Day at the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, Towoac, Colorado


Today we went to the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in Towoac, Colorado with Rebecca! We joined the Bushwackers (a summer program for kids) at the baseball field. We set up different stations for them to learn about archaeology and culture. The educational stations consisted of a flintknapping station with Sean, zooarchaeology with Jon, drone and surveying with Grant, atlatls with Dr. Ryan, and fire making. The Bushwacker kids seemed to enjoy the stations and doing hands-on activities.

We ate sandwiches, chips, and cookies in the town park. The park had a structure with the Ute men’s names engraved that served in the military. Rebecca stated that none of them passed away in the wars. Then, she showed us around Towaoc, including the recreational center and the Ute Tribal Council building.

After our tour, Rebecca guided us to two large archaeological sites on the reservation. We explored Moki Springs and Cowboy Wash. The two sites had multiple kivas, interesting pieces of Pueblo II and Pueblo III pottery and shell fossils. It was a sunny day with good people studying Archaeology.





Lessons in Identity

Projectile PointWe started off the day with a demonstration of flintknapping and what it takes to produce a projectile point. The excessive amount of flakes, or debitage, created from this process was incredible. This, in combination with the intricate, multi-step method to develop these points really gave me an insight into how special and socially constructed the process of flintknapping was, as seen in the transition between the Paleo period from around 13,000 to 14,000 years ago to the much smaller Archaic projectile points we see every once in a while in our pit at the Haynie site.

Once the morning concluded, we attended a brown bag lecture with our native scholar, Justin Lund. As mentioned in a few prior blog posts, Justin is a molecular anthropologist. In addition to that, Lund is also a scholar who has a background in bioethics in regards to how genetic information of how native peoples is treated. With that kind of interdisciplinary background and the ability to speak in such an articulate manner about his research, Justin gave an excellent presentation.

He began his talk with an introduction of himself in Navajo and went on to describe how native identities have not only been disrupted and even destroyed by colonization of this country in the past, but also continue to be invalidated and oppressed by society by what is referred to as settler colonialism. Settler colonialism is defined as the continued oppression by the colonizer on the native communities after both groups call the same landscape home. Lund makes the point that there are only two possible conclusions for this conflict: 1) The colonizing community eliminates the native community; or 2) The colonizing community leaves the landscape. He continues to describe this as something that is not always clearly seen in greater society, but continues to occur throughout the country and takes on several forms. One of these forms is the current methodologies of companies that essentially sell identity to people willing to have their ancestry tested through DNA samples. Lund explains most of this big data is incorrectly used for a variety of reasons including the data produced by the company is often biased by the limited samples they have previously gathered, the accuracy of the results that come back to customers is often heavily flawed, and as a result of both of the previous dilemmas, people’s view of their own identity is often skewed based off of the flawed interpretations of their DNA.

Lund continued the conversation this evening with another lecture that reemphasized the importance of respecting, giving reciprocity to, and understanding the relationality of indigenous peoples when conducting big data research of genetic information. He went on to explain the Indigenous Research Paradigm he and other interdisciplinary scholars have created in order to work closely with indigenous communities from Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Alaska to understand how these groups feel about their DNA being added to a genomic database. Lund stated that he believes that by approaching consultation through the method of democratic deliberation, indigenous people will have greater control and protection of their own genetic information. This line of research is important for native peoples all across the nation and world because their genetic information should be protected and not misused or manipulated by biologists as has been the case with archaeological remains from Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon.

5MT1905 – Day 7…

Hour 36… Or something like that. The site has become a very familiar place to us, as has its sounds, smells and of course, its dirt. For a few moments in the morning, we work alongside each other in silence; trowels scraping, hand axes thudding, dust pans clanging. Wheelbarrows filled we head to the screens and begin processing the still cool and wet dirt. You could almost say that we know what we’re doing – pulling sherds, debitage and NHB at a rate far greater than when we first started working the site.

Noon comes quickly and lunch is served. Apple chicken salad, Cheetos, and frozen Twix are specials on todays menu.

Dr. Ryan arrives soon after we finish eating, atlatls and spears in-hand. Becca retrieves a foam archery target from the garage and we all take turns giving this primitive hunting implement our best tries. Given its ubiquity in the ancient world, surely some of our own ancestors used this tool to survive – maybe we even perceive a distant familiarity in its use.

Dirt starts moving again, this time into several piles scattered about the 4X8 excavation unit. We peel and shovel in our own rhythms. Lenses of modeled adobe appear with every-other slice into the still moist dirt.

