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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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

Angela Arpaia

The Santa Clara Valley has an archaeobotanical record that spans from the central California Early, Middle, and Late periods. Sites CA-SCL-12, -478, -674, and -919 have robust plant remains assemblages from distinct periods that can be used to evaluate change in plant use and land management practices. Temporal context and habitat will be compared for each site to understand variation in plant diversity and intensification.

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

Laura Brink, Jelmer Eerkens (UC Davis), Alex DeGeorgey (Alta Archaeological Consulting), and Jeff Rosenthal

Analysis at two California Late Period sites, CA-CCO-297 and CA-SCL-919 Stable isotope analysis can reconstruct individual mobility of prehistoric California on a scale that can distinguish movement between different parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. This study uses strontium and oxygen isotope analysis to compare individual mobility patterns of two Late Period sites, CA-CCO-297 and CA-SCL-919. Three life stages are used for comparison, including early childhood from first molars, early adolescence from third molars, and adulthood/time of death from bone. Isotopic ratios from bone resulted in consistent and site-specific signatures for both sites, while enamel ratios were much more variable, suggesting higher mobility during childhood and adolescence than during adulthood. CA-SCL-919 is composed mainly of non-local individuals born in a wide variety of locations, while many individuals interred at CA-CCO-297 were born locally. Both sites revealed mobility shifts from childhood to adolescence, possibly due to post- or pre-martial residence changes. The data also suggest sexual differences in movement patterns, which may inform on post-marital residence patterns. This work gives insight into ancient kinship organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, differentiates site-specific mobility patterns from life-history mobility signatures, and provides testable hypotheses on the structure of post-marital residence patterns during the Late Period of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ryan Byerly
Geochemical and Physical Characterization of Lithic Raw Materials in the Olduvai Basin, Tanzania

Fitzgerald, Curran (Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Charles Egeland (Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina), Ryan Byerly, Cynthia Fadem (Department of Geology, Earlham College), and Audax Mabulla (Archaeology Unit, University of Dar es Salaam)

The study of raw materials has traditionally been deeply embedded in analyses of the Early Stone Age, and the impact of source rock characteristics on early human ranging behavior and technological variation is now widely acknowledged. Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, apart from being one of the most well-known paleoanthropological sites in the world, is also home to a great diversity of potential sources for the production of stone tools. While the lithology and mineralogy of these sources have been well described, quantitative data on inter- and intra-source geochemical and physical characteristics are still rare, which makes it difficult to rigorously test models of early human home ranges and raw material selectivity. This project reports preliminary quantitative studies of variation in the geochemical (via portable x-ray fluorescence) and physical (via standard engineering tools) characteristics of primary and secondary rock sources that presumably served as important supplies of toolstone for Early Pleistocene hominins at Olduvai Gorge.

Brian Byrd
The Neolithic Houses of California – An Ethnohistoric Comparative Perspective on Household and Community Organization among Complex Hunter-Gatherers

Brian Byrd

The talk addressed the built environment of complex hunter-gatherer villages of the contact period in California. Although not agriculturalists, they constitute one of the most diverse and well-documented amalgam of complex hunter-gatherers in the world. The study explores the interrelationship between vernacular architecture, households, community organization, and their socio-economic underpinnings. In doing so, highlighted case studies will include the Chumash of coastal southern California, the Patwin of central California, and the Wintu of northern California. Finally, consideration is given to the potential for ethnohistoric vernacular architecture of California hunter-gatherers to provide insight into fundamental variables in the development of Neolithic households worldwide.

