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

Spoiler title
Preliminary Findings on the Paleoindian Archaeology of Cave and Lake Valleys
Daron Duke and D.Craig Young
Far Western is conducting surveys in Cave and Lake Valleys as part of a LCAI Round 7 project to develop a Paleoindian Archaeological Context. Using both random and nonrandom sampling methods, the fieldwork is designed to test the predictions of a GIS-based model for the decline of Great Basin pluvial lakes and, by extension, the wetland habitats surrounding them. We infer that the Paleoindian record associated with short-lived lakes, such as Lake Cave in Cave Valley, would be more restricted to an early Paleoindian record than that associated with enduring lakes, such as Lake Carpenter in Lake Valley. Observing the differences between these neighboring basins will inform the broader regional issue of how and when Paleoindian peoples responded to the ultimate demise of the basin wetland habitats central to their land use strategy.
Michael Lenzi
Results of Experiments with Replicated Crescents to Evaluate Proposed Functions
Michael Lenzi
This paper presents results from a series of experiments involving replicated crescents to evaluate some of the more common hypotheses proposed for the function of crescents and gain a better understanding of their role in the prehistoric toolkit. Crescents were used to cut leather, scrape willow, and tip projectiles thrown at targets. Models from human behavioral ecology were applied to evaluate the efficiency of crescents for each task. Additionally, the breaks that accrued from use on the replicated crescents were compared to archaeological patterns. Results from this study indicate that the primary function of crescents for cutting and slicing tasks and scraping plants is not supported; however, use as transverse projectile points is well-supported.
Michael Lenzi and Vickie Clay
New Obsidian Sources, Conveyance Zones, and Toolstone Profiles from Southern Lahontan Valley and Rawhide Flats, NAS Fallon, Churchill County, Nevada
Michael Lenzi and Vickie Clay
Sourcing of obsidian nodules collected during evaluation of sites on one Naval Air Station Fallon training range in southern Lahontan Valley identified three previously unknown obsidian sources. These new sources are designated Dead Camel Mountains, Desert Mountains, and Lahontan Valley. Chemical ascription of temporally diagnostic obsidian projectile points from 29 sites in southern Lahontan Valley and Rawhide Flats generally demonstrate foragers had very large conveyance zones during the Paleoindian Period, with decreased conveyance zones through time. Lithic material type profiles for projectile points, tools, and debitage found on these sites located in two adjacent valleys show measurable differences in toolstone use that may represent different proximities to sources and/or different types of land use.
Kelly McGuire and William Hildebrandt
Taking Stock: A Far Western Perspective of Native America and CRM in the Great Basin
Kelly McGuire and William Hildebrandt
The Native American voice within the institutional and regulatory framework of Great Basin CRM has rightfully increased through the last several decades. While a number of successes can be pointed to, much of the current status of this relationship remains challenging, and sometimes contested. While Far Western must navigate this landscape, we also have a unique perspective, as we work directly with Native Americans, mostly younger people, actually doing archaeology. This experience has proven positive and occasionally transformational for both Native Americans and archaeologists. We advocate for the expanded participation of Native Americans at all levels of the archaeological enterprise.
Adrian Whitaker and Jeffrey Rosenthal
Delayed Adoption of Intensified Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence Strategies and the Continued Utility of the Traveler/Processor Model to Explain Changes
Adrian Whitaker and Jeffrey Rosenthal
Bettinger and Baumhoff’s Traveler/Processor Model was a crucial contribution to Great Basin archaeology nearly 35 years ago and the model continues to bear theoretical fruit today. This paper examines how people living in large villages with intensified economies in California’s Great Central Valley co-existed with less-economically intensive adaptations in the adjacent Central Sierra Nevada Foothills for nearly 4,000 years despite consistent contact between the two. In this paper, we examine how the adjacent regions had such different trajectories of economic intensification. We outline how a combination of new technology and climatic instability changed the relative suitability of processor economic strategies and led foothill foragers to shift to a more valley-like adaptation. More generally, the model provides a framework to explaining the coexistence of neighboring but dramatically different economies – for instance foragers vs. farmers – despite contact, as well as the mechanisms that might catalyze a shift from one economy to another. 
Justin Wisely
Crazy Little Thing Called Starch: Starch Grain Analysis of Bedrock Mortars
Justin Wisely
Starch grain analysis is an underutilized non-destructive method for improving our understanding of prehistoric plant usage, previously only utilized as a laboratory technique. As part of a larger landscape sampling for my master’s thesis at California State University, Chico, I sampled bedrock mortars at CA-ALP-156 and CA-ALP-171 in the Sierra Crest using the in-field extraction method I developed. This research covers the development of the reference collection, the creation and application of this new in-field sampling technique, and subsequent results. As the sampling of bedrock mortars is only one of the many potential uses for this non-destructive technique, there will be a discussion of future research avenues made possible by bringing starch grain sampling out of the lab and into the landscape. 
D. Craig Young
Deep in the Dust: Archaeological Landscapes in Tons per Year
D. Craig Young
The search for early archaeology in the Great Basin has shifted from a focus on prominent lacustrine features (e.g., spits and strandlines) to zones of potential resource productivity, especially basin-margin and deltaic wetlands. While theoretically smarter, we have made our work more difficult – these once expansive landforms may now be buried deep in dust. Bounded only by wind, dust transport and deposition are truly landscape-scale phenomena. Primary dust deposition can be measured today in tens of tons per acre per year. In the drying Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene transition, dust production and deposition may have been an order of magnitude greater. Eroded from hundreds of drying basins, eolian dust was deposited as vast silt plains or recycled into expansive distal reaches of alluvial fans. Reworked dust, as loess or alluvium, often forms temporally undifferentiated playa-like deposits, where we continue our hopeful searches – this silt-capped, reworked landscape may be too young. Temporally constraining dust episodes while identifying and investigating dust-infused landforms reveals potentially stratified paleo-landscapes, thereby narrowing our search for significant Paleoindian archaeology in the Great Basin. 

