Lightfoot 2006 - Re-thinking archaeological field methods

Lightfoot 2006 - Re-thinking archaeological field methods -...

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archaeology and Indians Rethinking Archaeological Field Methods KENT G. LIGHTFOOT The beeping noise has stopped. Otis Parrish looks up as he quits walking the rope lines that mark his exact location on the archaeological site. The coastal Californian sun is breaking through the cool morning fog, yet Otis's face is noticeably flush from carrying the weight of the magnetometer on his shoulder and the integrated computer console strapped tightly around his waist. Looking like a mythical bird creature from Pomo Indian legend, he grasps a long pole in front of his body on which are attached two giant eyes—cylindrical white sensors that peer underground for magnetic anomalies that may be produced by buried archaeological remains. The exotic bird creature turns around and glares at me. "Hey Lightfoot, you old senile guy, did you forget to recharge the batteries last night?" Oh, no. I knew I had forgotten to do something last night. Instantly, my drowsy reverie dissipates as the magnetometer pit crew scrambles into action. Dan Murley, a state park ranger, and I unstrap the computer console from Otis; a cou- ple of UC Berkeley undergraduate students hand him some water and take the weighty poles and bird eyes from his grasp. The magnetometer, like many high-tech tools, is a real boon to archaeology, but the machinery is finicky and there are times when it acts up in the field. In attaching the console to my laptop computer, we download data from the magne- tometer to assess whether any information for our survey of the Metini Village site has been lost with the cessation of battery power. If data has been lost, then we may need to resurvey the entire series of transects again, a prospect that is not making any of us happy. Dan and I position a couple of jackets over our heads in order to shade the laptop screen from direct sunlight. Now it is Otis and the students' turn to be amused at two headless figures squinting, point- ing, and arguing with each other about what they can read on the tiny computer screen. Our magnetometer survey in the Fort Ross State Historic Park, initiated a few years ago, is part of a broader trend in archaeology involving experimentation with low-impact field studies predicated upon the minimal destruction of archaeological materials and subsurface deposits. The magnetometer is one of a series of new geo- physical prospecting techniques that searches for anomalies or unnatural patterns underground that may be produced by buried house pits, garbage dumps, human burials, or changes in soil composition or chemistry brought about by long- term human occupation. The development of these kinds of low- impact field methods is taking on new meaning and urgency with the growing trend of archaeol- ogists partnering with tribes in active research programs. The formation of collaborative research teams composed of tribal elders, stu- dents, and archaeologists is forcing the field of North American archaeology to rethink some of its basic concepts about field methodology. Archaeologists are now beginning to listen to the
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Lightfoot 2006 - Re-thinking archaeological field methods -...

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