Fort Rock Cave (Oregon)

Fort Rock Cave, is a very significant site in the annuals of North American Archaeology. Nearly 80 years ago the cave and its deeply buried secrets altered the prevailing ideas about ancient American in the great Basin. For many years it was one of the oldest dated sites in North America. The site is located in the Fort Rock Valley, an arid landscape named for a volcanic monument about 50 miles southeast of Bend, Oregon. In 1998 Gordon and Henrietta Wanek of La Pine, Oregon, donated a 20-acre parcel that included the cave to the Conservancy. Now the Cave  has been transferred to the Orgeon State park system for ongoing protection and public access. Today visitors can schedule special tours during summer months of the site with the State Park service by visiting Oregon State Parks.

Luther Cressman, Professor at the University of Oregon and today considered the Father of Oregon archaeology,  first entered the Fort Rock cave in 1938. After digging through Fort Rock Cave’s surface layer of cow manure, he found a layer of volcanic ash that later research confirmed was the result of Mount Mazama’s eruption 6,900 years ago—the event that created Crater Lake. Below this layer he uncovered numerous artifacts, including 70 pairs of woven sagebrush-bark sandals. Years later, radiocarbon dating determined the sandals were around 9,000 years old, and more recent research has places the site as far back as 11,000 years ago.

Featured in American Archaeology, Vol. 2 No. 2, Summer 1998

State(s): Oregon   Culture(s): Clovis, Great Basin

MacHaffie Site (Montana)

The MacHaffie site was donated to the Archaeological Conservancy for preservation by Pamela Bompart in 2008, after owning in since 1975. It became the Conservancy’s first site preserve in Montana. Her husband Les Davis did the most contemporary archaeological investigations on the site in 1989-1993. The MacHaffie site has yielded evidence of Paleo-Indian occupation more than 12,000 years ago. It contains a Scottsbluff component dating to approximately 10,000 years ago, and it was used off and on by the Middle and Late Archaic hunter-gathers dating from 7,000 to about 2,000 years ago.

MacHaffie is located south of Helena in the Prickly Pear Valley at an elevation of about 4,200 feet. An amateur mineralogist found the site in the 1940’s and reported to Edmund MacHaffie, the local newspaper editor. His wife discovered a Folsom point in the Scottsbluff component that was eroding out.  Later archaeologists working with the River Basin Survey (RBS) visited the site and recognized its scientific potential.  A survey was conducted under the encouragement of the RBS by Carling I. Malouf in 1950 and excavation in 1951 by Richard G. Forbis both under the purview of Montana State University. When word spread of the amazing finds the site was subject to hundreds of looters who ravaged the Middle and Late Archaic cultural deposits and the threated the underlying Paleo-Indian strata in some areas.

Pamela Bompart purchased the site in order to protect it from looters. She worked with the State Historic Preservation Office to list the site on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The deep deposits that Les Davis excavated from 1989-1993 included materials below the Folsom level. The sub-Folsom deposited included more course-grained stone use and fragments of carbonized worked mammal bone. Unfortunately the bone could not be dated due to leaching of the collagen. The artifact collection was bequeathed to the Montana Historical Society Museum.

Summary from a piece written by Les Davis. Les Davis a great support of the Conservancy and archaeologist died this fall in 2014. We honor his contributions and his memory.

Featured in American Archaeology, Vol. 13 No. 3, Fall 2009

State(s): Montana   Culture(s): Folsom, Late Archaic, Middle Archaic

Candies Creek Village Archaeological Preserve (Tennessee)

Candies Creek Village Archaeological Preserve , also known as the Jim Sharp Archaeological Preserve.

In 1996 the University of Tennessee archaeologists, led by Charles Bentz of the  Transportation Center, surveyed the proposed subdivision after being alerted by member of the Southeastern Native American Alliance to the possibility of Cherokee graves in the area. Much to the archaeologists surprise among the rolling hills near Cleveland, TN, some 20 miles Northeast of Chattanooga, the search for a few unmarked graves uncovered an entire Mississippian town, A.D. 1000-1200, including evidence of a palisade.

