Far Western in Science Magazine

Ancient human parallel lineages within North America contributed to a coastal expansion

BY C. L. SCHEIB, HONGJIE LI, TARIQ DESAI, VIVIAN LINK, CHRISTOPHER KENDALL, GENEVIEVE DEWAR, PETER WILLIAM GRIFFITH, ALEXANDER MÖRSEBURG, JOHN R. JOHNSON, AMIEE POTTER, SUSAN L. KERR, PHILLIP ENDICOTT, JOHN LINDO, MARC HABER, YALI XUE, CHRIS TYLER-SMITH, MANJINDER S. SANDHU, JOSEPH G. LORENZ, TORI D. RANDALL, ZUZANA FALTYSKOVA, LUCA PAGANI, PETR DANECEK, TAMSIN C. O’CONNELL, PATRICIA MARTZ, ALAN S. BORAAS, BRIAN F. BYRD, ALAN LEVENTHAL, ROSEMARY CAMBRA, RONALD WILLIAMSON, LOUIS LESAGE, BRIAN HOLGUIN, ERNESTINE YGNACIO-DE SOTO, JOHNTOMMY ROSAS, MAIT METSPALU, JAY T. STOCK, ANDREA MANICA, AYLWYN SCALLY, DANIEL WEGMANN, RIPAN S. MALHI, TOOMAS KIVISILD

SCIENCE01 JUN 2018 : 1024-1027 Read Full Article Here

Two parallel, terminal Pleistocene lineages gave rise to Californian, Central, and South American populations.

This original research was also referenced in a New York Times article here.

Far Western Welcomes New Principal

We are pleased to welcome a new Principal to our Group: Dr. Adie Whitaker.

 

Adrian Whitaker Far Western Principal
Dr. Whitaker has been with Far Western since 2008 and has over 15 years of archaeological experience in California CRM.

He has authored numerous reports on the archaeology of California, while leading inventory and excavation projects from the San Francisco Bay to the Sierra Nevada to the Channel Islands. Building on data collected and collaborations formed during these projects, Adie has published numerous scholarly articles in regional, national, and international journals, including American Antiquity, the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, the Journal of Archaeological Science, the Journal of Coastal and Island ArchaeologyCalifornia Archaeology, and the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology.

He is Editor of the  Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology and continues to play a strong role in the Society for California Archaeology.

Far Western will benefit greatly from Adie’s enthusiasm and leadership. We value his ability to meet the compliance needs of our clients while expanding our knowledge of California’s past. 

Far Western Receives 2017 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award

Far Western receives one of the coveted 2017 Governor’s Historic Preservation Awards for their work at archaeological site CA-SBA-1703, resulting in the document Salvaging the Past: A Case Study in Archaeological Inquiry. The California Office of Historic Preservation and State Parks and Recreation identified the document as an “excellent model for this kind of documentation and sharing of important resources.”

The report, authored by Allika Ruby and Patricia Mikkelsen, was a collaborative effort. Supporting authors included Philip Kaijankoski, Eric Wohlgemuth, Angela Arpaia, Lucas Martindale Johnson, Andrew Ugan, William Hildebrandt, John R. Johnson, and Nathan Stevens. Terry Joslin with the California Department of Transportation was involved throughout, as were Barbareño Chumash representatives who monitored all excavation work—Gilbert Unzueta, Isa Folkes, and David Dias.

Project Background

Salvaging the Past: A Case Study in Archaeological Inquiry 

The Las Vegas and San Pedro Creeks Capacity Improvements Project involved culvert replacement for flood control along US Route 101 near the city of Goleta, Santa Barbara County. A huge box culvert lay in a rechanneled drainage, stretching under railroad tracks, multi-lane Route 101, and an off-ramp. There were also two known sites either side of the highway, in a very urban environment, one occupied early in time—CA-SBA-1703—the other a named ethnographic village—S’axpilil’s (SBA-60). The sites are just north of Goleta Slough at the confluence of two creeks, an area with archaeological evidence shoring focused settlement for thousands of years.

Far Western was tasked with conducting salvage data recovery operations, within time, budget, weather, and safety constraints. The theme of the work became site persistence—

How could any intact cultural deposits survive in such an environment?

Through experience and skill, geoarchaeologist Phil Kaijankoski identified intact versus disturbed deposits. We then quickly developed a work plan to recover maximum information in a hectic environment using appropriate and diverse field techniques.

