By Debra Reid, email@example.com; in the Lovelock Review-Miner, Nevada 5/30/18; published by permission
This summer, a University of Nevada, Reno archaeological team will “re-visit” the Leonard Rockshelter near Lovelock. Updated excavation and radiocarbon dating methods may confirm the site was occupied even earlier in time by some of the first residents of North America.
The project will test a previous claim the site contains evidence of the “Clovis” people who scientists believe were the ancestors of modern Native American tribes and lived around 13,000 years ago. If the claim is true, it would increase Leonard Rockshelter’s scientific significance.
Past research indicated prehistoric human occupation ranged from about 8700 to 700 years before present but that could change with the UNR Leonard Rockshelter excavation project.
Dr. Geoffrey Smith described his project in a proposal for The Archaeological Conservancy (TAC), owner of the site south of Lovelock. Smith is an Associate Professor and Executive Director of the UNR Department of Anthropology’s Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit.
“It (the proposal) lays out the reason why we are returning- to evaluate an old claim that the site contains a Clovis-aged occupation,” he said last week. “If that is correct, it would be a really big deal. However, with the only information collected by the site’s original excavators, we have no way of knowing.”
To protect the site for such research, TAC bought 640-acres of private land in 2002 from the Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation, said Cory Wilkins, Western Regional Director for TAC. Those interested in Leonard Rockshelter must contact the group and request a tour of the site.
Leonard Rockshelter is part of a series of caves and shelters in the Humboldt Range. Shelters and caves were eroded by the wave action of Lake Lahontan. Scientists say the giant lake reached its final highest level around 15,300 years ago then gradually receded leaving behind the evidence of prehistoric human occupation.
After guano miners found artifacts in 1936, Leonard Rockshelter was excavated in 1937 and 1950 by archaeologist Robert Heizer of the University of California, Berkeley. He unearthed a “modest assemblage” of stone, fiber and wooden artifacts including wooden atlatl foreshafts, obsidian flakes and projectile points.Obsidian flakes were recovered by Heizer from below a layer of bat guano radiocarbon dated to around 13,000 years ago, Smith said.
If the age of obsidian flakes and other artifacts found below the 13,000 year old material is confirmed, that could indicate the rockshelter was inhabited prior to that time during the terminal Pleistocene Epoch. The Pleistocene Epoch, otherwise known as the Ice Age, lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,000 years ago and was followed by the current Holocene Epoch.
“If clear evidence of human occupation (e.g., obsidian flakes) does exist in a primary context below deposits dating to 13,000 years ago, then the site could join the growing list of Clovis-aged (and perhaps, pre-Clovis) occupations in North America,” Smith said.
Leonard Rockshelter artifacts were some of the first to be radiocarbon dated, a new research method at the time. Wooden foreshafts that served as part of a weapon system tipped with chert or obsidian projectile points were directly dated to around 7900 years ago placing them near the beginning of the middle Holocene Epoch. Smith said radiocarbon dating has improved so new dates on sediment and artifacts should be more accurate than Heizer’s earlier estimates.
In his research proposal, Smith details the nature of the evidence he is looking for:
“The primary goal of our proposed work is to test the hypothesis that Leonard Rockshelter contains evidence of human occupation dating to the terminal Pleistocene. Evidence needed to support this hypothesis includes artifacts or features of unquestionable human origin situated at the same depth or below organic material (guano, charcoal, wood, etc.) radiocarbon dated to the terminal Pleistocene.”
Smith said his team will excavate smaller increments of sediment in some of the four trenches dug earlier by Heizer’s team. A large block of roof fall, from the cliff above the rockshelter, may be broken up and removed so the ground below can be excavated, Smith says in his proposal.
Meanwhile, Wilkins would like to recruit local volunteers, known as site stewards, to help him keep an eye on the place. Site stewards visit TAC preserves and report any threats to the sites.
Vandalism and theft can destroy unique evidence of ancient human history. The group’s objective is to preserve the Leonard Rockshelter and other sites for further research.
