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.


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

2017 SCA Program

Click image to view entire program

March 9th – 12th 2017: Braving an impending storm – fortunately, a forecast that wasn’t – over 800 archaeologists attended the 51st Annual Society of California Archaeology Meetings in Fish Camp, California, just outside Yosemite National Park on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

Organized by Far Western’s Dr. Adie Whitaker (Program Chair), the overarching theme of “Sharing the Past” was vibrant throughout the venue and symposia. Friday morning’s Plenary Session included a stellar line up of speakers sharing highlights of recent research in the foothills and mountains of the central and north-central Sierra. The Plenary Session officially opened the 2017 meetings as Dr. Eric Wohlgemuth of Far Western discussed the challenges of archaeological field methods in California’s conifer forests. Eric spoke alongside Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, Carly S. Whelan, Kathleen L. Hull, Reba Fuller, Brian Codding, Ron W. Goode, and Mary L. Maniery.

The meeting then dispersed into a buzz of presentations, posters, forums, and roundtable discussions. Far Western contributors and participants provided strong presence throughout the weekend.

As the meetings closed on Sunday, Far Western past-President Bill Hildebrandt took on a new presidential role, joining the SCA Board as Incoming President. Bill begins his service this year as a member of the seven-person board and will serve as President of the SCA from 2018-2019.

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

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

Organized Paper Symposium

Organizer: Kaely R. Colligan

Organized Poster Symposium

Organizer: Allika Ruby


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


Angela Arpaia and Eric Wohlgemuth


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

“Most Inspirational” Film AND Telly Award

TACThe Archaeology Channel film jury voted Far Western’s “Breaking New Ground: Native Americans in Archaeology the winner of the “Most Inspirational” award at the TAC International Video and Film Festival held in Eugene, Oregon.





Also, our new Silver Telly Award for the film arrived this month!

Designed by the same firm that makes the Oscar® and Emmy®, the statuette is nearly 12 inches tall and weighs more than 4 1/2 pounds. Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding videos and films.

The films are judged by a panel of over 650 industry professionals, each a past winner. Fewer than 10% of the nearly 12,000 entries, from all 50 states and numerous countries, were chosen as Winners of a Silver Telly, the highest honor.

Thank you to the Native Americans who shared their experiences and stories for this film,
including Two Bears, to whom the film is dedicated.


Congratulations to all who worked on the film
and to Cinnabar Video!


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Now Available Online! “Life on the River” by Hildebrandt and Darcangelo

Life on the River Cover

Instructors often request Life on the River – The Archaeology of an Early Native American Culture for use in their classrooms only to find out that it is now out of print.

With permission from Heyday Books, Life on the River, by Far Western authors William Hildebrandt and Michael Darcangelo, is now available online for instructors, students, and others curious about Sacramento Valley archaeology.

Life on the River

Part of the Crew for the Shasta County
2005 Field Season.

The book describes archaeological techniques and discoveries found at a Shasta County site, located on the Upper Sacramento River. It details Wintu lifeways just before and during the arrival of Europeans.

Click HERE to open the PDF!

You can also find the book under our Public Outreach and Interpretation page, along with other Far Western outreach projects, PDFs, and videos.

Read the first page…


Chapter I: Introduction

During the summer of 2005, thirty-six acres along the Sacramento River were subdivided into six residential lots. The land lies in Shasta County, about six miles south of Redding, California, within the original homeland of the Wintu Indians. One of the prime lots contained an archaeological site officially registered as CA-SHA-1043 and subsequently given the Wintu name “Kum Bay Xerel” (Shady Oak Village; Figure 1). After several failed attempts to develop construction plans that could avoid the site, the landowner decided that the project should move forward, but only after an archaeological excavation. The excavations were carried out by the authors of this publication and other members of the Far Western Anthropological Research Group, with help from several Wintu tribal members and professional volunteers from throughout northern California…read more!

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San Francisco SAA 80th Meeting Successes

Far Western at SAA Meeting

Laura Brink and Stephanie Bennett at the Far Western table for the 80th Annual SAA Meeting.

The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) met in San Francisco for their 80th Annual Meeting – their largest meeting yet! The SAA is an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage for the Americas. This year, Far Western was well-represented with many successful presentations, including the opening session, and poster sessions. Learn more about the Society for American Archaeology HERE.

Use the buttons below to see abstracts from Far Western presentations and collaborations!