Back at the lab, we analyzed and interpreted the data, focusing on the identification of discrete temporal components. We had to determine if the deposit was associated with SBA-60 or SBA-1703; it was geographically right in-between. Geoarchaeologist Kaijankoski noted that the newly identified deposit lay on an ancient fan, as did SBA-1703, whereas SBA-60 sat on a youthful floodplain. Initial dating and artifact analyses confirmed the site deposit on the western slope was clearly associated with the older occupation at SBA-1703, dated to around 3700-2400 cal BP. A few Late Period artifacts, especially in the mixed eastern slope, indicated some overlap between the two sites.

Whistle with Asphaltum-embedded Shell. Post-900 cal BP.  Click image to view in 3D!

Public Outreach Efforts

Given diverse, abundant artifacts, along with intact features, Far Western was able to undertake in-depth analyses and focus on addressing current avenues of research. The data presentation was geared to students of cultural resource management as the project highlighted the persistence of intact cultural resources in highly disturbed environment, and innovative methods to retrieve, analyze, and document findings.

The project presented such an important learning opportunity, that Far Western felt obligated to share it as much as possible, in a format that was readable, educational, and exciting. Therefore, a visually appealing document specifically geared to archaeology students focusing on cultural resources management and contract archaeology was created.

It includes:

  • perspectives on site preservation in an urban environment
  • excavation strategies adapting to special conditions
  • local and regional environmental reconstruction focusing on Goleta Slough
  • relevance to biological, geological, archaeological, and 
  • environmental studies
  • complex kinship studies based on mission records that connect Chumash individuals from the village of S’axpilil’s to Chumash rancherias
  • innovative field techniques that adjust for conditions and findings and emphasize the importance of temporal components
  • an in-depth study of geoarchaeology, noting the importance of a study of soils and soil transitions, is important to geologists and archaeologists.

Study questions were also prepared, relating to important aspects of the field work and research. Far Western provided the report and study questions to seven regional institutions to be incorporated into lesson plans; they have already been used in several classroom settings, with positive feedback.

Another key component of the project was the presence of the local Native American community. The monitors were provided copies of the case study; each encouraged the use of Salvaging the Past in archaeology classrooms. The ethnographic studies of Dr. John R. Johnson for this project emphasize the larger social network that existed at the time. This information is only available from extensive mission record studies.

 
 
 

Published: Tufa Village (Nevada): Placing the Fort Sage Drift Fence in a Larger Archaeological Context.

Far Western is proud to present the publication of

Tufa Village (Nevada): Placing the Fort Sage Drift Fence in a Larger Archaeological Context.

By D. CRAIG YOUNG and WILLIAM R. HILDEBRANDT,

The 102nd edition of the Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History

The Fort Sage Drift Fence is one of the largest pre-Contact rock features known in the Great Basin, and appears to date between 3700 and 1000 cal B.P. When Lori Pendleton and David Hurst Thomas (1983) first recorded the 2 km long complex, they were impressed by its sheer size and the amount of labor required to build it. This led them to hypothesize that it must have been constructed, maintained, and used by specialized groups associated with a centralized, village-based settlement system—a system that was not recognized in the archaeological record at that time. Their hypothesis turned out to be quite insightful, as subsequent analyses of faunal remains and settlement pattern data have documented the rise of logistical hunting organization linked to higher levels of settlement stability between about 4500 and 1000 cal B.P. throughout much of the Great Basin. Although Pendleton and Thomas’ (1983) proposal has been borne out on a general, interregional level, it has never been evaluated with local archaeological data. This monograph remedies this situation through reporting the excavation findings from a nearby, contemporaneous house-pit village site. These findings allow us to place the drift fence within its larger settlement context, and provide additional archaeological support for the original Pendleton-Thomas hypothesis.

“Over the course of many years, long after encountering the little blue book by Pendleton and Thomas, I hiked the Fort Sage Mountains, bagging peaks, strolling along fans, and often walking the long, linear feature of the drift fence. When Bill and I had the good fortune to investigate Tufa Village—a site we’d discovered during a pipeline project—and given my occasional and long-time collaboration with Bryan Hockett and Jim Carter (and many others) on expansive constructed features like the drift fence, our thoughts soon turned to tying our ideas of Middle Archaic settlement and social patterns to a specific setting, and thereby connecting, in a way, the village with the fence. It was a pleasure to work with Bill to take the seminal work of Pendleton and Thomas another small step forward.” – D. Craig Young

Dedication

Jim Carter, to whom this work is dedicated, continually encouraged our pursuits and motivated us to always consider the bigger picture.

