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American Archaeology Magazine Winter 2016 is Here!

AA winter 2016-17 Cover. Rediscovering the Alamo

The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, WINTER 2016, is now available!

  • COVER: A researcher operates a ground-penetrating radar machine at the Alamo in search of buried artifacts and features.
  • Credit: Reimagine The Alamo

Articles:

REDISCOVER ING THE ALAMO BY RICHARD A. MARINI
An archaeological project is playing an important role in an effort to make this iconic site more interesting to tourists.

A SENSE OF PLACE BY MIKE TONER
A Hohokam rock art study takes the unusual approach of examining not only the images, but also their surroundings.

A NEW VIEW OF MOUNDVILLE BY ALEXANDRA WITZE
For years this Mississippian site was thought to be a political capital, but recently some researchers have arrived at a different conclusion.

FINDING LUNA BY TAMARA J. STEWART
Archaeologists have recently discovered the first permanent European colony along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

HOW WERE THE AMERICAS COLONIZED? BY DAVID MALAKOFF
Experts are struggling to develop a plausible colonization model from the latest archaeological and genetic evidence.

New Acquisitions:

EARLY LIFE IN THE AMERICAN BOTTOM
The McCarty Mound could offer a glimpse of the American Bottom’s prehistory.

MAKING MEYER POTTERY
The Meyer Pottery Kiln contains information about nineteenth- and twentieth-century ceramics production.

Get your Copy of WINTER 2016 Now! Receive a subscription to American Archaeology Magazine with a $30 annual donation. Please visit our Membership page for details on how you can become a member.

Also available at Newsstands and Bookstores near you.

Browse Articles Summaries from our last issue, FALL 2016.  Explore Back Issues. Back issues, 2 years old or older, are available online to search and download.

Celebrate International Archaeology Day in California & New Mexico

Join The Archaeological Conservancy in Celebrating International Archaeology Day with lots of family fun in two of our Regions: in the Western region in San Diego, California and in the Southwestern Region in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you are not near one of those locations check out a celebration near you by searching for your city or State or Country at https://www.archaeological.org/archaeologyday/events

Arch in the Park:

San Diego International Archaeology Day

Join the San Diego Archaeological Society for the annual Arch in the Park on October 21st at the Los Peñasquitos Adobe Ranch House from 10am-3pm! Free Family-Fun! Come out to experience, enjoy, and support archaeology! Here are some of the many fun events:

10am-1pm: First People Kumeyaay Movie Showing
11am: Art Show Awards
1pm: Running Grunion’s Performance
All day: Tables and Demonstrations
Archaeological Excavation
Raffle Prize Drawings
Tours of the Adobe Ranch House

The San Luis Rey Tribe will be selling fry bread tacos, fry bread, and drinks. There is a restroom on site. http://www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/park-pages/RanchoLosPenasquitos.html

https://www.facebook.com/pg/sdcas/events/

International Archaeology Day in New Mexico

Join us for International Archaeology Day open house at the Center for New Mexico Archaeology (7 Old Cochiti Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507) on Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 10 am to 4 pm. This is a FREE family friendly event with lots of Demos and Hands-on activities!

The Archaeological Conservancy as the only national, nonprofit organization preserving the most significant archaeological sites in the United States, will provide information on the extraordinary archaeological sites we have saved in New Mexico including among many the Chaco Outlier known as the Holmes Group Site and the Wells Petroglyph Preserve, our tours and information on how you can get involved in preservation.

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the building, which is the primary storage facility for New Mexico’s archaeological collections, as well as the offices and working research laboratories of the Office of Archaeological Studies. Visitors of all ages can learn about New Mexico’s unique 12,000 year cultural heritage through a wide range of hands-on activities, demonstrations, and interactions with archaeologists.

Come throw atlatls, shoot bows, make yucca fiber, learn about rock art, and query archaeologists with all those questions you have always wanted to ask about New Mexico archaeology.

