The profiles in this chapter include two archaeological sites and an archaeologist.
Fraser River Valley Archaeological Project
The Fraser River Valley Archaeological Project in British Columbia was initiated in June 2002. The focus of the project is the investigation of household and community organization, primarily Stó:lô plank and pithouse villages, in the Fraser River drainage east of Vancouver, BC.
The Stó:lô are a group of First Nations peoples who have inhabited the Fraser Valley for centuries. The name comes from
the Halkomelem word for river, so the Stó:lô are called “the river people.”Halkomelem is one of a family of languages spoken by the Coast Salish peoples.
The project is a joint endeavor by anthropologists and archaeologists from the University of California–Los Angeles, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the Stó:lô Nation. Rounding out the team are UCLA graduate students and student volunteers from UBC.
The archaeological team conducted exploratory work to relocate and investigate six late prehistoric and early historic village sites in the Fraser Valley, focusing on well-preserved early historic and later prehistoric pithouses in order to assess the condition of potential living floors and judge the caliber of preservation of artifacts. Artifacts of both aboriginal and Euro-Canadian origin were found, including nephrite adzes, slate knives, projectile points, abrading tools, a glass bead, and many metal and glass objects. The team also found preserved salmon and mammal bones. Additional
features such as hearths and floor and subfloor deposits with wooden stake molds were found as well. These results, combined with the fact that the Stó:lô people have inhabited this land since the 1600s, suggest that the team may be able to gather solid data on household dynamics and variability, including analysis of architectural types, internal household organization and size, nature of participation in regional trade systems, and evidence for occupational specializations.
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Crow Canyon is a nonprofit research and educational institution funded by tuition, fees, donations, and federal grants. It comprises an eighty-acre campus in southwestern Colorado, near Mesa Verde National Park, with a staff of fifty or so archaeologists, educators, and support staff. In addition to their own research, staff archaeologists instruct adult and children participants who want to learn about archaeology. From junior high age on, participants are taken into the field and taught excavation, recording, and documentation techniques. They also work in the lab a few days a week learning analysis techniques and methods for cleaning artifacts.
Children too young for fieldwork can still participate in a simulated dig in a lab established for that purpose. There they can learn the same excavating techniques as they sift through large, shallow sand boxes where artifacts and walls and other features are buried, just as they would be in the field.
Participants come from all over North America on educational vacations and stay for a three- to five-day program. Crow Canyon also works with about a dozen graduate students of archaeology each year, providing rewarding internships. During the summer months, participants sleep in cabin tents or hogans, which are circular Navajo-style structures.
Montezuma County, where Crow Canyon is located, is home to more than ten thousand archaeological sites. Crow Canyon professionals have worked at more than twenty sites, concentrating their research on areas that were once Anasazi Indian villages. The Anasazi are the ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians,who lived in this area of Colorado from the sixth century until about the year 1300, when they relocated to the south. The Crow Canyon team’s research is focused on learning exactly when and why the Anasazi left the region; they are also investigating the political and social systems of the Anasazi.
For example, in March 2007, Crow Canyon began its third and final field season at Goodman Point Pueblo, a large village that served as the focal point of an extensive community during the mid- to late 1200s. The pueblo is one of forty-two sites located in the Goodman Point Unit of Hovenweep National Monument. Crow Canyon’s excavations are conducted in partnership with the National Park Service, which manages the monument, and with the assistance of students and adults enrolled in research programs.
The fieldwork at Goodman Point Pueblo is the first phase of a larger research project called “The Goodman Point Archaeological Project: Community Center and Cultural Landscape Study.” The second phase of the study is scheduled for the 2008–2010 seasons and will include excavations at several surrounding sites within the unit, including habitation sites, ancient roadways, and agricultural fields.
Kristin Kuckelman—Senior Archaeologist
Kristin Kuckelman is a senior field archaeologist at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and psychology from Colorado Women’s College (which has now merged with the University of Denver) and earned her master’s degree in anthropology with a concentration in archaeology from the University of Texas at Austin.
Getting Started. Kristin’s interest in anthropology began when she was a child, traveling around the world with her military family. Her parents were interested in different cultures and in archaeology and passed that interest on to their daughter.When it came time for college, she was drawn to the anthropology program.
“I love the variety of it. I enjoy working outdoors. I enjoy writing,” Kristin explains about her job. “And with any kind of
research, there’s the excitement of discovery. You’re trying to solve problems. You’re trying to find things out. You’re trying to learn something new. And, basically, every time you go in the field, you hope you’re going to learn something about a culture that no one knew before. You don’t know what that’s going to be; you never really know how it’s going to turn out or what you’re going to find.”
She says that the sites in the area are very easy to discern. They have hundreds of masonry rooms, and even after centuries, there are telltale piles of rubble and thousands of artifacts scattered about the ground. Walking around the modern ground surface, you can see the tops of the walls and the depressions in the ground indicating the subterranean chambers.
Because of these subterranean chambers, the archaeologists sometimes have to dig down two and a half to three meters to find the actual floor of the structure. The surface rooms are shallower, but they can still require a meter or a meter and a half of digging.
The crews have found lithic artifacts, which are artifacts made out of stone, such as spear and arrow points, as well as sandstone tools for grinding grain. They have also unearthed tens of thousands of pottery fragments; intact pieces are very rarely found. Kristin explains that the crews very rarely engage in refitting, or trying to piece the shards together.With so many pieces scattered over the ground, it would take many years and would be very expensive and tedious work.
During the first week of May, which is the start of the field season, Kristin and her partner head out to the site, set up equipment, and make sure that the areas they want excavated are laid out and prepared. They take care of all the paperwork and mapping before the participants arrive to begin digging. Participants spend their first full day on campus, where they receive a full orientation about archaeology in general. They then spend two or three days a week in the field, where Kristin and her partner give them a site tour to provide a background on what it is they will be digging, why they are digging, and what they’re trying to learn. They then receive tools and individual instruction and are placed, either individually or in pairs, at the particular places to be excavated.
Kristin explains that the basic procedure is to move dirt, put it in a bucket, and take it to a screening station. The dirt is sifted through a quarter-inch mesh screen to be sure the crew hasn’t missed any artifacts. Everybody has his or her own bag to keep artifacts from each excavation area separate.
Near the end of the season, there is quite a bit of documentation and mapping to be done, and the artifacts must be washed and analyzed. Once the crews are finished with them, most of the artifacts are put in storage, though a few are rotated as exhibits at the Anasazi Heritage Center, a federally run curation facility.
After this, the crews must fill the areas they’ve dug with all the screened dirt and rocks they originally dug out. For safety reasons, gaping holes can’t be left in the land, and, in terms of conservation, leaving a pit open to the elements would damage the site. Before it is closed, the pit is lined with landscaping fabric to protect it and to provide a clue in case future archaeologists are digging there but do not have access to the earlier team’s notes and maps. The lining would show them the site had already been excavated.
There are so many sites, and keeping a site open and developed for public exhibit, as has been done at Mesa Verde, would be extremely expensive. It would also be very hard on the architecture itself. Constant maintenance would have to be performed, or everything would eventually deteriorate.
During the winter, the archaeologists write reports on everything they learned the previous summer. They also write articles for professional journals and present papers at archaeological conferences across the country.