Acknowledgments

Archaeological investigations surrounding Tufa Village epitomize the nexus of responsible development, public land management, technical proficiency, scientific inquiry, and critical review that results in this concise treatise on a significant aspect of Great Basin prehistory. These connections are made possible through the hard work and cooperation of many groups and individuals. We appreciate Vidler Water Company for allowing us to work along their pipeline right-of-way; Jim Hutchins, archaeologist at Vidler, provided a great opportunity to continue our work in the region.

Jim Carter, to whom this work is dedicated, guided our permitting process with the Carson City Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management. Although we work in a regulatory environment, Jim continually encouraged our pursuits and motivated us to always consider the bigger picture. We similarly appreciate the assistance of Rebecca Palmer of the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, and Gene Hattori and the Nevada State Museum, for facilitating our research plans and allowing access to previous artifact collections. Thanks also to the tribal representatives from the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California for assisting during all phases of our project.

Our excavation teams included Allen McCabe, Steven Neidig, Michael Darcangelo, Sarah Rice, Jerry Tarner, Neil Puckett, Thomas Martin, Maurine Kick, Bill Leyva, Andrea Nardin, Kyle Ross, Priscilla Taylor, Kristen Revell, Anna Starkey, and Hirschel Beail. We have benefited from the technical savvy of our laboratory and analytical team of Kim Carpenter, Eric Wohlgemuth, Daron Duke, Richard Hughes, Tim Carpenter, Kaely Colligan, and Jill Eubanks.
Our effort is only realized through the exceptional efforts of our graphic arts and publication team led by Nicole Birney. She relies on the talents of Tammara Norton, Kathleen Montgomery, and Michael Pardee. Kathy Davis provided editorial consistency. Special thanks go to each of you. We also appreciate the kind collaboration between Nicole and everyone at the American Museum of Natural History.

 


The Anthropological Papers is a monograph series that has been publishing important anthropological and archaeological studies for over 100 years, continuously since 1907

The series focuses on large-scale studies with national and international significance, geared toward a professional, scientific audience. It is distributed to every significant research library in the country, and many international facilities as well. 

In one of the most prestigious outlets in the world, the publication demonstrates Far Western’s world-class research. The Anthropological Papers allows Far Western to reach a very large audience—an audience which wouldn’t be reached otherwise.

 

All issues of Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History are available on the web from:
http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/dspace

Order printed copies on the web from:
https://shop.amnh.org/ap102-2017-tufa-village-nevada-placing-the-fort-sage-drift-fence-in-a-larger-archaeological-context.html

or via standard mail from:
American Museum of Natural History—Scientific Publications
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

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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
Minding the Gap: New Perspectives on the Study of Gender and Archaeology
Organizer: Kaely R. Colligan
The Society of California Archaeology has chosen the theme “Sharing the Past” for the 2017 meeting, to bring the membership together and to identify what unifies the past and present. This symposium will focus on different aspects of studying gender in archaeology and how this translates to modern-day gender issues. Topics include the history of women in the field of California archaeology, feminist perspectives on archaeological thought/theory, and how prehistoric/historic gender roles are revealed in archaeological assemblages. The goal is to bring forward new perspectives on old theories, and shed light on modern issues in our field.

Organized Poster Symposium

Organizer: Allika Ruby
Salvaging the Past at CA-SBA-1703: A Case Study in Archaeological Inquiry
Organizer: Allika Ruby
In 2015, Far Western conducted salvage excavations along US 101 in Goleta after Caltrans construction workers exposed a buried portion of CA-SBA-1703. The site was an Early Period midden found within an extremely disturbed context. Departing from the traditional CRM reporting format, Far Western produced a concise volume with abundant graphics intended to be used primarily by college educators seeking to introduce their students to archaeological practices using a contemporary, realistic, and unexpected scenario. The volume highlights challenges often encountered by archaeologists working on project-driven excavations. This poster session presents selected issues and findings documented in that report.

A Time Capsule in the Center of Chaos
Patricia Mikkelsen
Interesting characteristics from flaked stone assemblages recovered during the Ruby Pipeline project portray varied production patterns across the northern swatch of Nevada. Single-component assemblages reveal a transition from obsidian dominate landscapes in the west to cryptocrystalline silicate areas in the east over time. Data from these areas support several trans-Holocene changes in tool stone selection, production intensity, and reduction strategies which can be linked to broader changes in demography, land-use patterns, and work organization – most notably, the changes that occur late in time when the intensity of flaked stone production crashes and people’s interest in biface reduction declines as well.

