Lightfoot 2006 - Low-impact field methods

Lightfoot 2006 - Low-impact field methods - archaeology and...

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archaeology and Indians Experimenting with Low-Impact Field Methods KENT G. LIGHTFOOT AS A YOUNG LAD GROWING UP in Santa Rosa my vision of archaeology was that you spent most of the time in the hot sun digging at the ground with a dental pick and carefully brushing away the crumbs of dirt with a brush, I had seen a couple of television specials on the excavation of ancient Egyptian tombs so I was pretty much an expert on the subject. In preparing for my career in archaeology, I had collected about sixty Hawaiian shirts and various stylish hats for work- ing in the hot sun. The family dentist had unknowingly donated some sharp-edged instru- ments to my growing tool kit. I certainly had the look of a distinguished field archaeologist down pat; all I needed now was the training. My formal apprenticeship in archaeology began as an anthropology major at Stanford Uni- versity. But it was not until I packed my flowered shirts, assorted pith helmets, rusting dental surgi- cal instruments, and a couple of books on ancient Indian cultures into my 1956 Chevy Nomad station wagon and headed for Arizona State University for graduate school that I received in-depth instructions in archaeological field techniques. It didn't take long for my child- hood vision of archaeology to be shattered. In two months, 1 found myself sitting in the opera- tor's chair of a full-sized backhoe, learning how to control the rig's bucket in the excavation of a deeply buried prehistoric Hohokam village site, which was being encroached upon by housing developments in a stretch of desert outside of Tempe, Arizona. While perched on the giant sputtering machine in the hot sun, sweat drench- ing the hula dancers on my expensive Hawaiian shirt, 1 recognized the greatest challenge facing any field archaeologist: You never know what might be buried below the ground surface. A word to the wise: You may meet archaeologists who will claim that they know precisely what will be found in a site based on past research in the region or their own experience. But be care- ful; it is always these so-called routine sites that produce the most surprises. As a cocky graduate student atop my digging machine, I remember confidently assuring my major professor and fel- low graduate students that nothing would be found below the surface, which up until that time exhibited no evidence of archaeological remains. Shortly thereafter, as the entire crew looked on in horror, the bucket rapidly chewed up part of an entombed house structure before I could stop it, crushing a whole pottery vessel and several other artifacts that had been intact for more than eight hundred years. Because archaeologists never know for certain what will be found buried in the ground, the dis- cipline has spent much time and effort over the last century on developing methods and strategies for excavating sites. A diverse range of tools is at our disposal for unearthing archaeological materi- als, from dental picks and trowels to soil augers,
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This note was uploaded on 02/14/2011 for the course ANTHRO 2/AC taught by Professor Wilkes during the Spring '09 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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Lightfoot 2006 - Low-impact field methods - archaeology and...

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