When The Archaeological Conservancy’s western staff travels, we have numerous items on the to-do list ranging from monitoring preserves, to meeting with landowners or archaeologists, and attending conferences.  This time TAC’s Western staff traveled to southern California to monitor two preserves and attend the 50th annual meeting of the Society for California Archaeology, held in Ontario, California.

Bedrock mortars from Workplace on the Mojave Preserve
Bedrock mortars from Workplace on the Mojave Preserve

The first site that was monitored was the Workplace on the Mojave Preserve.  Acquired in 2002, this preserve consists of three archaeologist sites containing bedrock milling features, a cupule rock, lithic material, groundstone fragments, and a subsurface deposit.  The sites were slated for development but were donated to TAC for preservation.

The second, in the desert south of Barstow, California, the Willis Well Preserve was also monitored.  This is a multi-component site with a unique history.  Historically, this was the homestead of George and Mildred Willis who moved to the location in 1915.  George chose this spot as there was a water source in which he constructed a well that carries the historic Willis Well name.  The couple made a living raising cattle and doing odd jobs.  It is believed that Mildred had dreams of constructing a Scottish cottage and built extensive rock walls until George’s death in 1915.  Today, the rock walls are still standing, several feet thick without the use of mortar.

Western Regional Director on site , next to Historic Rock Walls
Western Regional Director on site , next to Historic Rock Walls

Prehistorically, this location was a Native American village or camp site. With the water source, the site may have acted as an important water hole for traveling native groups.  A midden is present along with extensive petroglyphs running the length of the rock outcrop.  Other artifacts include a milling slick, flakes, stone tools, and a pictograph.

Overview of Willis Well Preserve (note the rock walls)
Overview of Willis Well Preserve (note the rock walls)

Finally, TAC staff attended the Society for California Archaeology (SCA) 50th annual meeting and sharing complimentary issues of TAC’s magazine American Archaeology.  The Society for California Archaeology “dedicated to research, understanding, interpretation and conservation of the heritage of California and the regions that surround and pertain to it” (https://scahome.org/).  It is a great meeting with various speakers and presenters, poster presentations, a book room with vendors, and a field trip.

Other agencies and groups hold their annual meetings in concert with conference.  TAC staff attended the California Archaeological Site Stewardship Program (CASSP) meeting.  By teaming up with agency archaeologists, CASSP trains volunteers to protect archaeological and historical resources by regularly visiting sites and recording changes. You can learn more about their amazing program here at http://www.cassp.org/.  TAC is especially thankful to CASSP, as several of their wonderfully trained stewards are monitoring TAC’s California preserves today.

The book room at the SCA meeting
The book room at the SCA meeting, sharing copies of American Archaeology
Presentations under way at the SCA meeting
Presentations under way at the SCA meeting 2016

-Deanna Commons, Western Regional Field Representative



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