As I was going through the files on my camera, I came across some more photos from the excavations out at 34GT47.
Here's Lauren, our fearless leader, telling us the day's work plan. And that's Kristina, enacting said plan.
As you can see here, we were working in a very small area, limited by ODOT's right of way. The white string in the lower right corner marks the right of way line. The site actually extends far beyond the right of way, though.
The site is eroding out of the slope. Here, you can see the dark brown soil containing cultural deposits contrasted with the sterile red clay below it.
Another slope shot. It really sucked when equipment would roll down the slope.
I worked on a unit containing a deep pit. I could basically stand in it and barely see out of it.
Another pit shot, facing south instead of north this time.
For the past several weeks, and maybe a week or two more, a team of archaeologists from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's Cultural Resources Program have worked at 34GT47, a prehistoric village site in Grant County. By "team" I mean anyone in the office who was willing to go out and get dirty for the day. Lauren O'Shea is our fearless leader (and public relations specialist -- more on that later).
Only a tiny sliver of the site is in ODOT right of way, so the area in which we can work is very limited. We've got some points and flakes, several pieces of pottery, animal bones and mussel shells, and lots of daub (i.e., clay used to cover the walls of houses). We're working in what might be a trash pit, and we're hoping to work on a couple of more units so that we'll know for sure.
We've had really fantastic community support and interest in the work. Almost every day that we've been out there, a few people have stopped by to see what we're doing. And then one day, the local newspaperman visited, and Lauren graciously gave him an extended tour of the site. He snapped a couple of photos and listened as Lauren described the site and its importance. A couple of days later, the landowners dropped off a copy of the Medford Patriot-Star, and we'd made the front page.
At the time the photo was taken, this unit went to about 40 cm below the surface. The last time I worked out there, I'd gotten it down about another 100 cm. To help you visualize that, when I stand up in the unit, the ground level comes to my chest. In other words, this is the biggest and deepest hole I've ever dug, and I've dug a lot of holes.
This is Lauren screening dirt, which is usually a pretty fun job, except when the wind is gusting at 45 mph. When dirt flies at 45 mph, it really hurts, but I like to think of it as all-natural dermabrasion.
Now, the newspaper guy wrote up a nice little article to accompany these pictures, but I'm not including it here for a couple of reasons.
First, he accurately describes the site's location. We're along a state highway, so it's not a closely guarded secret, and everyone in the area sees us on their way to town. However, I'd rather not put that information on the internet, for the sake of the site's integrity. And for the sake of the landowner's cows. I wouldn't want them breaking their legs in some pot hunters' looted-out holes.
And second, the guy from the paper got a few things wrong, and I'd rather not perpetuate the misinformation. I will take the opportunity to clarify some points, though.
We taken some samples of charcoal at various depths and will send it to a lab for dating. Based on the projectile points we've found, though, the site is probably 1,000 years old.
So, that's what has kept me so busy over the last few weeks. Usually we go out there for the day and come back in the afternoon, but have done several more extended stays. If you're ever in Ponca City, I recommend the monster-sized margaritas at El Patio. They really hit the spot after a day in the sun and dirt.
Rhonda S. Fair
I am a cultural anthropologist, currently employed
as the Tribal Liaison for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. This
position gives me the opportunity to apply my ethnographic training, as well as
do archaeological fieldwork. I am also on the faculty of the University of
Oklahoma's College of Liberal Studies.