“The site is fragile and susceptible to looting,” Wilkins said. There can be big penalties for looting or damaging archaeological sites but they vary from state to state, he said.
Wilkins said he’s looking for more sites in need of protection. TAC buys archaeological sites on private property that would otherwise be paved over and destroyed by modern development.
“Right now, my push is Great Basin archaeology,” he said. “We’re looking at anything out here but, the challenge in Nevada is there’s so much public land. The BLM, Forest Service and other public agencies own 82 percent of Nevada so that limits private property that’s for sale that has archaeology on it. Lovelock Cave is BLM property so BLM archaeologists manage that site.”
Wilkins said he’ll give tours of Leonard Rockshelter upon request. There are petroglyphs on layers of tufa “pillows” covering parts of the cliff above and fallen boulders below conceal dark chambers that could still hold undiscovered clues about the shelter’s former inhabitants.
Smith said petroglyphs are difficult to age but researchers believe the Leonard Rockshelter motifs were carved sometime in the last 4,000 years due to their elevation. In earlier times, the shelter floor was lower and carved areas would have been more difficult for the artists to reach.
The view from Leonard Rockshelter includes other rock outcroppings and what from a distance look like more rockshelters. Wilkins said he’s got more exploring to do in Pershing County.
Those interested in serving as site stewards or a tour of the Leonard Rockshelter are asked to get in touch with Wilkins. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
5/30/18 in the Lovelock Review-Miner, published by permission
Site Saved with POINT-6 Emergency Preservation Funds! Donate! Each donation will be matched dollar for dollar!
The area in east-central Louisiana, where the Mount Bayou Mound is located, is characterized by flat, poorly-drained land that is subject to flooding and is interlaced with bayous, rivers, and lakes. The Ouachita, Tensas, and Black rivers meander throughout these parishes and the forest cover is a mixture of hardwoods. The rich soil makes the higher land surfaces that do not flood ideal farmland, and the woods and bottomlands are a haven for hunters and fishermen.
But today’s farmers and hunters are not the first to take advantage of the natural bounty of this part of Louisiana. Ceramics found at the site indicate that people were living at the Mount Bayou Mound, in Catahoula Parish at least as early as A.D. 700, a time when what archaeologists refer to as the Coles Creek culture began. The Coles Creek were socially complex people who did not practice maize agriculture. Instead, they were expert hunters, gatherers, and foragers. Coles Creek people are considered socially complex in part because they constructed mound sites throughout the southern portion of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Ceramics made by Plaquemine people, who date to about A.D. 1200 and who also built mounds, have been found at Mount Bayou Mound as well.
When The previous owner learned that the approximately six-foothigh mound of dirt on his property was actually a Native American mound, he contacted Chip McGimsey, the Louisiana State archaeologist, who visited the site. McGimsey confirmed that it was an ancient mound that had previously been recorded, and he suggested approaching the Conservancy about preserving it. The Conservancy was able to negotiate a price for the mound and will maintain it as a permanent archaeological preserve. The Mount Bayou Mound will hold the secret of its origin for future archaeologists.
This excerpt was published in our FALL 2018 Issue of American Archaeology.
Browse the article excerpts in our last issue: SUMMER 2018.
The Conservancy has entered into an agreement to acquire a portion of the Shelby site, located in the Town of Shelby in Orleans County, New York. The site, also known as Shelby Fort, dates to the early-to-middle sixteenth century and contains the remains of a Late Woodland period village and the associated double earthen ring that surrounded it. Portions of the earthring are still visible on the surface.
This site sits on a slight knoll near a small creek and overlooking a wetlands. Shelby has been known to area residents since the eighteenth century and possibly earlier, and was subject to various excavations throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Ephraim Squier first wrote about the site in 1851. The earliest known excavation of the earthwork was in the 1870s by Smithsonian anthropologist Frank Cushing, who had grown up near the site and would camp there for days at a time. Cushing referred to Shelby as “one of the most interesting ancient earthworks in the state.”