Posters Click on Title Link to View Poster

Ryan Byerly
Hunter-Gatherer Sites on the Pisgah Crater Lava Flow near Lavic Lake, San Bernardino County, California
Ryan Byerly
Far Western’s National Register evaluations of archaeological sites on the Pisgah Crater Lava Flow, adjacent to Lavic Lake aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, reveal that hunter-gatherers utilized the many natural shelters created by collapsed lava blisters and tubes within the flow as settings for short term camps in support of regional resource pursuits. This poster summarizes data gathered from limited test excavations and collections of these lava flow sites and compares them to similar data gleaned from other local sites to frame a coherent picture of regional site use as a foundation for the construction of a Base-wide hunter-gatherer settlement-subsistence model.
Ryan Byerly, Lindsey Daub, Eric Gingerich, and Joanna C. Roberson
Modeling Mojave Desert Hunter-Gatherer Settlement and Subsistence from Lava Flow Sites Aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, San Bernardino County, California
Ryan Byerly, Lindsey Daub, Eric Gingerich, and Joanna C. Roberson
Throughout prehistory, that portion of the south-central Mojave Desert now encompassed by the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center appears to have largely supported short term hunter-gatherer occupations linked to the procurement of locally available jasper and chalcedony. Here, we specifically examine and compare data gathered from Far Western’s National Register evaluations of sites on the Pisgah Crater and Amboy Crater lava flows to model broader-scale settlement and subsistence patterns of the hunter-gatherers that preferentially exploited these toolstone, primarily as evident during the Late Holocene.
Daron Duke, D.Craig Young, Sarah Rice, Jaynie Hirschi, and Anya Kitterman
The Wishbone Site: An Early Paleoindian Waterfowl Cooking Feature from the Great Salt Lake Desert
Daron Duke, D.Craig Young, Sarah Rice, Jaynie Hirschi, and Anya Kitterman
Recent survey on the Old River Bed delta yielded a charcoal-rich feature containing burned waterfowl bones and debitage. The feature is eroding from the playa surface and is surrounded by an associated concentration of stone tools, including Haskett projectile points. It is over 12,000 years old. Artifacts were found both on the surface and buried. In this poster, we provide details, including radiocarbon dates, faunal and macrobotanical evidence, and lithic analysis. 
Tucker Orvald and Kathryn Ataman
Surface Archaeology of the Soldier Meadows Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), Humboldt County, Nevada
Tucker Orvald and Kathryn Ataman
Located in the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the Soldier Meadows ACEC is an exemplary locality given its unique hydrological, biological, and cultural features. Between 2013 and 2014, the BLM Black Rock Field Office directed Section 110 inventory aimed at formally documenting cultural resources within the 2,078- acre ACEC. Surface archaeology includes a near-continuous distribution of early through late Holocene flaked and ground stone accumulations as well as historic-era Emigrant Trail evidence, a stage and freight transportation corridor, and extensive ranching infrastructure that reflects homestead- through corporate-scale land use. An understanding of the surface archaeology in the ACEC will allow for long-term adaptive management, provide a resource for problem-oriented archaeological research, and help the BLM conserve this unique setting and its pervasive archaeological record.
D. Craig Young (Contributor)
Prearchaic Adaptations in the Central Great Basin: Preliminary Findings from a Stratified Open-Air Site
Brian F Codding (University of Utah), David W. Zeanah (California State University, Sacramento), D. Craig Young (Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.), Joan Brenner Coltrain (University of Utah), Erik P. Martin (University of Utah) and Robert G. Elston (University of Utah) 
Early Holocene occupants of the Great Basin preferentially occupied highly productive habitats surrounding pluvial lakes. While growing evidence details the adaptations of these Prearchaic foragers in the Eastern and Western Great Basin, our understanding of the Central Great Basin remains impoverished, largely due because of the limited number of stratified archaeological sites containing well preserved material suitable for faunal analysis and radiocarbon dating. However, recent investigations of an open-air site along the northern shore of Pleistocene Lake Gilbert in Grass Valley, Nevada have revealed a buried deposit with preserved organic material associated with Prearchaic technology. Here we report preliminary analyses examining the chronology, subsistence, and technology associated with the site. Geoarchaeological analyses of soil map units and landforms suggest that similar sites are likely to be found elsewhere in Grass Valley. These findings help clarify our view of Prearchaic foragers in the Central Great Basin and expand our understanding of the earliest adaptation in the region.