We find ourselves at the screens for the rest of the work day. The usual sun-fueled goofiness slowly emerges in the conversations being had at every screening station. 3:30 comes around as the afternoon wind begins to pick up, and for the seventh time we head back to shop carrying our dig kits in our hands and a proper coating of dirt on our skin.

Our day in the field is capped off with ice cream, food, beer, and some much welcomed rest.

Smoke and a Snake in the Field

This morning was smoky, I could smell it when I woke up, but it got heavier when we got to the site. The horizon was invisible and the smoke had driven all of the gnats our way. This luckily cleared up as the day went on. We also had a little serpentine visitor this morning as well who was relocating by Dr. Ryan. We took elevation measurements then started digging. I spent most of today digging and made good progress I think. I usually put in more screen time but I wanted to dig today. It got hot like it usually does so frequent water breaks were needed. I greatly enjoyed the tacos and sundaes for dinner. To finish up this day we had a lecture with Paul on experimental archaeology. I’m fascinate with this topic. He spent most of the time on pottery but also about flint knapping and the use of lime in cooking corn. It is fascinating that they new that was needed and discovered how to do it. Paul said that there isn’t really a career solely in experimental archaeology but it is possible to do a thesis on an experiment. He said that through experimental archaeology we can get a better and deeper understanding of how ancient people lived.

Field Trip Day!

Photo 1Photo 2Today was our second field trip day. We visited three sites, the Albert Porter site, the Lowry site, and the Mitchell Springs site. Our first stop, Albert Porter, was excavated by Crow Canyon from 2001-2004. We were able to get an interesting perspective on the site because Dr. Ryan was part of the excavation team. This meant that she knew exactly where had been excavated and what was found. She also had a few interesting stories about her time there! One of the most interesting things that we saw at this site was a pot-hunting pit. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of looting, so I was glad that we were able to observe one.

After Albert Porter, we headed to the Lowry site and had lunch. Lowry Pueblo was so interesting to learn about because of the excavation techniques that took place in the 30’s. This site was one of the first to be excavated quickly and without screening. Paul Martin, the archaeologist who excavated Lowry, also found an intact plastered and painted wall in one of the kivas. Unfortunately Martin decided to shellac the wall to preserve the painting. When he returned the next year, the wall had completely peeled off. These instances are heart breaking but also important to learn from as archaeologists. We were also able to discuss the ways in which Lowry seems influenced by Chaco, and the ways that it stands on its own.

Our last visit of the day was to Mitchell Springs, which is a Pueblo located on private property. Mitchell Springs was an interesting example of how archaeology is conducted when located on private property. It reminded me a lot of the Wallace site within the Lakeview group, which is also on private property.

For our night class, Kristen Kuckelman gave a lecture on human osteology. Going into the lecture I assumed that it would be focused on how to identify human bone, but it wasn’t at all. Kristen talked about how human osteology is applied within archaeology, legislation and laws that are relevant to human osteology, policies and ethics, and possible career paths. I personally enjoyed the ethics portion of the talk because I feel that ethics in archaeology is so important, especially when dealing with human remains.

The best part of today, for me at least, was getting to meet and speak with our final Native American scholar, Justin Lund. Justin is a molecular anthropologist, who also dabbles in archaeology. He is very knowledgeable about the field and he is also passionate about the ethics surrounding it. We are all looking forward to getting to know Justin throughout the week and learning more from him!

-Olivia Thomsen

Dendrochronology & Yucca Bracelets

Mary 1Mary 2Thursday morning, lab began with a lecture on ground stone with Leigh. Leigh’s overall goal for this lab was getting us more familiar with ground stone which includes: manos, metates, abraders,  mauls, tchamahias and  mortars and pestles. We discussed the general forms and functions of many ground stone tools for example abraders are irregular shaped stones used to form other items like pipes, axes and containers. Moving further into the lecture, Leigh reviewed the manufacturing processes and general uses applied to ground stone tools which led to use-wear analyses.

Our second lecture touched on dendrochronology and its important role in southwestern archaeology. Dendrochronology  is essentially the science of dating events and/or environmental changes through the patterns of growth rings found in tree trunks. These patterns are particularly helpful in regions where trees are highly responsive to participation patterns such as the southwest. Trees grow a ring each year that vary in width depending on the amount of annual precipitation. Meaning, that a thicker ring indicates a more “wet” year and a thin or narrow ring a “dryer” year.  This information sets the environmental climate for particular archaeological sites.