Angela Arpaia
Plant Remains Assemblage in Santa Clara Valley
Laura Brink
Reconstructing Mobility in the San Francisco Bay Area: Strontium and Oxygen Isotope Analysis at Two California Late Period Sites, CA-CCO-297 and CA-SCL-919
Ryan Byerly
Geochemical and Physical Characterization of Lithic Raw Materials in the Olduvai Basin, Tanzania
Brian Byrd
The Neolithic Houses of California – An Ethnohistoric Comparative Perspective on Household and Community Organization among Complex Hunter-Gatherers
Brian Byrd
Wadi Madamagh, Western Highlands of Jordan: Lithic Evidence from the Late Upper Paleolithic and Early Epipaleolithic Occupations
Daron Duke
Haskett Spear Points and the Plausibility of Megafaunal Hunting in the Great Basin
Tod Hildebrandt
Divergent Histories: Prehistoric Use of Alpine Habitats in the Toquima and Toiyabe Ranges, Central Great Basin
William Hildebrandt and Kelly McGuire
Middle Archaic Expansion into High Elevation Habitats: A View from the Southwestern Great Basin
Philip Kiajankoski, Jack Meyer, and Paul Brandy
A Land Transformed: Holocene Sea-Level Rise, Landscape Evolution, and Human Occupation in the San Francisco Bay Area
Lucas Martindale Johnson
Preliminary Interpretations of the Reduction Technology and Distribution of Obsidian Cores at Caracol, Belize: Learning to Reconsider Maya “Eccentrics” and Social Relations of Ritual Objects
Jack Meyer
Holocene Transformation of San Francisco Bay and Transbay Man Site Stratigraphy
Michelle Rich
From A Forest of Kings to the Forests of Peten: The Mirador Group at El Perú-Waka'
Nathan Stevens and Jeffrey Rosenthal
Geology, Historical Contingency, and Ecological Inheritance in California's Southern Sierra Nevada
Adrian Whitaker and Brian Byrd
An Ideal Free Settlement Perspective on Residential Positioning in the San Francisco Bay Area
Eric Wohlgemuth
Environmental Constraints and Plant Food Intensification in the Sacramento Valley
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Film and Booklet Released

We have just completed two outreach efforts as part of our Ruby Pipeline project—a 32-minute film about Native American participation in archaeological projects, entitled Breaking New Ground: Native Americans in Archaeology; and a full-color, 35-page booklet about the short-lived Nevada town of Vya, entitled Creating Vya: The Dream of Dry Farming in Long Valley, Nevada. To date, the film has been sent to more than 250 native tribes and as many agency archaeologists. The booklet is available through the Bureau of Land Management Surprise Valley Field Office, Black Rock Field Office, and the Black Rock Visitor Station in Gerlach, Nevada.

A Film by Phil Gross. Produced by Kelly McGuire.

Northern Nevada is a landscape of extremes, from parched playas baking in the summer sun to snow-mantled peaks wrapped in winter’s deep freeze. Through this landscape a new gas pipeline would be built, but before construction could begin, archaeological studies would have to be completed along the entire route. Far Western Anthropological Research Group hired members of the region’s Paiute and Shoshone tribal communities and trained them as archaeologists to assist in the mapping, recording, and excavating of archaeological sites located on their ancestral lands. For many, working as archaeologists was a life-changing event. Their understanding of their history grew; their attitudes toward archaeology changed; and they experienced moments of profound spirituality. This is their story.

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William R. Hildebrandt, PhD

William Hildebrandt, Far Western Anthropological Group
Bill Hildebrandt
Email Bill

Dr. Hildebrandt’s archaeological research focuses on hunter-gatherer adaptations in California, Oregon, and the Great Basin. Bill is also a leader in the field of cultural resources management, and he has helped many government agencies preserve and better understand important archaeological sites under their management. His research is published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and he has authored numerous monographs and book chapters published by the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Los Angeles, University of Utah, and the Nevada State Museum. He is currently working on the evolution of prehistoric hunting patterns in California and the Great Basin, applying modern approaches of human behavioral ecology to this research effort.

Evaluation and Testing
Effects Mitigation
Sensivity and Constraints
Environmental Planning Support
GIS and Cartography
Public Outreach and Interpretation

Bill’s Featured Projects

Bill’s Featured Publications

Jones T.L., D.A. Jones, K.W. Gobalet, J.F. Porcasi, and W.R. Hildebrandt


The Morro Bay Fauna: Evidence for a Medieval Droughts Refugium on the Central California Coast. American Antiquity 82 (2):203-222.

Hildebrandt, William R., and Kelly R. McGuire


Large Game Hunting in the American West: A comment on Fisher’s (2015) Reassessment of the Ascendance of Hunting Debate. American Antiquity 81 (4):764-765.

Hildebrandt, W., K. McGuire, J. King, A. Ruby, and D.C. Young


Prehistory of Nevada’s Northern Tier: Archaeological Investigations along the Ruby Pipeline. American Museum of Natural History Anthropological Papers, Number 101.

Bill’s Outreach Activities

  • Founding Member, Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.
  • Editor of the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 2013-2017
  • President, Society for California Archaeology 2018-2019
  • Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis
  • Research Associate, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History.


Cultural Resources Services

Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc. | Cultural Resources Management Services | Archaeology

Since 1979, Far Western has worked in partnership with private industry, government agencies, tribal organizations, and non-profit groups, to achieve the broader goals of the environmental review and compliance process. Today, we are recognized as one of the leading cultural resources consulting firms in the United States.
Main Office
(530) 756-3941
Desert Branch
(702) 982-3691
Great Basin Branch
(775) 847-0223

Far Western is a Federally Recognized Small Business 
and a Certified California Small Business

Cultural Resources Inventory
GIS and Cartography
Cultural Resources Evaluation and Testing
Cultural Resource Monitoring
Environmental Planning Support
Outreach and Interpretation