 

A Behavioral Ecological Frame of Reference for Investigating Prearchaic Adaptations
David W. Zeanah (California State University, Sacramento), Brian F. Codding (University of Utah), Amber Johnson (Truman State University), Robert G. Elston (University of Nevada, Reno), and D. Craig Young (Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.)
Occupants of the Great Basin 13-8 kya cannot be understood by direct analogy with ethnographic Great Basin foragers because they lived in climatic circumstances and at population densities utterly unlike those of recent times. Archaeological evidence suggests that hunter-gatherers were highly mobile with hunting oriented lithic technology lacking milling equipment, but acquired a broad spectrum of faunal prey and tended to camp near wetland environments. Here we develop expectations about the range of hunter-gatherer adaptations feasible under climatic scenarios for the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition as inferred from paleoenvironmental proxies. Using the marginal value theorem and theoretical expectations of sexual division of labor, we evaluate the range of subsistence and mobility evident in Binford’s ethnographic database under similar environmental parameters. This serves as a framework for casting specific expectations for Grass Valley, Nevada in context of broader Pre-archaic subsistence-settlement in the western and central Great Basin.

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
Native Stoneworking Across Northern Nevada
Kaely Colligan, William Bloomer, and William Hildebrandt
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. 
William R. Hildebrandt
Colonization of Northern Nevada
William R. Hildebrandt
The Ruby Pipeline corridor passes through four major habitat zones. Maximum resource productivity occurs in the west, and declines when moving in an easterly direction. Consistent with the expectations of Ideal Free Distribution modeling, the most productive zones were occupied first, followed by the infilling of the others over time. This sequence of settlement remained in place until about 500 years ago when long term habitat rankings were up ended, and the lower ranked eastern zones saw higher population densities than the western areas for the first time in prehistory. This radical change is linked to the more intensive use of small seeded plants with new technological systems brought to the area by the Western Shoshone. 
Jerome King
Long-Distance Obsidian Conveyance in Late Prehistoric Northern Nevada
Jerome King
The huge database of geochemically sourced obsidian artifacts from the Ruby Pipeline provides a unique perspective on changing patterns of prehistoric obsidian procurement and conveyance in the northern Great Basin. One of the most striking trends is an increase in obsidian source diversity in the Late Prehistoric period, driven by increased representation of distant obsidian sources. Average transport distances, as quantified both by diagnostic projectile points and by samples of debitage from dated site components, are by far the highest in the Late Prehistoric period. Local sources still dominate obsidian source profiles, as they do in earlier periods, but the increase in the representation of far-distant sources is dramatic. The apparent timing of this shift, as well as the very long distances involved, suggest that obsidian may sometimes have been transported by Native traders on horseback.
Kelly McGuire and Nathan Stevens
The Archaeological Correlates and Evolution of Geophyte Procurement in the Northwestern Great Basin
Kelly McGuire and Nathan Stevens
The economic importance of geophytes along the northwestern rim of the Great Basin is such that the entire region has been broadly categorized as the “root complex” by Catherine Fowler. However, the archaeological manifestations of geophyte gathering, processing, storage, and consumption are not well understood. Here, we review assemblages recovered from prime geophyte habitat in the Barrel Springs area in an effort to correlate certain tool types with productive geophyte zones, and to establish a settlement context of geophyte use. Particular attention is given to formed and simple flake tools and their role in the manufacture and maintenance of digging sticks, a central element of the geophyte harvest. We then discuss the energetic returns associated with geophyte procurement and its role in foraging systems through time in this region. 