Brian Byrd
Wadi Madamagh, Western Highlands of Jordan: Lithic Evidence from the Late Upper Paleolithic and Early Epipaleolithic Occupations

Olszewski, Deborah (University of Pennsylvania), Maysoon al-Nahar (University of Jordan), Daniel Schyle (University of Cologne), and Brian Byrd

Wadi Madamagh, a small rockshelter in the Petra region of the Western Highlands of Jordan, contained high-density deposits of the Late Upper Paleolithic and the Early Epipaleolithic periods. It was first excavated in 1956 by D. Kirkbride, who placed two trenches into the site and briefly reported on the lithics, which have since been studied in detail (B. F. Byrd). A small test along one of Kirkbride’s trenches was conducted in 1983 (D. Schyle), and more intensive excavations were pursued in 2011 (D. I. Olszewski and M. al-Nahar, as well as D. Schyle). As a result of decades of exposure due to the open trenches left by Kirkbride, the remaining deposits at Wadi Madamagh are unfortunately quite limited, especially those of the Early Epipaleolithic. In this paper, we address this issue in part by combining data from the lithic assemblages recovered from all three excavation seasons. This is thus the first comprehensive examination of the stone artifacts recovered from this site. It examines their significance for understanding the behavioral strategies of Late Upper Paleolithic and Early Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherer-foragers in this part of the Levantine Middle East.

Daron Duke
Haskett Spear Points and the Plausibility of Megafaunal Hunting in the Great Basin

Daron Duke

Recent Haskett projectile point finds from western Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert provide a compelling case for megafaunal hunting in the Great Basin, a region that stands out in North America for its lack of direct evidence. The Haskett style is likely the oldest representative of the Western Stemmed series of projectile points, and radiocarbon age estimates on black mat organics at the locality suggest a date range between ca. 12,000 and 13,000 cal BP. In this paper, an argument for megafaunal hunting is constructed for critical examination against alternatives. Images and technological attributes for the collection are presented, including one 22.6-centimeter specimen that is the longest Haskett point documented archaeologically and another that tested positive to proboscidean antiserum via protein residue analysis.

Tod Hildebrandt
Divergent Histories: Prehistoric Use of Alpine Habitats in the Toquima and Toiyabe Ranges, Central Great Basin

Tod Hildebrandt

Alpine villages are extremely rare in the Great Basin. To date, villages located at elevations above 10,000 feet are only known to occur in the White Mountains and the Toquima Range. Demographic forcing and climatic change has been used to explain the existence of these villages, but these propositions do not identify more specific selective pressures that led to the establishment of high elevation villages in some ranges but not others. Comparison of artifact distributions and environmental structure in the Toquima Range, where a village exists, and the Toiyabe Range, where one does not, supports the notion that alpine villages may have been subsidized by intensive exploitation of mid-elevation pinyon groves associated with low-cost travel corridors, which facilitated transport of pine nuts to upland village locations. This study also reveals that limber pine may have played a role in alpine village subsistence, and identifies the need for further research on the value of this resource.

William Hildebrandt and Kelly McGuire
Middle Archaic Expansion into High Elevation Habitats: A View from the Southwestern Great Basin

William Hildebrandt and Kelly McGuire

Several researchers have hypothesized that high elevation habitats were not intensively used until after 4000 cal BP when lowland settlements became more stable and logistical hunting organization emerged. This paper evaluates this hypothesis by comparing the relative frequency of Pinto versus Elko/Humboldt series projectile points across a variety of lowland and upland settings in the White Mountains/Owens Valley area.

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

Philip Kiajankoski, Jack Meyer, and Paul Brandy

Occupation in the San Francisco Bay Area The effects of landscape evolution on the archaeological record of the San Francisco Bay Area have been profound, primarily due to rising sea levels. These changes are illustrated through a trans Holocene “tour” of the bay that incorporates the landscape context of many sites featured in subsequent papers. For the region’s first inhabitants, this area was a vast inland valley rather than the state’s largest estuary. The Holocene transgression is illustrated utilizing a new sea-level curve developed for region, which is based on an analysis of over three hundred radiocarbon dates from marsh deposits in the bay and delta. This curve is used to reconstruct the extent of the bay at various times in the past, illustrating just how much of the landscape once available for prehistoric human populations is now submerged. The terrestrial response to rising sea levels during the latter portion of the Holocene included infilling of formerly incised stream channels, alluvial deposition on surrounding floodplains, and the formation of extensive wetlands and dune fields, as illustrated by recent geoarchaeological studies from the region. These examples show how large-scale landscape changes structured the region’s archaeological record, and likely explain why the early portions of California’s past are poorly represented.