Please visit the Office of Archaeological Studies’ website for details, directions, and more information http://www.nmarchaeology.org/events/event-details.html?event_id=146

Danbury Site Preservation: A Long And Winding Road

An aerial view of the Danbury site. The new preserve is the open field to the right of the houses. Credit: Gregory Spatz.
An aerial view of the Danbury site. The new preserve is the open field to the right of the houses. Credit: Gregory Spatz.

Danbury (Ohio)

Today the western basin of Lake Erie is dominated by the cities of Windsor, Detroit, and Toledo, and a myriad of small cities and towns mostly serving the vacation trade. Prehistorically, American Indians utilized the rich resources of the western basin to support sizable populations of fishers, foragers, and farmers. The archaeological sites that document their activities were once nearly ubiquitous along the shore, but today they have largely disappeared beneath modern sprawl. The Danbury site, the Conservancy’s newest Ohio preserve, had many brushes with destruction before a compromise yielded both new vacation homes and a permanent archaeological preserve.

Danbury was first recorded by amateur archaeologists in 1977, but the site received no professional attention until 1999, when cultural resource management archaeologists carried out an initial survey in advance of planned development. Unfortunately, the owners of the property disregarded the recommendations of the archaeologists, and in 2003 began earth moving without further archaeological work. Road construction soon unearthed several concentrations of midden soils, pit features, and human remains, and amateur archaeologists were given access to the site. Soon these activities came to the attention of local American Indians and the professional archaeological community, including the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Summary. Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology. Browse the article excerpts in our last issue SUMMER 2017 Issue.

Help Save Other Threatened Sites – Become A Member Today!
Explore Other Featured Conservancy Sites!

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores. Subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars.

Chickasawba: Where Beautiful Pottery was produced

After a rain, historic and prehistoric pottery, as well as stone tools from various time periods, washed into piles on the site’s surface. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.
After a rain, historic and prehistoric pottery, as well as stone tools from various time periods, washed into piles on the site’s surface. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

Chickasawba (Arkansas)

Located in the northeastern corner of Arkansas, Chickasawba is a large site believed to have originally consisted of three mounds arranged around a plaza area, and three other, smaller mounds, located on the southern half of the site. Today, the site is dominated by Mound A, which is approximately twenty-feet tall. The other mounds are barely visible as a consequence of years of farming.

Chickasawba is named for a Chief Chickasawba who, according to historical accounts, lived in a cabin on one of the mounds in the early 1800s. The site, however, long predates its namesake. The archaeological evidence suggests that Chickasawba was continuously occupied from the Late Archaic (circa 3000-1500 B.C.) through the Proto-historic periods. Researchers have found several burned houses and other evidence that indicate there was a significant occupation during the later portion of the Mississippian and early Proto-historic periods around A.D. 1550.

Summary. Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology. Browse the article excerpts in our last issue SUMMER 2017 Issue.

Help Save Other Threatened Sites – Become A Member Today!
Explore Other Featured Conservancy Sites!

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores. Subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars

American Archaeology Magazine Fall 2017 is Here!

The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, FALL 2017, is now available! COVER: This four-hole ocarina depicts an unknown animal. It was found in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and is now in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University. Credit: (c) President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. PM# 17-3-20/C8064.

The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, FALL 2017, is now available!

  • COVER: This four-hole ocarina depicts an unknown animal. It was found
    in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and is now in the collections of the Peabody
    Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University.
  • Credit: (c) President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum
    of Archaeology and Ethnology. PM# 17-3-20/C8064.

Articles:

AN INSTRUMENT FOR THE AGES BY GAYLE KECK
People have been playing ocarinas for millennia.

THE SERPENT MOUND DEBATE BY DAVID MALAKOFF
Who built this amazing effigy mound and when did they do it?

LIFE ON THE FRONTIER BY LINDA VACCARIELLO
Carter Robinson Mound and Village is yielding information about life on the Mississippian frontier.

FINDING THE PILGRIMS BY RACHAEL MOELLER GORMAN
Archaeologists believe they have located the Plymouth Colony, which was established in 1620.