Allika Ruby and Jerome King
Landscape Analysis of Pronghorn Trap Features in Eastern Nevada
Allika Ruby and Jerome King
A Landscape Analysis of Pronghorn Trap Features in Eastern Eastern Nevada contains the remains of many large wooden enclosures that were thought to have been used by prehistoric hunting groups to capture pronghorn. These enclosures, or corrals, display highly similar characteristics which reflect their builders’ sophisticated understanding of pronghorn behavior. Researchers from Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc., conducted a detailed analysis of the construction techniques used to build four such enclosures along the Ruby Pipeline corridor near Montello. Our study indicates that the builders intentionally integrated features of the landscape into the corrals that likely increased their effectiveness. Our presentation highlights the characteristics shared by the four prehistoric corrals as well as a nearby historic-period corral, compares them to other documented pronghorn corrals in the region, and offers a predictive model for locating additional corrals. 
Andrew Ugan and Laura Harold
Large-Scale Perspectives on Subsistence Stability Across the Northern Great Basin
Andrew Ugan and Laura Harold
Substantial attention is paid to prehistoric big game use in the western U.S., especially as it relates to changes in climate, hunting pressure, or the social contexts of foraging. However, many such studies are tightly focused, sometimes site-specific affairs. Here we take a broad look at big game use by summarizing faunal assemblages from 153 sites across the northern Great Basin. We show that while there is huge variation in site-specific reliance on big game within time periods and an increase in the frequency of large animals between the Paleoarchaic and later periods, the overall array or resources taken is generally broad and there is little difference in mean reliance on big game from the Early Archaic onwards. These data suggest broad stability in hunting patterns, and we discuss the reasons for the observed pattern, its generality, and its implications. 
D. Craig Young
The Eco-Regions and Geomorphic Setting of the Ruby Pipeline Project in Nevada’s Northern Tier
D. Craig Young
The varied landforms of Nevada’s Northern Tier provide context for understanding the archaeological patterning that forms the basis for interpreting the human past in the vicinity of the Ruby Pipeline Project – research presented in this poster session. Eco-regions defined by modern floral communities and geologic units are the starting point, and these are viewed through a lens of late Pleistocene to Holocene landscape evolution. Geomorphological investigation of local landforms and regional geomorphic process included documentation of 25 alluvial profiles at 15 study locations in eleven hydrologic basins. These localities inform a model of changing conditions in alluvial systems across the Northern Tier.  

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.

 

 

 

Published: Prehistory of Nevada’s Northern Tier
American Museum of Natural History Anthropological Papers
Number 101

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Far Western is proud to present the publication of

Prehistory of Nevada’s Northern Tier: Archaeological Investigations along the Ruby Pipeline

By WILLIAM R. HILDEBRANDT,
KELLY R. MCGUIRE, JEROME KING, ALLIKA RUBY, and D. CRAIG YOUNG


With Contributions by David Rhode, Jeffrey Rosenthal, Pat Barker, Kaely Colligan, William Bloomer, Albert Garner, Nathan Stevens, Andrew Ugan, Kimberley Carpenter, Laura Brink, Sharon Waechter, Richard Hughes, Tom Origer, Sharlyn Street, and Wendy Pierce.

The 101st edition of the Anthropological Papers of 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. Noteworthy scholars that have contributed to the series include Franz Boas (often considered the father of American anthropology), Robert Lowie, Alfred Kroeber, Pliny Earle Goddard, Clark Wissler, Margaret Mead, David Hurst Thomas, and Robert Bettinger.

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. It is now available online.

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.