Changing Fishing Practices on the Shores of Goleta Slough
William Hildebrandt
Investment in boating and netting technology intensified on the shores of Goleta Slough and other central coast estuaries in the Middle Holocene. Most of this activity focused on estuary habitats, but the technology was applied to relatively deep water settings beyond the kelp beds from time-to-time as well. Exploitation of these deeper water habitats did not occur among people living in outer coast settings away from estuaries, probably because the economic returns from deeper water habitats alone did not justify the construction of watercraft required to reach them in a safe and productive manner.

Listening to the Ancestors: A Chumash ‘ich’unash at SBA-1703
Terry Joslin
A large, Late Period, deer tibia bone whistle was the first item seen by the archaeological monitor after being called to SBA-1703. Chumash informants nearly uniformly associate this type of flute with `antap ceremonies. Regional studies have identified an increase in flute size, along with deeper tones, over time, to be more effective during ceremonies where large numbers of people were present. Many of these flutes have shell beads applied to them with asphaltum, and several additionally have leather wrappings.

Where the Land Meets the Sea: Site Stratigraphy and Landscape Context of CA-SBA-1703
Philip Kaijankoski
Researchers have long recognized that some coastal estuaries have contracted during the Holocene due to sedimentation. However, the timing and maximum extent of a former estuary is difficult to determine without extensive subsurface exploration, which has not yet been conducted in the Goleta Valley. Early archaeological and geological studies hypothesized that at one time Goleta Slough covered a vast area, extending inland to CA-SBA-1703. This is despite historic mapping depicting the site several kilometers away from the estuarine margin. Through a detailed review of existing data sets this hypothesis is critically analyzed.

Mind the Gap: Field Methods at SBA-1703
Allika Ruby and Nathan Stevens
Working at SBA-1703 was not for the faint of heart. Crew members contended with a constricted work space along the margins of a yawning construction pit, hemmed in by an active railroad corridor on one side and a major freeway on the other side. Archaeologists improvised ways to safely access the preserved portions of the site without compromising scientific methods.

A Tale of Two Features: Faunal Bone Recovered from SBA-1703
Allika Ruby and Andrew Ugan
Two buried, fire-affected rock features were found only a few meters apart at SBA-1703. Each contained faunal bone and shell, as well as charred nuts and seeds. However, radiocarbon dating established they were separated in time by a span of about one thousand years. Both features demonstrate that estuarine shellfish and small schooling fishes were important dietary constituents. However, the earlier feature (ca. 3829 -3637 cal BP) shows an emphasis on islay nuts while the later feature (ca. 2750-2180 cal BP) indicates that the diet had shifted to a stronger emphasis on terrestrial game, primarily deer-sized animals.

Parallel Sequences of Marine and Plant Resource Intensification in Santa Barbara and the San Francisco Bay
Eric Wohlgemuth
Charred plant food debris and indices from the Santa Barbara mainland coast decline markedly with intensification of marine resources at about 6,000 years ago. The decline in plant vs. marine foods is strikingly similar to patterns seen about 3,000 years later on the eastern and northern San Francisco Bay shore. In both regions, plant food debris and indices increase millennia after marine food intensification, at ca. 3000 BP on the Santa Barbara coast and after ca. 1000 BP along San Francisco Bay. These patterns are relevant to the priority of aquatic faunal resources posited by Keeley (1991).

Papers

Brian F. Byrd, Patricia Mikkelsen and Shannon DeArmond

Re-visualizing Regional Indigenous Persistence—A San Francisco Bay-Delta Area Perspective for Archaeologists
Brian F. Byrd, Patricia Mikkelsen and Shannon DeArmond
This paper provides a framework, largely through modeling and visualization, on traditional indigenous village persistence in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region. We explore spatial variation in the pace of colonial impact during a 50-year period using Milliken’s Community Distribution Model of Spanish Mission baptism data. In particular, we focus on the tempo of ancestral village and abandonment, highlight areas where decades of continuity in occupation after 1776 are expected, and areas where more nuanced Native persistence is anticipated. Finally, we touch on archaeological implications of these movements and persistence, and potential approaches to investigate these complex patterns.