SURVIVING IN A CHANGING WORLD BY BETH HOWARD
Archaeologists are learning how the Catawba tribe overcame warfare, enslavement, and disease in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

NEW ACQUISITIONS:

WHERE BEAUTIFUL POTTERY WAS PRODUCED
The Conservancy obtains part of a site known for remarkable ceramics.

A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
The Danbury site’s path to preservation had many twists and turns.

THE CONSERVANCY EXPANDS EBBERT SPRING
Having obtained another five-acre parcel, the Conservancy can now protect the entire site.

Get your Copy of Fall 2017 Now! Receive a subscription to American Archaeology Magazine with a $30 annual donation. Visit our Membership page for details on becoming a member.

Also available at Newsstands and Bookstores near you. Browse Articles Excerpts from our last issue, SPRING 2017

Explore Back Issues Online. Back issues, 2 years old or older, are available online to search and download. Order hard copies of Back Issues mailed to your home.

An Instrument For The Ages

This four-hole ocarina, which came from northwest Costa Rica, is shaped like a mythical animal. (c) President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. PM# 976-59-20/24969.
This four-hole ocarina, which came from northwest Costa Rica, is shaped like a mythical animal. (c) President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. PM# 976-59-20/24969.

Fall 2017: By Gayle Keck.

You might have had one when you were a kid. You might have encountered a magical one while playing a popular video game. You might even have an app on your iPhone or Android. Ocarinas captivate people today, just as they have for millennia.

These clay wind instruments, technically classified as “globular aerophones,” have one or more chambers. Players blow into, or sometimes over, a mouthpiece, placing their fingers on “tone-holes” to create different notes. Archaeologists excavating Mesoamerican sites have found ocarinas with numerous tone-holes. The most complex instruments have multiple mouthpieces and chambers, and are capable of producing simultaneous notes—sometimes even unusual wailing or buzzing sounds. The larger the resonating chamber, the lower the pitch; the size and thickness of the tone-holes can affect pitch as well.

There’s speculation that ocarinas traveled to Europe in 1527 with Aztec musicians who visited the court of Spanish King Charles V. They got their name from Giuseppe Donati, a nineteenth-century Italian musician, who dubbed his instrument “ocarina,” or “little goose.” Many modern ones do resemble that shape, but ancient ocarinas were incredibly varied, both in size and design. They range from tiny birds and turtles to larger, complex figurines; others create a mask-like effect when held up to the mouth. Still others have to be examined closely to discern that they’re musical instruments.

Archaeologists have found ocarinas in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America; some of these instruments are more than 4,500 years old. They turn up in middens, elite residences, and burial sites. In some instances, archaeologists believe they were used in ceremonies, dances, processions, or even in battle, while in others, it seems they were toys or home entertainment. There is even speculation that ocarinas were used to achieve trance-like states or to cure illness.

Excerpt.

Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 4. Browse Content of this Issue: Fall 2017 . Browse Articles Excerpts from our last issue, SUMMER 2017.

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores.  Annual subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars .

Click To Explore Our Online Bonus Images For The Story:

The Serpent Mound Debate

An aerial photograph of Serpent Mound taken from a drone. The mound is a National Historic Landmark. Credit: Jarrod Burks.
An aerial photograph of Serpent Mound taken from a drone. The mound is a National Historic Landmark. Credit: Jarrod Burks.

Fall 2017: By David Malakoff.

Anyone who has tried to catch a snake knows the reptiles are elusive. So it only seems appropriate that Serpent Mound, a twisting, quarter-mile long, three-foot-high earthwork in southern Ohio, has eluded archaeologists’ grasps for decades. Over the past 170 years, researchers have offered changing and conflicting views on the age of the iconic effigy, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Some believe that people of the Adena culture, who created countless elaborate earthen mounds in the central Ohio River Valley and adjacent lands, built the serpent about 2,300 years ago. But others assert that it’s less than half that age, and that it was produced by the Fort Ancient people, who also built earthworks in this region.