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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:
http://shop.amnh.org/a701/ap101-2016-prehistory-of-nevada-s-northern-tier.html

or via standard mail from:
American Museum of Natural History—Scientific Publications
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New York, NY 10024

Abstract
Prehistory in Nevada's Northern Tier: Archaeological Investigations along the Ruby Pipeline
The Ruby Pipeline originates in Opal, Wyoming, travels westward across Utah and Nevada, and terminates in Malin, Oregon. Almost 360 miles of the line is in Nevada, where it crosses through some of the most remote, sparsely populated land in the lower 48 states. Despite the remote nature of this corridor, it has produced a rich archaeological record reflecting a dynamic history of land-use pattern changes over a period of at least 13,000 years. Archaeological excavations were conducted at 578 prehistoric sites prior to construction of the pipeline. The sites were distributed across four ecological regions, including (from west to east): the High Rock Country, Upper Lahontan Basin, Upper Humboldt Plains, and Thousand Springs Valley. First evidence of human occupation dates to the Paleoindian (14,500-12,800 cal b.p.) and Paleoarchaic (12,800-7800 cal b.p.) periods, when people spent most of their time in the High Rock Country where important economic resources reached their highest densities. Paleoindian findings are limited to a series of Great Basin Concave Base projectile points and small obsidian flaked stone concentrations. Paleoarchaic sites are much more common, and tend to be represented by Great Basin Stemmed projectile points, bifaces, and a limited number of other flaked stone tools. Most of these assemblages reflect small groups of hunters refurbishing their tool kits as they traveled through the area. An important exception to this pattern was found at Five Mile Flat along the west end of pluvial Lake Parman where two significant habitation sites dating to 11,180 cal b.p. were discovered. One of these sites includes a house floor, which is the oldest ever found in the Great Basin. Despite the warm-dry conditions that characterized much of the middle Holocene, it appears that human populations nearly doubled during the Post-Mazama Period (7800-5700 cal b.p.). Most activity remained concentrated in the High Rock Country, but evidence for occupation begins to trickle out into the Upper Lahontan Basin and Upper Humboldt Plains regions as well. Most of the artifact assemblages remain rather narrow, often composed of Northern Side-notched and Humboldt Concave Base points, bifaces, and debitage, and reflect use of the region by mobile groups of hunters. Major changes took place with the arrival of the Early Archaic (5700-3800 cal b.p.) and continued forward into the Middle Archaic Period (3800-1300 cal b.p.). Early Archaic projectile points are largely represented by Humboldt and Gatecliff forms. It appears that population densities increased almost fourfold from the preceding interval, and all four regions experienced significant occupation for the first time. Simultaneous to this population increase and dispersal, a full complement of site types began to emerge, with large-scale residential areas becoming significant for the first time. This trend continued forward into the Middle Archaic Period where the relative frequency of residential sites almost doubled compared with the Early Archaic interval. Plant macrofossil and archaeofaunal assemblages also become more abundant and diversified at this time, probably marking a broadening of the diet breadth. This general trajectory extends into the Late Archaic (1300-600 cal b.p.) and Terminal Prehistoric periods, as people continued to expand into a wider range of habitats. This was particularly case for the latter interval, as the habitat preferences that made sense for over 12,000 years were upended, with population densities highest in the Upper Humboldt Plains and Thousand Springs Valley. This reorientation corresponds to the arrival of Numic speaking populations, especially the Western Shoshone who appear to have reached northern Nevada much earlier than the Northern Paiute, and is probably linked to a greater emphasis on small-seeded plants that are abundantly present in their territory. Although low ranked compared to many other foods, with the proper technology and work organization, small seeds could support higher population densities than was the case earlier in time. Finally, the discovery of obsidian in multiple Terminal Prehistoric sites from sources located much further away than any other time in the past may signal the earliest use of horses in northern Nevada.
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Science Magazine Consults Far Western

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Science magazine (sciencemag.org) consulted our Principal Investigator, Brian F. Byrd, PhD, for the special issue “Urban Planet.” Greg Miller, in his article Roots of the Urban Mind, spoke with Byrd about Dunbar’s view that living in groups larger than 150 or so exceeded the number of significant social relationships an individual can maintain, and caused psychological stresses that needed to be overcome. Byrd found support for Dunbar’s perspective in his studies of the transition to settled village life in the Near East and California. For example, Byrd’s work at early Neolithic Beidha in Jordan revealed the shift to larger agricultural communities involved architectural changes that created private household space separate from public and communal space. These insights support Miller’s view that early social innovations laid the foundation for modern urban cities and highlight Far Western’s contributions to anthropology in Science.