Kaely R. Colligan

The Working Mother: Gaining Resources and Prestige as a Prehistoric Female
Kaely R. Colligan
Men’s ability to gain prestige in their communities, primarily through hunting and other forms of resource gathering, is well-substantiated in the archaeological record. But a woman’s ability to gain prestige or authority, particularly while providing caring for offspring, is an issue that has received far less attention. An analysis of the archaeological record from a socio-behavioral perspective suggests that modern women do not have a monopoly on prestige-gathering, and that prehistoric women also exhibited competitive behavior aimed at attracting mates through the collection and storage of resources, basketry/textile design, and settlement patterns. 

Jay King

Rock Art and Archaeology of Upper Smoke Creek Canyon, Lassen County
Jay King
Smoke Creek Canyon contains an extensive complex of petroglyphs, including the “Bruff’s Rock” site, originally described in 1850 and thought to be the first California rock art ever described by a Euro-American. A recent survey reveals a rich and varied archaeological record in close association with the petroglyphs, including an extraordinary quantity of milling tools, as well as large residence-sized rock rings and other features. This close association between rock art and residential features offers the opportunity to comment on both the likely age and the social context of the rock art’s production.

Jack Meyer

Once Upon a Time with Two Cents and Three Minutes
Jack Meyer
Three-Minute Artifact Forum: Sharing the Past

Patricia Mikkelsen

What’s Left to Say about Ground Stone?
Pat Mikkelsen
Three-Minute Artifact Forum: Sharing the Past

Andrew Ugan, Katie Bonham, and Justin Wisely

Soaproot (Chlorogalum pomeridianum): Miracle Plant or Just Another Dirty Little Root?
Andrew Ugan, Katie Bonham, and Justin Wisely
Among ethnographically important California plants, soaproot (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) receives little attention, despite use as a food, medicine, mastic, dye, source of fibers, detergent, and fish poison. In an effort to explore this dichotomy we provide a quantitative assessment of soaproot’s value, detailing its nutritional composition, collection costs, and effectiveness as a toxin. We show that return rates are high and effectiveness as a fish poison low. Given these points we would expect soaproot to have been widely consumed, but almost never used as toxin. We conclude by discussing the implications of these points for our understanding of prehistoric soaproot use.

Justin Wisely
Starch Grain Analysis of Bedrock Mortars in the Sierra Nevada: Implications to Our Understanding of Bedrock Milling Features
Justin Wisely
Bedrock mortars are ubiquitous throughout California and their function has been a longstanding question for archaeologists. Many have assumed a function associated with acorn intensification, but McCarthy took the time to conduct an in-depth ethnographic study on their function. It was this work that helped inspire my own research into bedrock mortar function, and gave me a start in questioning the assumptions about other often-dismissed cultural remains such as fire-cracked rock. This paper will present the starch grain analysis of bedrock mortars research conducted for my master’s thesis that was partly inspired by McCarthy’s landmark work, and the future avenues.
Eric Wohlgemuth

Challenges to Archaeological Field Methods in the Conifer Forest: An Example from Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Eric Wohlgemuth– Plenary Session
The conifer forest zone of the Sierra Nevada can be a difficult place to do archaeology. Even for sites with well-defined component areas, the dearth of subsurface features with associated datable organics obscures accurate dating of artifact assemblages. Further, the lack of well preserved faunal remains, and the difficulty in associating plant macrofossils with artifact assemblages, limits subsistence reconstructions. Data recovery excavations at CAL-277/H at Big Trees State Park attempted to solve these problems through large block exposures, selective recovery excavation, stratigraphic excavation for fine-grained samples, large-scale flotation sampling, and starch grain recovery from bedrock milling features and grinding tools.

Posters

Angela Arpaia and Eric Wohlgemuth

CA-SCL-677: Challenging the Status Quo of Plant Use Intensification Trend in Santa Clara Valley
Angela Arpaia and Eric Wohlgemuth
Archaeobotanical remains collected from sites in Santa Clara Valley follow trends seen in sites throughout interior Central California. Early period sites exhibit generalized and balanced use of nuts and berries with minor use of small seeds, followed by intensification of acorn in Middle Period sites, culminating in intensive use of both acorn and small seeds in Late Period sites. Middle Period site CA-SCL-677 is unique in having very abundant small seeds; possible reasons for the anomaly include habitat, site use, and population density. 

 

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.