Regardless of who is right, recent research has cast new light on one of North America’s most distinctive, mysterious, and disputed ancient sites. “The great Serpent Mound is a really special place,” said archaeologist Bradley Lepper of the nonprofit Ohio History Connection, which owns the site. “You can’t walk along those curves without wanting to know more about who built it, when they built it, and what they were thinking. It is just a fascinating effigy.”

In the 1840s, journalist Ephraim Squier and physician Edwin Davis—both avid artifact collectors—embarked on a systematic effort to document and map ancient earthworks across the Eastern United States. In 1846, acting on a vague tip about a “work of defence” atop a heavily wooded cliff overlooking Brush Creek in Adams County, the two men were surprised to find the giant effigy. After careful mapping (a backbreaking task), its form became clear: an enormous egg-shaped head with a single eye, attached to a body with a half-dozen curves and a tightly coiled tail. It was, they later wrote, “probably the most extraordinary earthwork thus far discovered.” Scholarly speculation about the serpent’s origins began swirling.

Excerpt.

Read more about 3D Modeling Ohio Earthworks from our recent blog by Jamie Davis.

Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 4. Browse Content of this Issue: Fall 2017 . Browse Articles Excerpts from our last issue, SUMMER 2017.

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores.  Annual subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars .

Click To Explore Our Online Bonus Images For The Story:

Life On The Frontier

Researchers excavate the middle structure of the three structures that were built on top of each other at Carter Robinson Mounds. Credit: JC Burns.
Researchers excavate the middle structure of the three structures that were built on top of each other at Carter Robinson Mounds. Credit: JC Burns.

Fall 2017: By Linda Vaccariello.

A few miles east of the narrow gap in the Cumberland Mountains where Daniel Boone and his companions blazed a trail into Kentucky, Maureen Meyers is puzzling over another group of settlers. Her subjects are the Mississippian people who built the Carter Robinson Mound and Village in western Virginia and occupied it for 150 years.

The Mississippian culture lasted from roughly A. D. 900 to 1500. The name comes from the Mississippi River Valley that was their stronghold, but these ancient people spread into other parts of the Southeastern U.S., too. The Carter Robinson Mound inhabitants came from Mississippian enclaves in Tennessee, “This was their frontier,” said Meyers, an archaeologist at  the University of Mississippi. “We know a lot about Mississippian culture, but not a lot about their interaction with others at the frontiers.”

Meyers’ work at Carter Robinson Mound focuses on the nature of life on the fringes of the Mississippian world. She wants to understand how the location influenced people’s activities. “Frontiers are important places to study because they are generally where people with different backgrounds interact, or that bridge other more densely settled areas,” said Barbara Mills, a University of Arizona archaeologist who is familiar  with  frontier research. “They may be conduits for information and resources and places with a high degree of innovation. Understanding social processes that occur on the edges helps to bring other areas into sharper focus.”

Meyers’ current project involves excavating part of the village where three structures were built sequentially, one on top of another. It is her fifth season at Carter Robinson Mound and village over the course of twelve years.  The mound was first identified in 1962 and was included in C.G. Holland’s Archeological Survey of Southwest Virginia. Published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1970, Holland’s work describes Carter Robinson as well as Ely Mound, a well-documented Mississippian site partially excavated by the Peabody Museum in 1877. (Ely Mound is now a preserve owned by  The Archaeological Conservancy.)

Excerpt.

Check out our Summer Sneak Peek “Covering the Mississippian Frontier at Carter Robinson”  photo blog for this article!

Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 4. Browse Content of this Issue: Fall 2017 . Browse Articles Excerpts from our last issue, SUMMER 2017.

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores.  Annual subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars .

