Brian Byrd, Andrew N. Garrard, and Paul Brandy recently published their article “Modeling Foraging Ranges and Spatial Organization of Late Pleistocene Hunter-gatherers in the Southern Levant—A Least-cost GIS Approach” in Quaternary International.
Cores upon cores fill the shelves of the Far Western Geoarchaeology Lab in Davis. These long tubes of “dirt” tell us a lot about prehistoric landscape evolution, and thus can help determine whether or not a location might have potential for archaeological findings. In most situations, backhoe trenching is the most effective way to identify sites. When backhoe trenching is not possible, in urban areas for example, or when the potential depth for a site exceeds the range of mechanical excavation, we conduct hydraulic continuous-core sampling to identify sites.
When archaeologists dig through the layers of earth carefully, the different soils and buried surfaces can be visually seen. Cores do the same thing, like inserting a straw into a layer cake, sometimes reaching 65 feet below surface. Each four-foot section of the core is pulled up in two-inch-diameter plastic liners, brought to the lab, sliced down the center, and splayed open to reveal the stratigraphic layers.
Dating the layers can be done in a couple of ways. Most often, radiocarbon dating is used to get close estimates of how old plant, bone, or shell is in a certain layer, or when now buried surfaces were exposed at the surface. Other times, however, there is not enough organic matter to be sampled. In those cases, Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating can be used. OSL samples must be removed from their original location in complete darkness, and kept in the dark until tested to provide accurate dates. The dates for each layer let geoarchaeologists map similar types of strata throughout a particular location. This helps archaeologists figure out where sites might be buried.
Once buried land surfaces are identified in the cores, they can be sampled to not only determine their age and whether they contain archaeological materials, but also tested to see what types of small seeds, pollen, or other diagnostic material. This can be used to reconstruct the type of landscape that was present when that layer was at or near the surface.
Currently, Far Western Geoarchaeologists are using cores to map the potential for intact buried land surfaces below the historic-era extent of the San Francisco Bay. As ocean levels have risen, they have covered up landforms where people once lived. Recent findings indicate that we may be able to quite accurately map where some people lived for long periods of time, and perhaps returned over and over again generations later.
For interested archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike, we suggest reading: Waters, Michael R.,1992, Principles of Geoarchaeology: A North American Perspective. The University of Arizona Press.
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.
Flip through the interactive booklet below, or view this booklet and others on our Public Outreach Projects page!
By Erich Obermayr Historic Insight with Sharon A. Waechter Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.
The 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!
Congratulations to Nathan Stevens on his appointment to the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Sacramento, as assistant professor!
Nathan will be teaching classes and mentoring grad students, as well as helping to run the Archaeological Research Center. We look forward to working with Nathan in his new position. We wish him the best of luck, and while we’re sad to see him go, we know he’ll be helping to bring better archaeologists into the field!
Far Western’s Ruth Zipfel, one of our GIS specialists, successfully defended her Master’s thesis on waterway-to-rail and rail-to-roadway transportation, entitled “Network Accessibility and Population Change: Historical Analysis of Transportation in Tennessee, 1830–2010.”
She used GIS and statistical linear regression models to analyze factors contributing to population changes spanning 180 years. She focused primarily on transport networks, and she also included additional potential contributing variables, such as population share and mean geodesic distances to large cities.
Congratulations, Ruth, on graduating with your
Master’s of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology from USC!
Thursday, July 2, 2015, 7:00 PM
Davis Veterans Memorial Theatre Club Room
203 E. 14th Street
CreekSpeak is Putah Creek Council’s six-month series of community talks about the nature, culture, and history of the Davis region.
Press release from the Putah Creek Council:
Have you ever wondered who used to live along Putah Creek? Humans have lived along the shores of Putah Creek and other tributaries of the Sacramento River for thousands of years and the physical remains of their activities are preserved in a rich archaeological record. Join us as we learn about the earliest human settlers around Putah Creek, the resources they relied on, and what the archaeological record can tell us about the past ecology of the creek and watershed. We will also explore the need and process of preserving archaeological resources as part of our shared cultural heritage.
Adie Whitaker is a California Archaeologist who has worked throughout the state. He received his PhD from UC Davis in 2008 and has worked since that time at Far Western, an archaeological consulting firm in Davis. He has published research focused on the ecological interactions between prehistoric humans and their environments in California. In his former career as a camp counselor he worked at Camp Putah in Davis, where he was known as “Monkey.”
CreekSpeak talks are free to Putah Creek Council members and open to the public. A $5 donation is requested from those who have not yet joined the Council.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the California Division of Highways carried out three highway realignment projects in Cuyama Valley, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Salvage archaeological work was conducted at seven sites, but the resulting extensive collections were never formally catalogued or documented.
Some 40 years later, the California Department of Transportation awarded Far Western a Transportation Enhancement grant to analyze and document the Cuyama Valley archaeological collections. The result is entitled Cuyama Valley – A Corridor to the Past.
The Cuyama Valley story is also presented in a booklet for the public called The Long Road Traveled by Patricia Mikkelsen, Paula Juelke Carr, Shelly Tiley, Julia Costello, Nathan Stevens, and John R. Johnson. Read it HERE!
We created a 3D gallery as part of the digital booklet. Spin and view the 3D Visualization Gallery HERE!
This publication honors Dr. Valerie Levulett, who initiated the Cuyama Valley project.
She was instrumental in ensuring that the gathered information be made available to researchers and the public alike.
Far Western also designed and fabricated two sets of portable exhibits and a set of four bookmarks to be used by members of the Chumash Indian community.
This project was a collaborative partnership among the Native American community, the District 5 Central Coast Specialist Branch of the California Department of Transportation, Far Western, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Foothill Resources, and Tiley Research, among others. We thank the many individuals who contributed their talents to this project, and particularly want to recognize the Native Americans with ties to Cuyama Valley who generously shared their time and stories with us.
We also wish to acknowledge the generous support of the California Transportation Commission, who made it possible to complete the proper processing and curation of the Cuyama archaeological collection. This study has opened up new and important vistas on the prehistory and early history of the Cuyama Valley corridor.
Far Western recently completed work on the Truckee River Legacy Trail in Nevada County, California. This long-term contract included site evaluations, data recovery, public interpretation, and a series of reports and treatment plans for the California Department of Transportation, the Tahoe National Forest, and the Town of Truckee, California. Dr. Susan Lindström, Zeier & Associates, and Penny Rucks Ethnographic Services worked with Far Western on various aspects of the project.
Sharon A. Waechter and Tammara Ekness-Norton designed 15 trail-side panels, as well as a trail map and brochure.
The Truckee River Legacy Trail has been chosen as one of the three finalists in the Bicycle/Pedestrian Trail category for a Transportation Award from the California Transportation Foundation (CTF). Anne Mayer, Chairperson of the CTF Awards Committee, noted that the finalists “represent the best of the projects, programs, and people who made a positive difference for California transportation in 2014.” The winner will be announced at a luncheon on May 21, 2015.
For more information on the Truckee River Legacy Trail see our featured project page HERE!
See all Finalists for the California Transportation Foundation Awards HERE!
Mike Lenzi gave a knock-out presentation on the function of crescents. It described the results of employing experimental archaeology to compare crescents to technological alternatives (flakes and Western Stemmed Tradition points) for a variety of tasks. The presentation also related the use-wear breakage to patterns displayed by archaeological specimens. His conclusions: the primary function of crescents was likely hafted projectiles for procuring waterfowl and small game at the margins of Pluvial lakes and near wetlands.