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

Mark R. Harrington Award Goes to Amy Gilreath

Far Western is pleased to announce that the Society for California Archaeology recently honored Amy Gilreath, Principal, with the Mark R. Harrington Award for Conservation Archaeology.

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Amy Gilreath, William Hildebrandt, and Carolyn Shepherd
(from left to right ) at the dedication of the
Coso Rock Art National Historic Landmark/
National Register District, NAWS China Lake.

In presenting the award at the SCA’s 50th Anniversary Awards Banquet in Ontario, California, William R. Hildebrandt cited her work resulting in the Coso Rock Art National Historic Landmark/National Register of Historic Places (National Register) District listing (May 2001), and the Gypsum Cave National Register listing (July 2010); and for preparing nominations for the Sugarloaf Archaeological District at NAWS China Lake, and for the Black Canyon Rock Art District at the Pahranagat Wildlife Refuge, US Fish and Wildlife Service (Heizer and Hester’s type site for Pahranagat style rock art).

 

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D. Craig Young (left) and Allen McCabe (right) with a 1930s milk can recovered from Harrington’s backfill in Gypsum Cave.

Gypsum Cave is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion B, for its association with Mark Raymond Harrington, recognizing his profound influence on and contributions to California and Great Basin archaeology: among the earliest who used a multidisciplinary approach; gave strict attention to 3D provenience, site formation processes and taphonomy; and who first captured the public’s interest in when humans first occupied the Desert West. (It is also listed under Criteria A and D.)

In accepting the award, Ms. Gilreath kept to this year’s meeting theme, accepting the eponymous award with reflections on the historical accomplishments of Mark R. Harrington.

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An original 1929–1930 grid stake recovered from Harrington’s backfill in Gypsum Cave.

As she noted, Harrington was a precocious child who grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1904, at the age of 20, he started undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, becoming a founding member of the American Anthropological Association that same year. Two years later he transferred to Columbia University, where he received his M.A. degree under Franz Boas in 1908. He then ran a private enterprise as an ethnographic collector, which led to a long-term friendly working relationship with George Heye, who patronized his business. Heye, of course, is the patriarch behind the Heye Foundation, and his collection anchors what we now know as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

In 1924, Heye sent Harrington on a collecting/scouting trip to Nevada. This brought Harrington to Lovelock Cave and to collaborate with Llewellyn Loud. This is also when Harrington and the Willis Evans family’s abiding friendship began. Pit River Indians, the Evans were the backbone of Harrington’s work force at many sites in southern Nevada, with Willis as the excavation foreman at Gypsum Cave, Lost City, and other sites in southern Nevada that Harrington studied. He also supervised other Civilian Conservation Corps field projects, and is credited with discovering Rampart Cave, a sloth-dung-filled cave in Grand Canyon.

In 1928, Harrington moved to Los Angeles/Pasadena, and took a new job as Director of Research at the Southwest Museum, becoming its Curator in 1929. In the late 1920s/early 1930s he excavated Gypsum Cave, by Las Vegas, Nevada. In the late 1930s/early 1940s he excavated Borax Lake near Clear Lake, California. In the late 1940s/early 1950s he excavated the Stahl site at Little Lake, California. His close relationship with the Southwest Museum persisted to 1964, when he retired as Curator Emeritus.

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Far Westerner Gets Grant from National Science Foundation

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Lucas Martindale Johnson, Senior Archaeologist at Far Western and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida, received a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation.

Congratulations to Lucas Martindale Johnson for receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation for his research on ancient Maya flaked tool artifacts!

Find out more about Lucas’ upcoming research at the National Science Foundation website and his past research and scientific illustrations at Academia.edu.

Read the research abstract below!

Dissertation Research on Ancient Maya Obsidian Artifacts from Caracol, Belize

Social scientists continue to explore the processes by which raw materials and crafted objects move about in complex webs of political economic exchange. The evolution of exchange networks underscores the need to know how people construct their identity through consumption. Therefore, there is an increasing interest within archaeology to explore the presence of pre-capitalist market exchange in ancient states, and to question how these institutions structured material value, consumer communities, cities, and states. Situated within this broader context, the project will investigate the processes of how regional trade, state exchange, and household identity changed with the advent of marketplaces within a pre-Columbian urban cityscape in Belize, Central America. Through analyses of obsidian (volcanic glass) artifacts – a durable and economically vital stone material – this research will (1) reconstruct and trace their movement from distant raw material sources into the exchange network of a major urban center; (2) determine how obsidian was distributed to the population through regulated or unregulated political controls; and (3) explore how the crafting and exchange of obsidian helped to construct and concretize a shared local identity that endured for centuries. As crafted materials circulate, they expose political/economic/social mechanisms that provision consumers (e.g., market and/or gift exchange). Archaeology has a unique historicized perspective to study the cultural and socioeconomic value of certain objects and materials within different cultural groups as they were exchanged over vast distances. The data generated will enable the emergence of a comprehensive picture in which a study of materials exposes different societal dynamics. The research also encourages an increased collaboration whereby archaeologists as material analysts can expand technical student training through the open sharing of research methods and data.
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Under the guidance of Dr. Steven Brandt (University of Florida), Dr. Diane Chase, and Dr. Arlen Chase (University of Central Florida), Lucas Martindale Johnson will investigate ancient Maya regional obsidian exchange, craft production, ritual and daily events, and the communities that carried out such actions at the ancient Maya site of Caracol, Belize. Research at this ancient Maya city-state provides an ideal setting to demonstrate how a study of obsidian explores regional connections to distant obsidian-rich locations in the highlands of modern day Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras and the economic mechanisms by which the general population were provisioned. By sourcing obsidian to chemically unique geological locations, the project will discover the distance and the different social and physical pathways materials traveled before arriving at a craft production site. By conducting a sourcing analysis in which elemental composition is ascertained through the use of a portable X-ray fluorescence machine, this project will determine trade routes and regional connections. At a later date within the city of Caracol, local household consumers obtained obsidian crafts to for use as casual tools and/or ritualized materials. Caracol’s crafting and internal exchange mechanisms will be studied by mapping artifact distributions at more than 200 ancient Maya households spread over nearly 170 square kilometers (65 square miles). Through mapping artifact distributions, this research will explore how crafting and craft exchange may or may not have been controlled by the politically and economically powerful, as well as investigate how identities are produced through the production and use of obsidian artifacts.

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Bill Hildebrandt Receives Baumhoff Special Achievement Award at SCAs

William Hildebrandt, Far Western Anthropological Group

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.

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