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

Lucas Martindale Johnson

To the uninitiated, Maya “eccentrics” are vague archaeological labels applied to flaked obsidian objects placed in ritual caches during the Classic Period (AD 250-800). Although labels of humanoid, deity, animal-like, or other shaped objects are often unclear, lithics analysts have tried to define eccentrics based on technological attributes to enable comparisons between contexts, sites, and regions. Those studies that reconstruct a complex chaîne opératoire demonstrate many eccentrics had a dynamic socio-technological biography prior to their deposition in ritualized contexts. After 30 years of systematic investigations, the Caracol Archaeological Project has recovered many ritual cache deposits of Maya “eccentrics”. Caracol eccentrics are typically terminated or disabled exhausted polyhedral blade cores, but can also be broadened to include (modified) macro-core shaping flakes/blades, platform preparation, and core rejuvenation debitage – all those objects that help to create and maintain, a socio-technological blade industry. The broad household ritualization of these objects through specific crafting acts demonstrates that non-blade objects were essential to social relations between obsidian crafters and socially diverse household ritual practitioners. This paper defines these ritualized objects technologically to highlight the performative production by obsidian crafters and presents their distributions at households to understand their circulation to non-crafters for use in household ritual events.

Jack Meyer
Holocene Transformation of San Francisco Bay and Transbay Man Site Stratigraphy

Jack Meyer

San Francisco Bay was created by post-glacial sea-level rise during the span of prehistoric human occupation. The Bay is the single largest Pacific estuary in the Americas (4,160 square kilometers) and is the outlet for California’s largest freshwater drainage system that carries 40% of the state’s runoff. The earliest known evidence of widespread human use of the estuary or tidal resources in the Bay Area first appears at shell midden sites located around the Bay in the middle Holocene (6300-4600 cal BP). Recently, however, an intact human skeleton (“Transbay Man”) was found at an elevation of 12.8 meters (42 feet) below sea level in downtown San Francisco, which is the fourth, and oldest (~7600 cal BP) such skeleton recovered from a submerged context in the region. The stratigraphic sequence and paleoenvironmental context of this rare and unusual find are examined in relation to Holocene sea-level rise and landscape changes that transformed the Bay Area into an ideal place for prehistoric human settlement.

Michelle Rich
From A Forest of Kings to the Forests of Peten: The Mirador Group at El Perú-Waka'

Michelle Rich

More than 10 years of research at El Perú-Waka’, carried out under the co-direction of David Freidel and several Guatemalan collaborators, has resulted in a wealth of information about this ancient city and the role its rulers and residents played in the Classic Maya world. Enhanced through his work with Linda Schele, Freidel’s persistent focus on the interplay between ancient history and archaeology—on stelae, buildings, and people—has shaped research at Waka’, located in Guatemala’s Laguna del Tigre National Park. The Mirador Group, one of the site’s principal civic ceremonial settings, was an initial focus for the El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project. While the Mirador Group’s stelae are either blank or largely eroded, archaeological investigation of the monumental architecture has shed light on topics explored in A Forest of Kings, including the role of Teotihuacan, Tikal, and Calakmul in Classic period interactions. This paper will explore Waka’s involvement in these relationships, particularly as evidenced by the Mirador Group’s royal interments and the narrative figurine scene depicting an elaborate courtly ritual.

Nathan Stevens and Jeffrey Rosenthal
Geology, Historical Contingency, and Ecological Inheritance in California's Southern Sierra Nevada

Nathan Stevens and Jeffrey Rosenthal

The Late prehistoric archaeological record of the Southern Sierra Nevada can be distilled down to two very visible elements: bedrock mortars and obsidian. Both were imported from outside the area, with obsidian coming from the east and the idea of the bedrock mortar coming from the west. We argue that the presence of transported obsidian, much of it deposited prior to 1000 cal BP, and the later establishment of bedrock mortars encouraged more persistent use of this landscape. We see this as an example of the downstream effects of niche construction.

