I love archaeology most times of the year, but there is something about being outside during autumn that is just plain fantastic. The smells and the colors seem more bold, and since you know winter is right around the corner you just sorta soak it all in while you can. Before it’s all covered in snow.
We were working on a road/fence/water improvement project near a small town called Randolph, Utah. Now when I say small town, I mean teeny tiny. There was a drive-in that closed somewhere between 4 and 6 pm, and a gas station that was hoppin from the minute it opened to the minute it closed…but other than that, nothing. We stayed in these cute (?) one room cabins behind the drive-in.
Honestly they were not that bad, pretty new and rustic decor. The only thing that really sucked balls was the LOADS of dead spiders on the carpet inside. Seriously. I went to search for a vaccuum but the main office had closed already and I was stuck with my dead little friends. Luckily I had a roll of emergency duct tape in my backpack, and well…I basically duct taped up all their little carcasses. Sixteen total. So nasty. Oh, and I smashed a few lives ones too. After a night of spider-paranoid half-sleep, I woke up to one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen in awhile. Check it out:
Holy moly was it COLD! I know its autumn and all, but I simply was not prepared for the ass-numbing chill that greeted me each morning. Just thinking about it makes me shiver. Anyway, we loaded the trucks and set out for adventure! This project was difficult because of the logistics. Most of our survey area was on ridge tops and down drainages, and it was hard trying to figure out a game plan that was the most efficient. We came up with a pretty sweet system of stashing trucks and drop offs that worked out pretty well.
Now I’m a fairly seasoned dirt road driver, but let me tell you that some of these dirt roads were GNARLY (half assed two-tracks with huge ruts, sneaky holes, felled trees, gargantuan boulders..)! But once you reached the top of the ridge and could stop white knuckling the oh-shit-bar on the truck, it really was quite pretty.
We hiked some pretty intense survey lines and by the end of the first day my legs and butt muscles were jelly. Kind of nice though when your job counts as a workout too. When you’re walking along through the sagebrush and there is nothing else for miles, your mind has all sorts of time to think about things…sort of like a walking meditation. At least for me anyway. Every once in awhile my thought process gets interrupted when I spot something interesting. Like this for example:
Yep. That’s a deer or antelope leg caught in a barbed wire fence. Poor guy. I looked around for the rest of him, but there was nothing left. Hopefully he died quick and gave some other animals a tasty meal. I see some really weird shit when I’m in the field (more on that later), but sometimes I see really beautiful things too. It’s nice to just get paid to wander around and see fantastic things. I really am quite fortunate.
We must have hiked 8-10 miles that day, and I tell you we didn’t find shit. Odd too because of the permanent water sources around and abundance of game, you’d think we’d be finding sites all over, but nevertheless we saw nada. When you don’t find much archaeologically it is nice because you can complete your survey quicker, but it’s also a bummer because you don’t get to stop and appreciate the history or prehistory of the area.
We rolled back into town around 6ish and quickly found out that there is NOTHING to do in Randolph. Our cabins had no TV and we could hardly get any cellular reception (including internet) on our phones. So basically we sat around on our front porches and stared at each other. Oh, and occasionally ran around looking for service.
We were using two company trucks for this project, and the next morning after gassing them up, the tinest one started making the most god awful noise. Thank god we had two guys with us who figured out the problem and were able to fix it. I’m not going to say all girls, but I will say most girls know nothing about cars or engines and if it had been a whole crew of ladies we would have definitely been foiled. Nothing like casually hanging out at the Sinclair cutting plastic pieces off important parts of your truck in the early morning…
I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but most archaeologists have a common modern item or thing that they find out in the field. I knew a guy once who always managed to find porn in the field. Weird I know. Well for me, the thing I always find is a balloons. Seriously. Every damn time I’m in the field I see them, usually wedged in bushes or trees. The latex balloons aren’t that exciting, but I always enjoy coming across the mylar ones. It’s funny to me to be on the end of the whole balloon process, someone somewhere intentionally or accidentally let go of that balloon and here I am in the middle of nowhere finding it. I found a handful of balloon bits on this trip, these two were my favorites.
When we’re not seeing anything exciting archaeologically and when I’m not finding balloon bits, I like seeing wildlife. Usually I am too slow with my camera, probably because I’m squealing with excitement. We came across a real live porcupine and I lunged across the dash board of the truck like a dog. It was just so rad, I’ve only ever seen stuffed or dead ones. He was HUGE! and really a lot stockier than I expected. My first impulse was to chase him into the bushes to get a pic but realizing that I might get porcu-pined kinda stopped me. I saw a woodpecker that was really cute, and lots of antelope. I saw two bucks crest the ridge line right in front of me, and it would have been totally magical if I hadn’t been terrified of getting shot by a hunter. Seriously, there were loads of dudes in orange out on the prowl for exactly what was 15 meters in front of me. I didn’t want one of them to shoot and kill me so I made lots of noise and scared the bucks off. Again, would have made a cool pic but I was too afraid of getting mangled by a shotgun. I DID however, get a nice photo of some horses. These dudes were chillin by the side of the road everyday. So gorg!
We finally found some archaeology on our third day! Normally I am snooty and only get excited by the prehistoric stuff, but since I had thus far been deprived of anything cultural, I got really excited by the historic trash scatters. Yes old tin cans are considered historic archaeological sites, and sometimes if you’re lucky you can find neat things that are still intact. Here are some of my favorites:
Clear glass Skippy jar with screw cap lid. Old timey peanut butter. This one had holes drilled in the lid, like someone kept their pet bug or something in it.
I like old glass bottles because they usually have some sort of maker’s mark on the bottom of the vessel, which you can research to find out how old it is.
Wish prehistoric artifacts had something similar. It would take a lot of guesswork out of the equation haha.
So I have to throw it out there. It is illegal for you to take old cans and bottles from any state or federal lands. I know it seems like junk, but if it’s older than 50 years it’s considered historic and is protected. The only time you can remove anything from a site is if it is located on private land AND you have the landowner’s permission. Even then I wouldn’t recommend taking anything. What are you gonna do with it anyway? Cram it in a shoe-box in your closet? I’m a fan of leaving it out where everyone can enjoy it, be it an arrowhead or an old glass bottle. Okay, I’ll hop off my soapbox now.
So I can pretty much say that I’ve seen it all in the field. All as in, all the types of artifacts or junk that you can come across in the field. I’m always tickled when I find something that is so ridiculous and so out of place that it practically begs for a photo shoot. Well, that happened on our last day. John and I were finishing recording a historic artifact scatter when we came across an old trailer toilet and kitchen sink. Yes, you read that right, I’ve officially found everything AND the kitchen sink! Haha.
And yes, we did do a mini photo shoot of John on the toilet. I mean, when in Rome right? Hahaha!
It was a fantastic field session to be sure, and was topped off by our experience on our way out of town. I said earlier that we were staying in a small town. So small in fact, that the worst traffic jam we encountered was because of cows. Not gas powered vehicles. Yes. We were stuck behind a cattle drive.
And yes. It smelled like shit 🙂