Understanding the site’s importance and benefits of its preservation, Jim Sharp, the developer, agreed to sell the five acres for a price well below market value to the Archaeological Conservancy.  The sale was completed in 2001. After the initial survey, additional testing determined the extent of what appeared to be a large village, not a cemetery. A series of shallow test trenches excavated by a backhoe exposed numerous artifacts, human remains, and dozen of features, including postholes, middens, and house floors, and evidence for not one but two palisades from the Mississippian period. The presence of colonial ceramics also seemed to indicate the area’s later use as a Cherokee homestead. Day by day the archaeologists carefully recorded each new site feature, while at night members of the Southeast Native American Alliance guarded the site against looters.

Because plowing and looting have had minimal effect on the site, all structural features and most of the artifacts discovered and mapped by UT investigators remain undisturbed, and local tribes have reconsecrated the human burials. “Since fewer and fewer of these sites remain, it is extremely exciting that a previously undocumented site has been found almost perfectly intact, and that the site can be saved from destruction,” says Mark Michel president of the Conservancy.

Featured in American Archaeology magazine, Vol.2 No.1, Spring 1998

State(s): Tennessee   Culture(s): Mississippian, Woodland

Stallings Island (Georgia)

Stallings Island, located in the Savannah River eight miles upstream from Augusta, is best known for its very early pottery, a technological development that predated the advent of farming in Georgia by several millennia. Pictured are sherds of the punctated fiber-tempered pottery, ca. 3,800-3,500 years ago. The sherd on top is actually 11 centimeters wide. - Courtesy of Kenneth E. Sassaman
Stallings Island, located in the Savannah River eight miles upstream from Augusta, is best known for its very early pottery, a technological development that predated the advent of farming in Georgia by several millennia. Pictured are sherds of the punctated fiber-tempered pottery, ca. 3,800-3,500 years ago. The sherd on top is actually 11 centimeters wide.
– Courtesy of Kenneth E. Sassaman


Stallings Island, A National Landmark site, was donated to the Archaeological Conservancy in 1997 by Wyck and Shell Knox of Augusta, Georgia. At that time the site had undergone heavy looting resulting in a virtual moonscape of looters holes. Luckily the looting had been confined to only one area of the site. Stallings Island played a pivotal role in the cultural landscape of the Southeast during the Late Archaic period (3000-1000 B.C.).  A prior occupation was also identified during University of Florida excavations in the late 1990’s. This occupation was hunter and gathers from the Piedmont region using the area for almost 500 years from about 4,500 to 4,000 years ago.

The later Stallings people seemed to be ahead of their time. Archaeologist speculate that the origins of the stalling culture began about 5,000 years ago in the Lower Savannah River Valley. The culture produced the oldest documented pottery in North America, the first local shell fishing and the regions first settled communities. The Stalling Island site has been the source of study and conjecture by archaeologists since 1873. The most recent work was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Sassaman in 1999, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Florida, the foremost expert on Stallings Island and Stallings culture, who published  in 2006 the authoritative book on the area ‘People of the Shoals: Stallings Culture of the Savannah River Valley’.

Typically, The Stalling Island people lived in Semi-permanent villages along the shoals of the Savannah and Oggeechee Rivers where they could have easy access to freshwater shellfish, producing large shell middens. People at Stallings Island probably lived in round houses made from bent saplings covered with skins or bark and possibly arranged around a circular plaza. They produced the earliest forms of decorated pottery, along with carved bone pins, banner stones, and stemmed projectile points. Through the Conservancy’s preservation and protection efforts, researchers now can continue to acquire information that may explain the many mysteries that still sound the culture and its island.

Featured in American Archaeology, Vol.1 No.3, Fall 1997

State(s): Georgia   Culture(s): Late Archaic, Piedmont region, Shell Mound Archaic, Stallings Culture

The Trincheras of Los Morteros Site (Arizona)

The Trincheras of Los Morteros Site, The Dairy Site, and The Barchas Site (Arizona)

These three important sites, located near Tuscon Az, now saved by the Conservancy will help preserve the evidence of the gardens and farming practices of the Hohokam. The Conservancy’s Tuscon Arizona preserves are especially significant in light of the notorious destruction of Hokokam site.