The significance of this acquisition by the Conservancy was noted by Douglas Perelli of the University of Buffalo. “This is a huge save for the archaeology of western New York and the Eastern Woodlands. Like so many Late Woodland villages sites in our region, these sites are not well documented in literature and their continued existence bodes well for our learning from them in the future. A big thanks to the Conservancy for stepping up and saving this one.” Once acquired, the Conservancy will establish the property as the Shelby Archaeological Preserve and will work to acquire additional portions of the site in the future.
This excerpt was published in our FALL 2018 Issue of American Archaeology.
Browse the article excerpts in our last issue: SUMMER 2018.
With the sudden passing of Bliss Bruen the Conservancy has lost one of our dearest friends and greatest inspirations. Bliss was a genuine people person and made a point to befriend all of us individually. She loved knowing what was going on in our regions and in our lives. She believed in the Conservancy and our mission.
This accomplished woman happened to be married to Dr. Jim Judge, a member of The Archaeological Conservancy’s Board of Directors. So when we got Jim as a board member, we got a bonus- sort of a two for one, if you will- because we also got Bliss with her vast media experience, her positive outlook, and her perceptive nature. She was a great asset as we began venturing into the world of social media, serving as a founding member of our Social Media Committee. She encouraged the Conservancy to think big and was always sharing ideas for how best to get our message out to the public.
Bliss and Jim were such a wonderful team. Bliss was immensely proud of hers and Jim’s children. My heart aches for Jim and their family. They were a blended family because that’s what Bliss did, she blended people, and it was always for the greater good. Bliss spent much of her life connecting people and telling the truth through stories, and she did it well.
For our annual winter board meeting each year, I travelled from the SE region to the Conservancy’s home office in Albuquerque, I’d often take time to visit Southwest sites. A few times I met with Bliss and Jim in their home town of Durango. Bliss made sure I always left with new friends. I remember we had so much fun laughing together and coming up with new ideas for fundraising and trips. She was so energetic and was always right there with her phone taking pictures and documenting every moment. I’m glad she did, but it also meant she was behind the camera and not in enough photos. When I think of Bliss, it will always be of her contagious smile and enthusiasm.
As I learned of her death last week, I was struck by the fact that she was way out in Colorado and I live in Mississippi. We lived so far apart and I might have gone my entire life never even knowing her. What a stroke of luck that our paths crossed and what a joy it was to know her.
~Jessica Crawford, Southeast Regional Director
Bliss Bruen, longtime community organizer and visionary, dies at 74
This story was originally published on The Durango Herald’s website, www.durangoherald.com, and is republished here with permission
Helen Elizabeth “Bliss” Bruen, a stalwart volunteer in the Durango community who served on countless boards and brought her visionary ideas to fruition, died Tuesday, Sept. 11, at her home in Durango. She was 74 years old.
Bruen was born Oct. 28, 1943, in Washington, D.C., where she spent her childhood. Her father, James, was a stockbroker and her mother, Alice, was a homemaker, according to Bruen’s son, David Gilford, 40.
Bruen attended college at Miami University in Ohio, taking jobs after graduation in New York City and San Francisco as a photographer and then documentary filmmaker.
She produced a number of documentaries on topics such as conflicts in Central America, peace activists in the United States and a catering business that served people with Down syndrome.
“Her passion in life was about understanding people’s stories and connecting people to one another,” Gilford said.
Gilford said Bruen went by Betty growing up and through college. But sometime in the late 1960s or early ’70s while spending a few weeks in Big Sur on the California coast, she chose to go by Bliss, “which reflected her positive attitude and approach to life.”
Bruen married Steve Gilford in 1973 and the couple had two sons, David and Sam. The marriage later ended in divorce.
In the late 1980s, Bruen married Jim Judge, an archaeologist who lived in Taos, New Mexico, at the time. The family moved to Durango in 1990 when Judge received a professorship from Fort Lewis College.
Judge and Bruen have lived in Durango since.
“She loved the beauty and natural environment,” said Bruen’s younger son, Sam Gilford, 36. “And almost immediately she became embedded in the local community.”