After lunch, Jonathan enthusiastically introduced us to the field of zooarchaeology. This discipline basically examines the faunal remains at or around archaeological sites. Analyzing faunal remains contribute significantly to the overall analysis of a site in terms of  subsistence and migration patterns, domestication, cultural and environmental contexts. We were split into four groups of three and given a bag of non-human bones and practiced ID’ing and cataloging each bone element.

Towards the end of our day, our weekly native scholar, Mary Weahkee, presented our evening lecture on the seemingly endless number of uses for the local yucca plant. It was amazing to learn about the use versatility in yucca! For example, the large, durable root can be used as a scrub brush that already holds natural soap elements inside of it. More excitingly, we learned the process of making bracelets from the yucca leaves by stripping the outer layer of the leaf and rolling on ones leg until it twists into a braided-like design. Afterwords, we sanded down the pointed ends of Olivella shells to form them into beads to string onto our new yucca bracelets! Mary then closed our evening presentation with a couple of her intriguing stories about mischievous Coyote.

Survey, 6/8/18

Lauren SurveyJon SurveyMcKinzie SurveyThe afternoon sun managed to bleach out the bones of the afternoon lesson. Everybody seemed to come apart at the same time. We all needed water, and without shade we were losing moisture from our body at an increased rate.

Mary provided me with information, the kind of relevance we look for, the land at the Wallace/Reichenau property was described by Mary as extremely over grazed. I asked if there was a plant that would reinvigorate the environment, she said buffalo grass was a good option and that it was drought resistant. I then asked if that meant buffalo would feed on it, she confirmed that that was indeed a valid relationship. I was super excited, the idea of the buffalo returning to the landscape, and restoring a hunter gatherer type lifestyle was something I am a strong proponent of. I see this future free of factory farming, where modified self reliance can exist along side modern life, augmenting our reliance on convenience with a more sustainable method of subsistence. I have called it Buful Culture after the primary source of meat. It has always seemed to me that taking one or two free ranging animals out of the environment per year, an animal indigenous to the landscape, is a far more sustainable subsistence strategy in the modern context than is the modern grocery store super system.

The entertainment of the Friday fiasco was provided by John’s amusing retelling of his accident prone childhood. No doubt we are lucky to know John because he could have gone missing at numerous points during his youth. We also had a good laugh about Netta’s childhood arthropod friend, leave it there she said to her parents. As we compiled a group understanding through oral retelling we all started to learn about each other and our distinctive experiences. The lunchtime conversation was a perfect example of how oral traditions start and become fixed in the cultural minds within social groups. I will never look upon James again without seeing a young man who survived an encounter with a Portuguese Man of War being applied to his nude genitals. And that story, along with the others I heard will work their ways into my cultural group and gain a life of its own with a population who were not present for the event and did not here the story from the orator.

Grants phone provided the experience of the afternoon. My thinking on the subject was that if there was anyone who would be able to recover a lost phone from a field of sage, it would be Grant, with his skill as a spacial locator, and his knowledge of technology, I felt confident he would be able to geolocate that phone without any trouble. We will see.

The Durango fire continues to burn uncontrolled. For me those are the mountains of my childhood, I hiked Hermosa every weekend for years while growing up. It is tragic to see the destruction of such a pristine environment. If we are looking for relevance we needn’t look further than climatic change. No matter what the cause, in the near term the southwestern United States is likely going to undergo the greatest amount of climatic change. But I saw an article the other day that gave me hope, it was about a Canadian company which has created carbon dioxide scrubbers in the form of a mega machine. It works by sucking in atmospheric gases and removing and degrading carbon dioxide. I was super happy to see it, for me it seemed like the only logical solution to the problem.

Coyote was sitting alone playing his bone flute. Creator came to join him, coyote, creator said, why is your song so happy? Coyote said I play a happy song for all the greatness of the stars in the sky. Silly coyote said creator, don’t you know there is greatness in everything. Coyote said but surly the stars are the greatest. Creator replied that the universe was created so that no matter where you are, or what you are doing, there is always something to marvel at. Coyote said that makes my song sad in comparison. Creator said again, silly coyote, don’t you know it is each song being made that gives glory to the course of all creatures songs. So go play coyote, and live life only for joy, and make your contribution to the course beautiful and wise with the words I have shared.

So, week four begins in short order. And soon we will be in our final week. My thought was that this Saturday I should host a barbaque at my house for the field school and interns, you all should pass the idea around and let me know. Our yard is beautiful this time of year and should be used for festivity. Get back to me, party at Bennett’s House?!