FullSizeRender300“Dividing the space like this would have helped limit and formalize social interactions,” Byrd says. “Dunbar’s ideas on psychosocial stresses dovetail nicely…”

Check out the full article in Science 352(6288):908—911, and see more of Byrd’s research by connecting with him on ResearchGate.com.

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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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Successful Defense for Microbotanical Starch Grain Analysis

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Far Western’s Justin Wisely, one of our staff archaeologists, has successfully defended his Master’s thesis on microbotanical starch grain analysis of bedrock mortars, prehistoric features found throughout California.

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Wisely extracts starch grain residue samples from a bedrock mortar.

Starch grain analysis is a growing field in California archaeology, as a supplement to archaeobotanical research, which helps reconstruct past lifeways. Wisely’s research efforts concentrated on extracting starch grain residues from bedrock mortar features found in the Sierra Nevada, within the tribal area of the Mi-Wuk and Washoe Native Americans, along the State Highway 4 and the Mokelumne River watershed. Using a non-destructive field process with distilled water and a sonic cleansing technique, Wisely extracted samples to analyze in the lab under a microscope.  Identification was made based on an ethnographically informed reference collection.

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Quercus starch grain viewed with cross-polarized light under a microscope.

Contrary to common assumptions that the features were used broadly to process acorn, Justin’s research indicates that the bedrock mortars examined in the Mokelumne River watershed study area were used for processing small grass seeds. Acorn residues were less prevalent than expected.

Congratulations to Justin on his Master’s thesis entitled “Starch Grain Analysis of Bedrock Mortars in the Sierra Nevada Mountains: Experimental Studies to Determine their Function” presented to California State University, Chico!

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Laura B. Harold in American Antiquity

“When archaeologists find isolated crania or headless burials in situ…two potential behaviors are typically considered…trophy-taking and ancestor worship…(t)he former implicates violent scenarios…the latter has a non-violent interpretation, suggesting emotional attachments to deceased individuals from the community [Eerkens et al. 2016].

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Laura Brink Harold, M.A., in the Stable Isotope Analysis Lab

Our Lab Director, Laura Brink Harold, M.A., and her co-authors argue the latter for Early-period societies in Central California in the January 2016 edition of American Antiquity in the article “Trophy Heads or Ancestor Veneration? A Stable Isotope Perspective on Disassociated and Modified Crania in Precontact Central California” citing contextual site information, stable isotope analyses, and research of regional sites.

Following discussions with the Most Likely Descendant, co-author Ramona Garibay, the team employed stable isotope analyses to determine if isolated crania associated with site CA-CCO-548 derived from local residents or non-local individuals. Samples of bone, tooth, and calculus from approximately 200 individuals began the process of reconstructing life histories for those interred at the site. Comparable isotopic results from isolated crania and headless burials support the hypothesis of ancestor veneration.

Read the abstract below or visit American Antiquity or ResearchGate.net for the full article.

Abstract: Few items in the archaeological record capture the imagination more than human heads separated from their bodies. Such items are sometimes assumed to indicate warfare practices, where “trophy heads” display power and fighting prowess. Other times, they are interpreted as representing ancestor veneration. Isolated crania are not uncommon in the Early period (ca. 4500–2500 B.P.) in Central California. Some anthropologists interpret them as trophy heads, but isotopic analyses at CA-CCO-548 suggest an alternative interpretation. Strontium isotope analyses on one modified cranium produced values consistent with local individuals, and both headless burials and people buried with extra skulls overlap in carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Further, teeth from two individuals who were buried with extra skulls suggest both were weaned at early ages (before age 2), much earlier than other individuals at the site. Together with contextual information, we argue that the isotopic data are more consistent with the hypothesis that extra skulls and headless burials represent ancestor veneration rather than trophies, shedding new light on Early-period societies in Central California.

Eerkens, Jelmer W., Eric J. Bartelink, Laura Brink, Richard T. Fitzgerald, Ramona Garibay, Gina A. Jorgenson, and Randy S. Wiberg

2016

Trophy Heads or Ancestor Veneration? A Stable Isotope Perspective on Disassociated and Modified Crania in Pre-Contact Central California. American Antiquity 81(1):114-131.

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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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Far Western’s Byerly and Roberson in North American Archaeologist

Image2Bison 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.

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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.

Read the full article in North American Archaeologist 36(4):266–288.
or on ResearchGate.net.

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