The list of organizations and endeavors she was involved in is long and varied.
Bruen was part of the founding group of Animas High School in the mid-2000s.
Gisele Pansze, who served on the school’s board with her, said Bruen was recruited because of her experience with charter schools. She gladly helped, even though all her kids had already graduated, Pansze said.
“She got involved because she thought it would be a good thing for the community,” Pansze said. “Their (Bruen’s and Judge’s) support was invaluable to getting the school.”
Pansze and Bruen remained friends throughout the years.
“Her commitment to doing the right thing for the community was really inspirational to me,” Pansze said. “It’s just a huge loss for our community.”
Kathleen Adams, Bruen’s friend and member of the League of Women Voters of La Plata County, said Bruen had many visionary ideas to improve the communities of Durango and Southwest Colorado.
Bruen kick-started Community Cinema for Durango, which screened independent films at the Durango Public Library. The cinema series continued for more than five years.
“She brought the world to Durango,” Adams said.
“Some people see the big picture, and some people are better at seeing the baby steps,” Adams said. “Bliss was unique to have both the personality to see and start projects, and the energy to tackle it in baby steps.”
Bruen was also heavily involved in the formation of supporting the Powerhouse Science Center, which posted on its Facebook page Wednesday that she “worked on countless projects at the Powerhouse over the years. She was a visionary with ideas, a true collaborator and her enthusiasm was contagious. There’s a deep hole in our hearts.”
Most recently, Bruen worked with Rocky Mountain PBS to develop a Regional Innovation Center at Fort Lewis College that would bring local media outlets together to work collaboratively. According to Amanda Mountain, RMPBS president and CEO, Bruen and Durango resident Jim Foster laid the foundation for the Regional Innovation Center model that has been put in place in four places in Colorado, with a hub in Denver.
“The tireless focus and selfless passion that Bliss brought to everything she did was contagious,” Mountain wrote in a letter to RMPBS staff members. “When you were around Bliss, no matter the context, you wanted to bottle the essence of who she was because it was frankly intoxicating. To have lived life with such passion, commitment, selflessness and sheer excitement for life and the possibilities – it’s what we all want for ourselves and for those we love. And, man, did she do that.”
Carol Fleisher, a documentary filmmaker, was recruited by Bruen to teach students at FLC to make documentaries that could be aired on the Denver-based public television station.
“And that’s now what we’re doing,” said Fleisher, who serves as a producer-in-residence at the Durango innovation center.
Bruen had a bigger dream, however, Fleisher said.
“She wanted to bring all local media and their best resources together to inspire a new generation of storytellers,” Fleisher said. “We were all soldiers in her plan, and now someone has to take up her saber. It’s the best way we can honor her memory.”
Besides her community work, Adams said Bruen was a passionate and loyal friend.
“She had this enormous welcoming smile on her face that had optimism behind it, an energy behind it,” Adams said. “And I can’t think of anyone else who has that power of human connection, just by their body language, facial expression, intensity of conviction.”
David Gilford said his mother was driven by an insatiable curiosity “to understand people and help other people understand each other.”
“She wanted to bridge divides and harness those types of interactions to help make the community stronger,” he said.
Sam Gilford said Bruen was diagnosed with cancer in late August and immediately underwent treatment that was ineffective.
“It was incredibly sudden,” Sam said. “We were very fortunate to be able to come out and spend some real significant time with her.”
~By Jonathan Romeo County & environment reporter at the Durango Herald; Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 6:17 PM Updated: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 10:51 PM, reprinted with permission
Be a part of saving the past for the future! Make your gift to the Conservancy go even further by joining the Friends of the Conservancy, our monthly giving program. Friends provide continuous reliable support of our preservation efforts across the country. Make a real difference TODAY with your sustained investment in the race to protect threatened and fragile cultural heritage sites. DONATE MONTHLY !
When you participate in our monthly giving program:
Make your donation go further by reducing fundraising costs & eliminating the need to send paper renewals and end-of-year appeals
Your membership will automatically renew each year, ensuring that you won’t miss an issue of American Archaeology.
