Search Results for: eric

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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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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Albert Garner, BS

Albert Garner
Albert Garner

Albert is a Senior Archaeologist working out of Far Western’s Great Basin Branch. He attended Utah State University and graduated with a BS in Anthropology in 2005. During his undergraduate studies, Albert gained cultural resources management experience on various projects across Utah. Upon graduating, he headed west and began working full-time for Far Western in 2007. Albert’s professional focus is on Section 106 and 110 projects primarily in the Great Basin and California. His experience includes crew leadership and data collection on wide variety of projects, including inventory, resource evaluation, data recovery, and monitoring. Albert has authored and co-authored several technical reports, including NEPA regulatory documents. He has presented papers and posters at professional conferences and his research interests include early North American occupation, lithic technology, and evidence of cultural transmission within the archaeological record.
 

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

Albert’s Key Projects

  • Ruby Pipeline
  • Bordertown to California 120kV Transmission Line
  • Liberty Pinenut 1254 Transmission Line

Archaeobotanical Analysis

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Charred Plant Remains Identification

Far Western employs a team of archaeobotanists who specialize in the recovery and identification of charred plant remains from archaeological sites. Archaeobotanical findings are integrated into Far Western excavation reports to address project-specific and regional research issues. In conjunction with remains of terrestrial animals and birds, fish, and shellfish, plant remains can help investigate prehistoric and historic-era use of food resources, changes in use of native foods across time and space, and reconstructing past environments and their changing patterns as landscapes evolved. Far Western also studies variability in fuel use through wood charcoal identification, working with Paleoscapes Archaeobotanical Services Team of Bailey, Colorado.

Far Western’s archaeobotany lab features flotation equipment and personnel capable of processing hundreds of archaeological sediment samples. Archaeological plant remains are identified with the aid of a reference collection of more than 500 seed, fruit, root, and wood samples from California and Nevada. Far Western has three binocular microscopes with capacity ranging from 7–70 magnifications, including digital image capture capability, and a digital scale with resolution to 0.1 milligram for weighing wood charcoal, nutshell, and berry pit fragments. Archaeobotanical data are entered into a relational database with quantitative and qualitative data on more than 2,400 flotation samples from cismontane California and hundreds of samples from the Great Basin and Mojave Desert.

Far Western’s archaeobotanists have worked with plant remains in California and Nevada since 1981. Archaeobotany lab director Dr. Eric Wohlgemuth has more than 30 years of experience in the field, and has written more than 100 reports on the subject, including several peer-reviewed publications on California plant remains. His research interests in California archaeobotany involve the evolution of and geographical variation in hunter-gatherer intensive plant use in California. Assistant Archaeobotanist Angela Arpaia, BA, also has many years of experience in identifying plant remains from California and Nevada, and she has presented scholarly papers on ancient California plant use.

FW Geoarchaeologists Help Map San Francisco Bay Area Prehistory

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Cores in the Far Western Geoarchaeology Lab.

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.

Coring in San Francisco.

Coring in San Francisco.

 

 

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.

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OSL samples from cores.

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.

Schematic Cross Section of Study Area in San Francisco.

Schematic Cross Section of Study Area in San Francisco.

 

Recently opened core exposing artificial fill at the surface (~1.5–2.4 meters below surface), underlain by recent alluvium (~2.5–3.5 meters below surface), and followed in turn by a dense prehistoric shell midden (~3.5–5.5 meters below surface) formed on a Pleistocene-age sand dune (starting ~5.5 meters below surface).

Recently opened core exposing artificial fill at the surface (~1.5–2.4 meters below surface), underlain by recent alluvium (~2.5–3.5 meters below surface), and followed in turn by a dense prehistoric shell midden (~3.5–5.5 meters below surface) formed on a Pleistocene-age sand dune (starting ~5.5 meters below surface).

 

 

 

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.

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Creating Vya: The Dream of Dry Farming

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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…

LifeOnTheRiver

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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