Click To Explore Our Online Bonus Images For The Story:

 

 

Finding The Pilgrims

An aerial view of the excavations on Burial Hill. The grey structure with the black and brick doors is an 1830s burial vault that cuts through the site. Excavations in front of and behind the vault revealed a series of building postholes, trash pits, and many seventeenthcentury artifacts from the original settlement. Native American and English pottery was found in the trash pits, suggesting the use of Native pots in the English houses. Credit: Bruce T. Martin.
An aerial view of the excavations on Burial Hill. The grey structure with the black and brick doors is an 1830s burial vault that cuts through the site. Excavations in front of and behind the vault revealed a series of building postholes, trash pits, and many seventeenthcentury artifacts from the original settlement. Native American and English pottery was found in the trash pits, suggesting the use of Native pots in the English houses. Credit: Bruce T. Martin.

Fall 2017: By Rachael Moeller Gorman.

On a sticky day last June, archaeologist David Landon peered into a rectangular, three-foot-deep excavation unit on the edge of an old cemetery. “That layer they’re coming down on, despite being deeply buried, is very dark. It looks like topsoil,” Landon said. Two stocking-footed field school students gently scraped dirt into dustpans. “It’s very organic and rich.”

Landon and Christa Beranek, both of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Fiske Center For Archaeological Research, co-direct Project 400: The Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey, an investigation to discover the location of the original 1620 Pilgrim settlement under downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts. Landon believes he’s looking at a trash pit from the seventeenth century that was probably located next to a house.

The Pilgrims built their homes with wood and thatch, and all that’s left of them is a series of stains from decayed posts that have enriched and darkened the surrounding soil with organic matter. “We are mapping very subtle soil stains, variations in soil color and texture and artifacts that are present,” he said. “These are some of our main pieces of evidence.”

This evidence is helping the archaeologists identify the perimeters of the Pilgrim settlement. Surprisingly, this is the first time anyone has come so far in identifying its location. The timing of the discovery is serendipitous, as the colony’s 400th anniversary, for which extensive activities are planned, is approaching.

Excerpt.

Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 4. Browse Content of this Issue: Fall 2017 . Browse Articles Excerpts from our last issue, SUMMER 2017.

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores.  Annual subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars .

Click To Explore Our Online Bonus Images For The Story:

 

 

Surviving In A Changing World

A British soldier shakes hands with a Catawba warrior. A key to the Catawbas’ survival during the Colonial era was the military and economic alliance with the colony of South Carolina. Catawba warriors protected the colony from attacks by natives allied with the French and Spanish and served with the English in their frontier wars. In return, South Carolina granted favored trading status to the Catawba and provided them with firearms, ammunition, and supplies that were critical to their survival. Credit: Carolyn Arcabascio.
A British soldier shakes hands with a Catawba warrior. A key to the Catawbas’ survival during the Colonial era was the military and economic alliance with the colony of South Carolina. Catawba warriors protected the colony from attacks by natives allied with the French and Spanish and served with the English in their frontier wars. In return, South Carolina granted favored trading status to the Catawba and provided them with firearms, ammunition, and supplies that were critical to their survival. Credit: Carolyn Arcabascio.

Fall 2017: By Beth Howard.

On a picnic-perfect day in South Carolina’s Lancaster County last June, University of North Carolina (UNC) archaeologist Stephen Davis and his students meticulously scraped loose subsoil and dug, spoonful by spoonful, in search of clues to the lifeways of the Catawba tribe in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Based in the Catawba River Valley of South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border, the Catawba came to prominence during the tumultuous centuries following the arrival of the English in the New World.

In the century preceding the American Revolution, native peoples in the Piedmont of the Carolinas, a plateau region sandwiched between the Appalachian Mountains and the Coastal Plain, experienced seemingly insurmountable threats—the ravages of European diseases, intense conflict between tribes that was exacerbated by encroaching white settlers, and a large-scale slave trade. “They were being captured, enslaved, and then shipped out of Charleston to the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations,” said Davis, explaining that Indians escaped more easily than Africans because they knew the land so well, so the Native Americans were sent to the Caribbean where the land was unfamiliar and escaping was more difficult. “It has been estimated that, prior to 1715, there were more Indian slaves being exported out of Charleston than there were Africans being imported.”

