Cultural Resources Monitoring
Far Western provides two types of monitoring—construction and site assessment. Construction monitoring consists of an archaeologist—often together with a Native American representative—observing the construction phase of a project to ensure that cultural resources are not inadvertently damaged or destroyed. We have monitored everything from small local building projects to major power and gas line installations, usually in consultation with Native tribes and government agencies. Some of our clients have included Kinder Morgan, Nevada Energy, Liberty Utilities, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service. Big or small, these projects can have tight schedules, and Far Western works closely with construction personnel to keep things on track.
For site assessment monitoring, our archaeologists visit known cultural sites, often over a period of several years, to assess their physical condition and document any new or ongoing impacts that need to be addressed. Such monitoring is often a requirement for federal permits or funding. As an example, we have been hired by Pacific Gas & Electric Company to conduct multi-year monitoring for three different hydroelectric projects in support of their relicensing efforts.
Public Outreach and Interpretation
One of our particular talents is the design and production of broadcast-quality films, interpretive signs, brochures, training manuals, and other educational and outreach products. These often serve as mitigation for projects where adverse effects to significant archaeological or historical resources are unavoidable. Our highly skilled team will research and write content; supply original paintings, illustrations, photographs, and maps; and track down archival images, to make our educational and outreach products truly compelling.
To learn more, visit some of our key public outreach projects below:
VIDEO: Gold, Water and Power, PG&E on the Stanislaus River
In the Time when Animals were People is a collection of traditional Yokut and Western Mono stories gathered by anthropologists from tribal Elders who could still remember the old times. Those times are gone, but the people and the stories remain.
Creating Vya: The Dream of Dry Farming in Long Valley, Nevada describes the rise and fall of the community of Vya with additional information on Northern Paiute lifeways, early explorers, cattle ranching, and the failed Long Valley Water Project. The book includes numerous photographs by John L. Henry.
The book Life on the River – The Archaeology of an Early Native American Culture explains archaeological techniques and discoveries at a Shasta County site, located on the Upper Sacramento River. It documents Wintu lifeways just before and during the arrival of Europeans into the area.
The Long Road Traveled is a public-oriented document about the Cuyama Valley. The full digital document is available in online-magazine form here. See the 3D Visualization Gallery here.
People of the Tules: Archaeology and Prehistory of California’s Great Central Valley presents information about excavations that revealed evidence of environmental and cultural changes. An audio version is available for the visually impaired.
Written on the Land: 10,000 Years of Human History along Marsh Creek. For thousands of years before the Spanish, the Mexicans, or the Americans entered the East Bay/Delta region of California, Native people lived in this beautiful place.
Mountain Harvest: The Use of Pinyon Nuts by the Paiute and Their Ancestors Near Sherwin Summit, California.
Stealing the Sun presents an overview of the prehistory of the central Sierra Nevada foothills by combining archaeology and traditional Me-Wuk stories.
Looking for Pieces of the Puzzle is a seven-minute video of archaeologists at work along State Route 49, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of western Tuolumne County, California.
Step Back in Time! Archaeology and Prehistory in Sierra Valley highlights work with the Washoe tribe to preserve one of the most important archaeological sites ever found in northern California.
Many Cultures, One Land, covers the prehistory and historical events that forever changed the lives of the Native peoples in the area.
View spectacular rock art found at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.
Understanding archaeological sites and their settings
Our outstanding team of geoarchaeologists plays an integral role in nearly every one of our projects. They have been honored for their innovative studies by the Society for California Archaeology and the California Preservation Foundation.
Regulatory agencies and researchers need to identify buried archaeological sites, or the potential for such sites, early in the environmental compliance process to prevent costly construction delays. Geological work can also be applied to regional sensitivity studies for buried sites, paleoenvironment, site structure and formation, and assessments of integrity.
What we have accomplished:
- Regional geoarchaeological overviews examine the effects of landform evolution on the visibility of the archaeological record to establish the potential for buried sites. We have mapped about 40% of California, and we’re still mapping!
- We conduct project-specific, three-dimensional buried site sensitivity assessments by reviewing relevant geologic, soil, geotechnical, and archaeological data to establish a range for buried sites potential (from none to very high).
- We frequently document site structure to assess site integrity and to identify undisturbed or intact archaeological deposits to be targeted by excavation crews.
- We can provide a comprehensive site history through identification of both natural and cultural site formation processes.
- We conduct paleoenvironmental research which has contributed to a growing body of knowledge of climate change and landscape evolution during human occupation.
How we search for and manage buried sites:
- Within highly sensitive areas, we conduct subsurface geoarchaeological investigations in advance of ground-disturbing activities.
- In most situations, backhoe trenching is the most effective way to identify sites.
- In situations where backhoe trenching is not possible (e.g., in urban areas), or the site depth exceeds the range of mechanical excavation, we conduct hydraulic continuous core sampling to identify sites.
- If a site is identified prior to construction and cannot be avoided, it can be mitigated without impacting critical-path schedules.
Pre-project planning leads to project success
Giving planners an edge in designing efficient, cost-effective projects, Sensitivity & Constraints studies can be crucial in the early stages of project planning. We use information about known resources in the project vicinity, combined with predictive models based on environmental variables and historical data, to assess or identify project alternatives and their potential to encounter archaeological resources. Far Western relies on a critical team of geoarchaeologists and GIS-based cartographers to develop models suitable in a wide variety of settings. Although not a regulatory requirement, these studies can often identify alternative routes to project success.
Creative solutions—from data recovery to public outreach
If adverse effects to significant cultural resources cannot be avoided through project design or other means, they must be mitigated in some way. Typically, in consultation with the permitting agency, there are many options including, but not limited to, data recovery through archaeological excavation, development of public interpretation or education programs, or allowing mechanisms for access to traditional resources or values. At Far Western, we pride ourselves on our creative approaches to mitigation. We have carried out literally hundreds of data recovery excavations and developed dozens of interpretive programs, including trail-side exhibits, educational curricula, children’s books, interpretive guides, and more.
Assessing the significance of prehistoric, historic, and traditional cultural resources
Not every archaeological site is significant—only those with special cultural, scientific, and/or educational values. Significant sites can represent important events or people, provide examples of great artistic or engineering works, or add to our understanding of life in the past. They also retain good physical integrity and have not been heavily damaged or destroyed. Evaluation of significance involves careful documentation, dating, consideration of research potential, and often consultation with Native Americans and other interested parties. Historic-era sites may also require special archival research. Far Western’s permanent staff includes some of the most respected and experienced researchers in the field, which means that our evaluation recommendations are readily accepted by reviewing agencies.
Cultural Resources Identification and Documentation
Typically the initial step in complying with federal and state regulations regarding cultural resources, Inventory identifies and documents cultural resources (i.e., sites) within a project area. This begins with agency consultation to determine the specific needs and expected project coverage. Records and literature reviews highlight previous cultural resources investigations and sites prior to any necessary field studies. Far Western provides technical expertise to identify and accurately document the wide variety of prehistoric- and historic-era cultural resources that occur throughout western North America. Thorough inventory allows project planning to move forward in a timely manner, avoiding project pitfalls and resulting in regulatory success.