An additional 17 acres containing more than a 100 trincheras features associated with the Los Morteros Site was donated by Kenneth and Deborah Ryan and James and Jacquelynn Yeager. They lie immediately adjacent to another 36 acres of trincheras above the Los Morteros community donated to the Conservancy in 1986 by developer Gary Lovelace. Los Morteros, or “the mortars”, is a large Colonial-Classic period Hohokam community, dating between A.D. 500 to 1450. Features at the site include an intact ballcourt, an irrigation canal system, numerous other intact features and trincheras. Trincheras  are enigmatic structures of dry-laid rock alignments located on volcanic hillsides above Hohokam villages throughout  southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Researchers studying the trincheras as Los Morteros have identified more than 200 of the features above the site. The construction and use of the trincheras appears to have been largely confined to the Early Classic period between A.D. 1100 and 1300. Some trincheras appear to have functioned as water control devices, channeling run-off water into agricultural areas. Other have flat-soil areas behind them, which would have allowed for their use as agricultural terraces. But trincheras might have had several uses for the Hohokam; additional uses hypothesized by research have also included habitation, defense, and ceremonial. In 1997 The Conservancy, Pima County, the town of Marana, and the University entered in discussion about the possibility of creating a public park around Los Morteros and its adjacent trincheras features. Now, the site and area are a 120 acre Pima County natural and cultural resources park, which is located near the north end of the Tucson Mountains.

The smallest of the preserves is a two-acre plot, located in the Cortaro Ranch subdivision, donated by Norman and Francis McClelland. The preserve is part of the Dairy site that originally covered 45 acres. Ancient residents of this site once farmed the rich deposits of the alluvial fans near the Santa Cruz River. A portion of the site exposed in the 1960’s revealed seven to ten feet of stratified deposits, spanning periods from A.D. 300 to 950.  Of great interest to researchers is evidence of features from the Hohokam Pioneer period around A.D. 500-800 , as site dating to that period are rare.

Also in Pima County, four acres of a Hohokam farmstead sites were donated by Sara Barchas. The sites located on the land appear to have been occupied between A.D. 800 and 1100. “Beginning around A.D. 1100, the Hohokam in this area began to seek out other niches for habitation and better dryland farming,’ explains Linda Mayro, archaeologist and cultural resources manager for Pima County. “There’s evidence for an increased population density in the area.”

Pima county was one of the fastest growing counties in 1997, and with these preserves the county made important strides toward preserving its cultural patrimony.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3, Fall 1997

State(s): Arizona   Culture(s): Hohokam

McGarity-Etheridge (Georgia)


The McGarity-Etheridge site is a 26-square-mile area of soapstone outcroppings, known to archaeologists as Soapstone Ridge, in Atlanta, Georgia. The site, which dates to the Late Archaic Period between 3000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., was protected as a developer agreed to sell the site to the Conservancy. One of the most significant developments for sedentary prehistoric populations was the invention of soapstone vessels for cooking. For hundreds of years, soapstone vessels were highly desirable  as cookware for Southeastern peoples, and it is hypothesized wide trade networks along the Atlantic Coast to Louisiana existed to disperse the heavy vessels.

Evidence of ancient soapstone-vessel manufacturing is still visible today at the McGarity-Etheridge site. Numerous unfinished pre-forms still cling to the boulders; examples of workshops and all phases of quarrying exist at the site. “The soapstone quarrying activities of these Late Archaic peoples might be viewed figuratively as Atlanta’s earliest industry,” Says John Worth of Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

This archaeological jewel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, but was nearly lost in 1996 when property owners began development of a new subdivision. When the owners learned of the site, they sought a way to preserve it, ultimately selling six acres to the Conservancy.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine vol. 1 No. 2, Summer 1997

State(s): Georgia   Culture(s): Late Archaic, Soapstone Quarry

Yellowjacket Pueblo (Colorado)


The fertile Montezuma Valley below Mesa Verde may have been home to 30,000 residents at it’s peak in the mid-1200’s, who lived in large valley pueblos, including Yellowjacket, a Conservancy preserve. Yellowjacket is the largest pueblo built by the Mesa Verde Anasazi and contains the highest density of ceremonial structures ever found in the Southwest, including 182 kivas, a great kiva, 17 towers and a great tower. Construction of Yellowjacket began by at least A.D. 950, and the masonry pueblo was likely occupied continuously until A.D. 1300, when the entire region was abandoned. Certain room blocks at the site were three stories high. According to David Breternitz, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, Yellowjacket is ” key to understanding the final Anasazi occupation of the area and how it relates to other sites of the period.