Adrian Whitaker and Brian Byrd
An Ideal Free Settlement Perspective on Residential Positioning in the San Francisco Bay Area

Adrian Whitaker and Brian Byrd

We present an Ideal Free Distribution Model to explore the successful establishment and spread of hunter-gatherer residential settlements around the perimeter of San Francisco Bay, California. Our objective is to illuminate underlying ecological and social factors that best explain the spatial distribution of occupation in the region. Our model determines relative habitat suitability based on a series of environmental factors including drainage catchment size, rainfall, terrestrial productivity, and littoral productivity. In doing so, we also account for diachronic shifts in shoreline location and its impact on resource distribution. Then we test this model using a robust database of more than 500 prehistoric residential sites around the Bay (of which more than a third have produced chronological data), and ethnohistoric insights into settlement location by linguistic group. The talk concludes with consideration of the effect of social as well as ecological factors in structuring temporal trends in settlement configuration and subsistence strategies that formed the basis of this rich archaeological record.

Eric Wohlgemuth
Environmental Constraints and Plant Food Intensification in the Sacramento Valley

Eric Wohlgemuth

The Sacramento Valley bottom is a rich environment for faunal resources, notably fish, but lacks staple nut crops found elsewhere in interior central California. The absence of key nut resources appears to be the key factor in intensified production of geophytes and the early intensification of small seeds, especially Chenopodium spp. These features are absent in other regions in the rich archaeobotanical record of central California.

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Monitoring

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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

Public Outreach

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:

A Point in Time is a 46-minute film on how archaeological research is conducted. Far Western Art Director and Producer Tammara Norton and Director Phil Gross recently completed this film for Nevada BLM. It has been shown on Vegas PBS Channel 10 and is available on the PBS streaming service.

In collaboration with  California State Parks and the Sierra State Parks Foundation, Far Western Art Director, Tammara Norton designed and fabricated underwater markers and ‘dive cards’ for three boats and two barges for the Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail.

VIDEO: Gold, Water and Power, PG&E on the Stanislaus River 

California’s Gold Rush era water transport system would later play a critical role in PG&E’s hydroelectric system. (16 Minutes)

In the Time when Animals were PeopleIn 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 VyaCreating Vya: The Dream of Dry Farming in Long Valley, Nevada describes the rise and fall of the community of Vya with 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.

Life on the RiverThe 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.

People of the TulesThe 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 TulesPeople 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 CreekWritten 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.Mountain Harvest: The Use of Pinyon Nuts by the Paiute and Their Ancestors Near Sherwin Summit, California.

 

Stealing the Sun Stealing the Sun presents an overview of the prehistory of the central Sierra Nevada foothills by combining archaeology and traditional Me-Wuk stories.

 

Pieces of the Puzzle: Archaeologists work along SR 49Looking 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 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 LandMany Cultures, One Land, covers the prehistory and historical events that forever changed the lives of the Native peoples in the area.

 

China Lake Rock ArtView spectacular rock art found at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.

 

GIS and Cartography

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Our highly skilled team uses standardized data collection techniques to maximize data quality, reliability, and usability.

Data Collection

  • We use standardized data collection techniques to maximize data quality, reliability, and usability.
  • We have a variety of mapping-grade GPS units and dedicated field computers to support Far Western field crews.

Mapping

  • We use our collected data to prepare site-specific maps.
  • We integrate a variety of client and public-sourced information for mapping purposes.

Analysis

  • We have expert-level analysts to explore spatial and temporal relationships with GIS data.

Data Management

  • We create usable and manageable database solutions.

Information Presentation and Dissemination

  • We are experienced in a variety of methods for simplifying and delivering complex or unwieldy datasets.

Geoarchaeology


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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.

Sensitivity and Constraints

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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.

Effects Mitigation

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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.

Evaluation and Testing


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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.

Inventory

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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.