You will receive a special end-of-year Thank You gift annually.
You are in charge: set your donation amount and change it at any time.
Give $100 a month and become a ConservancyLife Member, a group of dedicated members who share your concern for the fate of America’s cultural heritage
The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, FALL 2018, is now available!
COVER: At the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula lies L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. This 1,000-year-old settlement is the first-known evidence of European presence in the Americas.
CREDIT: Dale Wilson / Parks Canada
SEARCHING FOR VIKINGS BY DAVID MALAKOFF
L’Anse aux Meadows was discovered in eastern Canada in 1960. Since then, archaeologists have had little luck finding other Norse sites in North America.
A MEETING OF SCIENCE AND CULTURE BY JULIAN SMITH
A collaboration between an archaeologist and a Native American basketmaker has led to a better understanding of ancient basketry.
A TUMULTUOUS TIME BY ELIZABETH LUNDAY
An investigation in southeast Tennessee may be revealing evidence of problems that plagued the region in the thirteenth century.
WILLIAMSBURG UNCOVERED BY PAULA NEELY
Archaeology is playing an important role in telling the story of Virginia’s former capital.
OF MASTODONS AND MEN BY TAMARA JAGER STEWART
Were humans hunting mastodons and other megafauna in northeast Florida nearly 15,000 years ago?
A REMARKABLE EARTHWORK PRESERVED
The Conservancy acquires an earthwork in upstate New York.
THE MYSTERY OF MOUNT BAYOU MOUND
Future research may reveal the age of this ancient mound.Join crowdfunding for POINT-6 Emergency Preservation Fund. Donate at https://give.archaeologicalconservancy.org/ .Each donation will be matched dollar for dollar! Now 138 Sites have been saved by POINT emergency funds.
In the fall of 1965, a select group of people received an ornate and mysterious invitation. Please come, it said, to a black-tie ceremony at Yale University’s Beinecke Library in New Haven, Connecticut, to celebrate the acquisition of a map “of the greatest significance.” The crowd that attended the event wasn’t disappointed. With fanfare, Yale officials unveiled what came to be known as the Vinland Map. The medieval parchment dated to about A.D. 1440, they said, and it would rewrite history by proving that Viking seafarers had reached North America hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus. The proof was in the map’s upper left corner: the outline of a landmass that resembled the eastern coast of Canada marked Vinland—a Norse name for a land to the west of Greenland—and a caption explaining that European explorers had visited in the eleventh century.
The map, the Yale experts noted, matched Viking sagas describing Leif Eriksson’s voyages to Vinland. And the timeline was supported by a remarkable archaeological discovery, made just a few years earlier on the coast of Canada, at a site called L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. There, a team led by Norwegian researchers Anne Stine and Helge Ingstad had found evidence of a small Norse settlement dating to roughly A.D. 1000. Among the finds were the ruins of eight structures, iron boat nails, a bone knitting needle, a hone, and a bronze pin likely used to fasten a Viking cloak. The Norse had probably established the outpost to tap the region’s rich natural resources, including timber, iron ore, and wildlife.
The Yale announcement, made just hours before Columbus Day, immediately generated headlines—and controversy. Americans of Scandinavian origin were giddy with newfound pride in their Norse ancestors, but many Italian Americans were distressed by the perceived attack on their hero of discovery. Numerous scholars, meanwhile, were simply baffled by the Vinland Map and doubted its authenticity.
Excerpt, More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018
For millennia, humans have flocked to the lush region now known as the Aucilla River drainage in north-central Florida. Some twenty miles to the west, an underground river emanates an upwelling and forms the Wakulla River. The upwelling, known as Wakulla Springs, contains the remains of countless Pleistocene animals drawn to the freshwater springs. These waterways also include pre-Clovis sites dating back some 14,500 years, such as the mastodon kill and scavenge site known as Page-Ladson. Back then the water table was sometimes near the modern level and sometimes much lower. Therefore, many ancient sites in the area were at times inundated while others were dry land or wetland surfaces.
