An archaeologist’s tools and skills, even if “rusty,” have a long use life. Over the past three weekends, I used my archaeo-toolkit in the service of what started out as basic yard work.
An old citrus tree that had always struggled in our yard needed to be removed, not just cut down—all the way to its roots.
It’s the roots that are the hard part. It took me two Sundays to remove the stump and the majority of the roots. In the process, it became clear that the citrus roots were only somewhat extensive, whereas the roots from our neighbor’s eucalyptus trees were simply overwhelming.
So, last weekend, I spent three hours each morning excavating around eucalyptus roots, leaving the major roots in place. My sweaty self doggedly pursued the hypothesis I was testing—that the eucalyptus tree had out-competed our beleaguered citrus tree for the abundant water we had expended over the years. I’ll let you dear readers decide if my photo (the second one below) makes a convincing case.
My archaeological toolkit at the end of my excavation (top), which revealed the eucalyptus roots (middle), after I removed nine cubic feet of soil to my backdirt pile (bottom).
As an archaeological elder, I have no intention of carrying out further excavations in my career. It was actually fun to realize I still had “it,” though!
Throughout my weekend excavation, I was also pondering Archaeology Southwest’s Preservation Archaeology mission. We have never engaged in large-scale excavations, and over time we’ve pared down work even at damaged and threatened sites.
Going forward, I see two paths. We’ll share the principles of Preservation Archaeology—as they evolve—with everyone, including archaeologists, through our many channels for outreach. And we’ll redouble our efforts to ensure that data from previous, current, and future excavations undertaken by others—whether academics, cultural resource managers, or nonprofit organizations—are broadly accessible.
Working with multiple partners, Archaeology Southwest is increasingly investing in cyberSW as the venue for large-scale data sharing. I’ll share more about cyberSW in future notes, but anyone who wants to start exploring on their own should check out cyberSW.org.
Still soaking in Epsom salts,
President & CEO, Archaeology Southwest
Banner image: Pump jack near Pierre’s site in the Greater Chaco landscape.
New Report Highlights Urgent Threats to Cultural Landscapes Surrounding National Parks
Archaeology Southwest and The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks released a report on the threats oil and gas development pose to ancestral homelands and sacred sites of Tribes within and adjacent to national parks in the United States. The report looks at five national parks and monuments: Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Archaeology Southwest and The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks | Read More >>
Watch Paul Reed’s August 2 interview with local Denver NBC news >>
Commentary: Align Forest Management with Indigenous Knowledge and Practice
The forests of the Western United States are facing an unprecedented crisis, besieged by wildfires and climate change. There is a precedent for part of the solution, though: intentional burns such as those set by Indigenous peoples. … We have recently convened a partnership of scientists and Indigenous leaders from across the Western states to advocate for the kinds of policy solutions necessary to build beneficial relations between people and the land and to restore resilience to our ecosystems. We call for change by federal and state policymakers, land managers and fire agencies in four main areas. Don Hankins, Scott Stephens, and Sara A. Clark in the Los Angeles Times | Read More >>
Tohono O’odham Crew Members Prepare for Conservation Careers
The Tohono O’odham crew is part of the [Arizona Conservation] corps’ Indigenous Communities Program, rooted in the culture and heritage of local tribal communities, which includes conservation crews, internships and individual placements into jobs. The program is open to Tohono O’odham members ages 18 through 25. The experience is intended to create a pathway to a career within the National Park Service. … “A person will be a member, then come back as an assistant leader the next season, then a leader,” [spokesperson Lee] Gault said, adding that the group is trying to create capacity within the Tohono O’odham Nation to create its own conservation corps program. Caitlin Schmidt for the Arizona Daily Star | Read More >>
Audio is also available at that link.