When a young Englishman named John Lawson traveled through the area in early 1701, he observed the chaos of collapsing native communities firsthand. But the Catawba stood out as stable and thriving, a testament to their resourcefulness and adaptability. The Catawba’s survival was put to the test over the next century and a half, Davis said, but they met the challenges with savvy economic and political strategies.

Excerpt.

Read More in our FALL 2017 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 4. Browse Content of this Issue: Fall 2017 . Browse Articles Excerpts from our last issue, SUMMER 2017.

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores.  Annual subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars .

Click To Explore Our Online Bonus Images For The Story:

 

From Mohawk Ironworkers to Living the Ancient Southwest

David Noble, The Author, and Head River Guide Marcus Buck on the Conservancy's San Juan River Trip. Photo by Sid Davis.
David Noble, The Author, and Head River Guide Marcus Buck on the Conservancy's San Juan River Trip. Photo by Sid Davis.

By David Grant Noble

I came to archaeology unexpectedly, through a side door. The word, archaeology, never came up at home when I was growing up nor did I ever hear it at school. As it happened, when I was a teenager I learned to speak French and pursued that language (plus Latin and Italian) in school and college. At the time, the diplomatic service seemed a possible career. However, the Army had other plans for me, French, being the second language of Vietnam.

I was stationed in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1962-63 in a region inhabited by Jarai and Bahnar tribespeople, generally referred to as Montagnards. Meeting these people opened the door to anthropology. I also became acquainted with two Christian missionaries, who were avid amateur photographers. They got me interested in photographing and helped me get a good camera.

Back in the US, with the Army behind me, I taught French in New York City and in my spare time spent untold hours photographing: street scenes, people, Central Park, anti-Vietnam War protests and, well, anything that caught my eye. I taught myself how to use a darkroom, too, and found work writing and photographing for a weekly newspaper in the city.

One day, by chance, I found myself photographing Mohawk ironworkers, who were doing the high steel work on a tall building in Manhattan. (They went on to build the World Trade Center.) They invited me to go up, up and up, as the building rose from street level to continue photograph them. (See photos at: http://www.davidgrantnoble.com/images/mohawks/index.html.) I got to know them, which led to my girlfriend, Ruth Meria (now my wife of forty-plus years), and I to go to Iroquois country in upstate New York and Canada. We then headed west to Menominee, Ojibwe, Sioux, and Cheyenne country, meeting people and photographing. We even joined in the Ojibwe wild rice harvest along the shores of Lake Superior. (Photos: http://www.davidgrantnoble.com/images/ojibway/index.html.) Eventually, we landed in Santa Fe. All these travels, of course, in a rehabbed Volkswagen bus.

One day, in 1972, the photographer Laura Gilpin, with whom I had become friends, told me the School of American Research was looking for a photographer for its Arroyo Hondo Archaeological Project. “Go down there and see about it,” she said, knowing I needed a job. I did and was hired for three summer field seasons and then joined SAR’s staff for 18 years. It was at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo that archaeology and I first met face-to-face and became friends. I also became friends with archaeologists and learned something about the Southwest’s deep cultural history and native peoples.

Ruth and I began to explore ruins and rock art sites and discover Southwestern parks and monuments. Along the way, I got the notion to write a guidebook to archaeological sites in the Southwest—not a travel guide, an archaeological guide. That project involved finding sites that were appropriate for a guidebook, meeting more archaeologists, and reading, reading, reading. The book took several years to complete but what a great project. French teaching was now way in the past. When it was done every publisher I showed it to said Yes. It was the right book at the right time and is presently in its 4th revised and expanded edition – Ancient Ruins and Rock Art of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide.

While at SAR, I started a series of publications that focused, each one, on the archaeology of a particular park in the Southwest. I persuaded archaeologists who had done the primary research to contribute chapters and, as editor, helped them write about their work in a way that general readers would enjoy reading. The first to take full book form was New Light on Canyon (1984) and the most recent is Living the Ancient Southwest.

