaeologist Dr. D.Craig Young quickly realized they were uncovering evidence of a marshland landscape in the middle of the modern desert and life-ways of North America’s earliest inhabitants never seen before. They had discovered the oldest open-air hearth ever found in the Great Basin and the first known Ice Age camp for hunting and cooking exclusively waterfowl.

Excerpt from Dr. Duke’s field notes July 11, 2016 “Amazing day. Mike L. excavated a pristine Haskett point one cmbs and about 1 meter from the feature…

Excerpt from Dr. Duke’s field notes July 11, 2016
“Amazing day. Mike L. excavated a pristine Haskett point one cmbs and about one meter from the feature…”

In July, meticulous excavation fully exposed the hearth and its surrounding area. The team found thousands more waterfowl bone fragments and several stone tools, including an in situ Haskett projectile point discovered just one centimeter beneath the ground surface and one meter from the hearth.

Soil samples of the hearth’s contents were collected in the field and brought back to the Far Western archaeobotanical laboratory for flotation processing and analysis. The archaeobotanical team recovered charred remains of willow wood, and seeds of bulrush, pond weed, and tobacco. The tobacco seeds are thought to be the oldest ever found in North America, nearly 9,000 years older than previous finds in New Mexico and Bolivia. Archaeobotany Director Dr. Eric Wohlgemuth further elaborates on the implications of these finds:

The charred remains are representative of the ancient environment and the bulrush and pond weed seeds could be waterfowl stomach contents. While willow wood charcoal was found in this context, willow is absent from the local environment today.

Flotation process

Flotation process to recover charred plant remains. Photo Credit: Angela Arpaia

 

A press release of the discovery soon hit the internet entitled, Archaeologists Discover Proof of Wetlands, Ancient Life on the Utah Test and Training Range.

The story was also picked up by Western Digs, an online science news site focusing in archaeology, anthropology, and paleontology of the American West and by Standard-Examiner, a local daily news source in Utah.