Continuing Coverage: Chi’chil Biłdagoteel (Oak Flat)
What is happening at Oak Flat exemplifies the larger struggle that tribes face over protecting off-reservation lands, caught between laws rooted in colonial ideology, an inactive Congress and an unpredictable Supreme Court. “If this decision holds up, then the law offers virtually no protection to Native American place-based religious exercise,” says Luke Goodrich, an attorney at Becket Law who represents Apache Stronghold in court. “As a practical matter, this sounds the death knell for all Native American religious practices that are tied to federal lands.” Anna V. Smith in High Country News | Read More >>
Indigenous Leaders to Catholic Church: Return Our Sacred Items
One of the Vatican museums’ least-visited collections of Indigenous artifacts is fast becoming its most contested. As the world’s attention is focused on Pope Francis’ visit to Canada to apologize for abuses Indigenous peoples suffered at the hands of Catholic missionaries in residential schools, Indigenous groups are calling for the Vatican to return tens of thousands of Indigenous artifacts and art held by the museums. Mary Annette Pember for ICT | Read More >>
Another Crime against Heritage
Early this week, Bandelier National Monument Rangers and Preservationists discovered damage in a highly visited and very popular area on the Pueblo Loop Trail known as Cave Kiva. … “This is a huge disappointment,” Bandelier Superintendent Patrick Suddath said. “The care and preservation of the Ancestral Pueblo sites in Bandelier is our highest priority. To discover resources damaged in this way despite our efforts to educate, promote and instill reverence for these sites is very disheartening.” National Parks Traveler (from an NPS press release) | Read More >>
Audio: Conservation Work at River House
Members of the Hopi and Zuni tribes are working alongside archaeologists within the Bears Ears National Monument to preserve masonry structures built by their ancestors hundreds of years ago. Uniquely, they are using methods and materials that reflect traditional perspectives about these places. The cliff-dwelling known as River House is located along the San Juan River, just downstream from Bluff, Utah. Lyle Balenquah for Earth Notes (KNAU) | Listen Now >>
Podcast: A Bug’s AfterLife—Archaeological Insect Analysis
Archaeoentomology is the study of insect remains on sites of archaeological interest. The ycan reveal big picture questions about the local environment. They can tell us about trade and agriculture. And reveal insights into hygiene both in the house and of the individuals themselves. They can also tell us about diet and health, and in some cases, funeral practices. The study of insects is most powerful when combined with other forms of environmental analysis, and it can create a deeply intimate (perhaps too intimate) understanding of people in the past. In this episode, host Neil Jackman had a chat with Dr. Steve Davis of the School of Archaeology, University College Dublin. Steve tells us of what kind of evidence insect analysis can provide and the background to this expert sub-discipline. Amplify Archaeology | Listen Now >>
Podcast: Climate Adaptation and Land Management
Beginning in 2001, an executive order mandated that the Bureau of Land Management consider climate change in their reports and their management planning. We talk with wildlife ecologist Lainie Brice about a project she was a part of for the climate adaptation science program at Utah State University. A key feature of this project was looking at the gap between scientific literature on climate change and the actual land management practices within the Bureau of Land Management. Science Moab | Listen Now >>
August Subscription Lectures (In Person, Santa Fe)
Aug. 8, Richard I. Ford, Native Plants Discovered by Tijeras Canyon Archaeologists; Aug. 15, Brian Vallo, Importance and Influence of Indigenous Knowledge; Aug. 29, Nicolasa Chavez, Growing Up Coyota: Castas in New Mexico. Southwest Seminars | Learn More >>
If you’ve missed any programs, you can pay-per-view at Southwest Seminars TV >>
REMINDER: August 4 Webinar: Cataloging Archaeological Collections at the Edge of the Cedars
With Jonathan Till and James Willian. Since 2018, the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum has received grant money from the BLM to catalog materials from their collections in southeast Utah. These cataloged artifacts and samples include over 17,000 items (or lots of items) from about 30 collections. This presentation will review some of the collections and materials cataloged, highlighting items that caught their attention and interest as they were encountered. They will emphasize that these materials are available to descendant communities, archaeologists, and other students of the region’s deep history. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Aug. 6 Webinar: Contextualizing “Old” Museum Collections: The Case of Obsidian “Mirrors” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
With Maria M. Martinez and Michael Brandl. Anthropological museum collections are an important resource for academic and community-centered research. However, many museum collections have minimal or even lack contextual information. This study exhibits some of the protocols for consulting Indigenous heritage in museum settings and overcomes the challenges related to collections-based research. It also contributes to the restoration of ancestral intellectual knowledge and labor to Indigenous peoples that were erased through the process of coloniality, including museum practices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Amerind Museum | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
REMINDER: August 9 In-Person Event (Sierra Vista AZ): Arizona & Beyond: Set in Stone but Not in Meaning
With Allen Dart. Mr. Dart will illustrate southwestern petroglyphs and pictographs, and discuss how even the same rock art symbol may be interpreted differently from popular, scientific, and modern Native American perspectives. 1:00 p.m., Henry F. Hauser Museum at the Sierra Vista Public Library, 2600 E. Tacoma St. More information: 520-439-2304 or email@example.com.
Aug. 10 Webinar: Chacoan Roads: How Were They Used, and Why Does It Matter?
With Robert Weiner. His dissertation research explores the history, use, and meaning of monumental roads associated with Chaco Canyon and its regional polity during the 11th–12th centuries in the U.S. Southwest. More broadly, he is interested in the role of religion in the big picture of human history. San Juan Basin Archaeological Society | More Information and Zoom Link >>
Position Announcement: Executive Director (Cortez CO)
Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance seeks an Executive Director to lead the organization in collaborating with the Bureau of Land Management to engage the public through stewardship, education, and outreach for the use and enjoyment of the natural and cultural landscape of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and nearby public lands. Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance | Learn More >>
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