At some point in the very early years of the Archaeological Conservancy I met Mark Michel and Steve LeBlanc. I remember, a realtor was advertising land for sale in Galisteo saying it included the remains of an ancient pueblo. This caught Mark and Steve’s attention and we three went to check it out. The site, in fact, was Pueblo Blanco and it was clearly located on State Trust land. Mark and I began a long association and friendship then, which has been a much valued part of my life ever since.

2015 San Juan River Trip – Happy Campers! David Noble, the author, second from right front row. Photo by Chaz Evans.

In 1990, Mark asked me to be the archaeological guide on a Conservancy trip down the San Juan River in southeastern Utah. I’d already organized several of these trips for SAR with the noted archaeologist Alden Hayes doing the interpretation. Al had been doing archaeology since the world was young and I was rather in awe of his deep knowledge and long experience. Now I, an ex-French teacher, photographer, and writer was being asked to do that job? With some trepidation I agreed; I did my homework and gave talks afterward Mark asked me to do it again. And again and again. We’ve been doing river trips and other trips now for 26 years and still counting. I love introducing people to archaeology and history and have met such varied and interesting people from all around America.  Jay Last, an original and continuing board member and major supporter came on an early trip. And for several years, we enjoyed having a lizard expert with us: she was Mark’s daughter, Alex, who was about eight to twelve years old.

On The River at the Yampa Rover Tour 2014.
On The River at the Yampa Rover Tour 2014. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

After numerous runs on the San Juan, I scouted a trip on the Green and Colorado through Cataract Canyon and the following year we did that. In 1999, I scouted the Yampa and Green rivers for a potential Conservancy raft trip and we’ve being doing that float trip in Dinosaur National Monument every other year since. Along the way we stop at Archaic and Fremont sites and even an old horse rustler’s cabin. Occasionally regional directors have come with me in place of Mark—Paul Gardner, Jim Walker, and others. I just added up the number of participants in these river adventures—more than seven hundred, some have come multiple times. One Conservancy member, in fact, signs up every year!

Visiting Amazing Petroglyphs along the Yampa River Trip 2014.
Visiting Amazing Fremont Petroglyphs along the Yampa River Trip 2014. Photo The Archaeology Conservancy.

Participants in the trips learn about the ancient history and archaeology of the regions these rivers flow through.  I give talks at sites and in camp on various topics including the history of the Native Americans who live along the rivers today. And Mark brings everyone up to date on the Conservancy’s mission, sites recently acquired, and sites that need saving. Archaeology aside, we spend our days and evenings in the awesome beauty of the river canyons. We drift quietly through placid waters, splash through a few rapids, and see towering rock formations twisted by continental forces. Our river guides are expert at handling the challenges of high an low water flows. They treat us very well, indeed, always looking out for our health and safety, not to mention preparing delicious Dutch-oven meals.

Geese along the calm waters of the Yampa River. Photo David Noble.
Geese along the calm waters of the Yampa River. Photo David Noble.

There are a couple of experiences I especially remember. One was a downpour that began while we were at a cliff dwelling half a mile up Chinle Wash. Oh boy, did it rain! We got back to the boats safely just as the wash flooded big time and the sun broke through the clouds. We all watched in awe as waterfalls poured off the cliffs around us—a true Southwest weather event. Another time, while we were in camp along the San Juan, a dozen bighorn desert rams appeared across the river and began showing off—chasing each other up and down the bank, standing on their hind legs, and butting heads. This amazing display lasted a couple of hours while we watched, took pictures, and had a few beers. You can see a few minutes of their performance below.

To sum up, it’s hard to put in words how much I’ve enjoyed being a part of these archaeological river adventures. Not only the rivers but our camping/hiking experiences in Chaco Canyon, too. Part of The Archaeological Conservancy’s mission is to build public appreciation of America’s deep history, communicate the work of archaeologists, and encourage people to value archaeological sites. Its extensive field trip program contributes to this goal. I feel privileged to be a part of that effort and to assist the Conservancy in its valuable work.

Group Photo of the 2017 San Juan River Conservancy's Trip. Photo by David Noble.
Group Photo of the 2017 San Juan River Conservancy’s Trip. Photo by David Noble.

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