Between 1981 and 1984, the Conservancy launched a program to preserve the Yellowjacket Pueblo, acquiring from three tracts of land from separate land owners that contained 70 percent of all features and structures. In 1997 the Conservancy received a grant from the Colorado Historical Society’s State Historical Fund, matched by donations from private donors and members, to purchase another 45 acres of the site. In addition to Yellowjacket, the conservancy also has three smaller Mesa Verde pueblo preserves in the Valley, including Mud Springs Pueblo, which covers 50 acres itself.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 1 No.2, Spring 1997

State(s): Colorado   Culture(s): Anasazi, Ancestral Puebloan, Mesa Verde

Dunbar’s Camp (Pennsylvania)


Dunbar’s Camp is located about five miles east of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, near the Jumonville Glen Unit of Fort Necessity National Battlefield. In the mid-18th Century during the time of the French and Indian War, the ridge, Chestnut Ridge, and the Alleghenies were best known as the principal physical barrier between the English colonies on the Atlantic Seaboard and the rich, French-occupied Ohio Valley.  During the retreat from the 1755 Battle of Monogohela General Edward Braddock found their way to Col. Thomas Dunbar and his troops assembling the heavy baggage train. Fear spread to Dunbar’s men, who quickly destroyed the baggage train in order to make a more rapid retreat to Philadelphia. Although little celebrated in the annuals of the American military history, the debris of a major 18th-century military expedition has been much to the benefit of archaeologists and historians more than 200 years later. The Jumonville board of directors donated a conservation easement to the Conservancy on a 50-arce tract of land containing the site to help preserve Dunbar’s Camp for future generations. It means that this site of 18th-century panic and rout will remain a peaceful woodland.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 2,  Summer 1997

State(s): Pennsylvania   Culture(s): 18th-century, Battlefield, Dunbar's Camp, Fort Necessity, French and Indian War

Telfer Mounds (Wisconsin)

Telfer mound is located about 25 miles east of Madison. Telfer contains a pyramidal platform mound that is roughly eight feet high and 40 feet square at the base, as well as a small effigy mound.  The effigy mound was originally buildt two feet high and 40 feet long and has been variously described as representing a man, ahand, or a bird. Unfortunately the shape is barely discernible today due to erosion. Archaeologists say that the effigy mound seems to belong to the Effigy Mound Culture and probably predates the site’s Mississippian pyramidal mound.

The property had been owned for 50 years by Robert and Hariet Telfer who had always recognized the importance of their mounds from looting and development and who decided in order to ensure the continued preservation of the site to sell to the Archaeological Conservancy.  There are only three Mississippian sites with platform mounds located in Wisconsin: one in Trempealeau in the far western part of the state, the Telfer site itself, and the famous Aztalan site about two miles south of Telfer. Of the three sites only Aztalan, which dates to A.D. 1000-1300 period, has been thoroughly studied. Since its original description in 1837, Aztalan has been the subject of much conjecture and speculation.  The Telfer mound location on a hilltop suggests to Archaeologist Lynne Goldstein that it had some kind of signaling function, since it is possible to see Aztalan from Telfer’s summit.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 1, Spring 1997

State(s): Wisconsin   Culture(s): Effigy Mound Culture, Mississippian

Workplace at Mojave (California)

In San Bernardino County, California, the developer of the ‘Workplace’ project, Southdown Inc., donated four significant site to the Archaeological Conservancy. Little is known today about the Vanyume people, who lived along the banks of the Mojave River at the time of European contact. At two Workplace sites, archaeologists found an unusual number of seed-processing tools, including stone manos, metates and pestles, as well as bedrock milling stations.

Archaeologist Adella Schroth, who conducted text excavations at the Workplace identified another of the sites at a hunting camp. The site overlooks the floodplain and contains many flaked tools. The Archaeological Research Unit at the University of California at Riverside discovered a rock hearth with ash and charcoal, radiocarbon-dated to approximately A.D. 540.

The Mojave River region provided ancient peoples with a clear route from the great Basin through the deserts to the Pacific Ocean. Prehistoric sites along the river contain shell beads from both the Pacific and the the Gulf of Mexico, turquoise from the eastern Mojave, obsidian from the north, and steatite (soapstones) from the Channel Islands. Later Missionaries, military, expeditions, trappers, traders and others all followed the same winding path along the river’s edge through the desert.

Summary from American Archaeology magazine, Spring 1997, Vol.1 No.1

State(s): California   Culture(s): Serrano, Vanyume