“Older underwater sites may represent inundated components that were originally terrestrial, and younger components may represent the remnants of later nearshore cultural activity after sea levels rose to near present levels about 6,000 years ago,” said archaeologist James Dunbar, who discovered the Page-Ladson site in the early 1990s. Dunbar has continued intensive research of Paleo-Indians sites in the river drainage ever since, and in 2012 he helped found the non-profit Aucilla Research Institute (ARI), which is dedicated to archaeological and earth sciences research as well as public education and outreach.
Numerous mastodon and Paleo-Indian discoveries in the area have intrigued researchers such as Dunbar, who believe these sites are likely associated and show the antiquity and continuity of human use of the area. He and his ARI crew, assisted by volunteers, started working at the Wakulla Springs Lodge site ten years ago.
Suquamish elder and master basketmaker Ed Carriere was thrilled when he first saw the fragments of ancient cedar baskets in the Biderbost Collection at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum in Seattle. Carriere was fourteen when tribal elders first taught him how to weave traditional baskets. At age eighty, seeing a fragment one of his ancestors had created by hand 2,000 years ago was something new. “It really got me so interested that I just had to replicate and weave like that,” Carriere said.
The visit to the Burke, which took place in 2014, was the result of a collaborative effort between Carriere and archaeologist Dale Croes, an adjunct professor at Washington State University. The men had joined forces over a decade earlier when Croes began inviting Carrier to his digs to help excavate 700-year-old clam baskets almost identical to those Carriere has made throughout his lifetime. Their combination of scientific approach and traditional cultural knowledge has expanded our understanding of the history and techniques of Northwest basketry and its importance in native culture. In the process, the men have made beautiful baskets and become close friends.
Native groups in the Pacific Northwest have used baskets woven from plant materials for millennia. Most are made from the roots or boughs of cedar or spruce trees, and are used for storing dried foods or transporting goods. Some designs are suited for specific purposes: for example, Carriere’s traditional Coast Salish clam baskets have a large carrying handle on top and an open weave to wash out sand. Watertight sewn baskets, made with a coiling technique, can be used to boil food when heated rocks are added. “Our societies couldn’t have gone on without them,” said Bud Lane, vice chair of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and president of the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association. “We carried our babies, our food, our firewood. (Lane is also a master basketmaker.)
Excerpt, Read More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018 .
During the Great Depression, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) planned the construction of reservoirs along the Tennessee River, the agency recognized that archaeological sites in the region would be lost forever under the rising waters. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) mobilized to conduct excavations that would gather as much information as possible about these sites in the time remaining. Hiwassee Island was one of the sites targeted for investigation. Located about thirty-five miles northeast of Chattanooga, the island sits at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers. Between 1937 and 1939, archaeologists from the University of Tennessee supervised WPA excavations, focusing on a Mississippian village at the north end of the island. They uncovered a central plaza, several houses, and a large platform mound. The excavations at Hiwassee contributed to the creation of one of the first regional chronologies for the Southeast and was summarized in a report considered a landmark publication in Mississippian studies.
And that was that. The Chickamauga Dam on the Tennessee River was completed in 1940 and water levels rose, submerging nearly half of the small island. People in the area assumed all Hiwassee archaeological sites had either been inundated, excavated by the WPA, or destroyed by farming, said Erin Pritchard, TVA senior archaeological specialist.
But archaeologists familiar with Hiwassee suspected the site held more secrets. Lynne Sullivan, a research professor and curator at the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, found intact cultural deposits on Hiwassee when conducting field schools there in the late 1990s. That caught the attention of the TVA. The agency is responsible for protecting archaeological sites within the land it manages, and it can’t protect sites it doesn’t know exist. “People say, oh, that island’s been plowed for a hundred years, there’s no archaeology left,” said Pritchard. “We didn’t believe that, but we couldn’t prove it.” So in 2015 the TVA decided to take another look at Hiwassee Island.
Excerpt, Read More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018.