Under our on-call contract with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), District 10, Stockton, Far Western conducted data recovery excavations and construction monitoring at site CA-TUO-2797/H for the Poppy Hills Drive Curve Improvement Project on State Route 49 near Columbia, in Tuolumne County. Earlier investigations at the site by archaeologist Suzanne Stewart had revealed evidence of at least 3,000 years of human occupation. Far Western Geoarchaeologist Philip Kaijankoski and Principal Investigator Jeffrey Rosenthal subsequently identified two buried soils in the eastern area of the site during backhoe trenching, extending the range of occupation back to 8000 BP—making this one of the oldest sites ever found in the region. The oldest (Early Holocene) component contained only sparse archaeological remains, and without the geoarchaeological analysis, this buried deposit might well have been missed altogether.
Following data recovery, Far Western worked with the local Native American community to supervise the systematic removal of the site, and monitor construction. Art Director Tammara Norton prepared an outreach and public education package that included a web site, a booklet, Looking for Pieces of the Puzzle, a seven-minute video with musical score by D. Craig Young, and an exhibit panel for the local historical society.