Archaeology Week: Part 3

Jan 27, 2010 5 comments

This is my third installment discussing archaeology in the southwest.  It is the last of my posts from my previous training.  Hopefully, tomorrow and/or Friday I will have something new to share with you.  


Prehistoric trade became very complexto the point where products were being manufactured and traded by specialists. Trade products included:


Pottery appears to be coming from several different areas as part of a sophisticated trade economy.  The many different types of pottery are seen most commonly today as “sherds” or little pieces of broken pottery.  Here’s some of the coolest ones I found.


The piece of pottery in the last picture is sitting on a piece of tuff, which often indicates a doorway to a prehistoric structure.  So it's kinda like a doorstep.

The best ceramics were made in the earliest times and became more simple and coarse as time went on.  This concept can be compared to similar changes in modern manufacturing with changes in the economy.

Luxury Items

Shells from the Pacific Coast of California, near LA, were easy to manipulate into jewelry and transport to make a large profit.

Turquoise, another luxury item, was rare and transported long distances.

Other Products

Other products brought to trade were heavy rock baskets made out of igneous rock; axes made of green diorite (mass produced); products made of obsidian, hematite, chert and quartz; baskets; finished clothing; etc.

Oh, and one more thing…

Pretty much all these artifacts can be found not only at the living sites themselves, but also in prehistoric garbage dumps called trash mounds. Yep, the prehistoric people had landfills too!

That’s about all I’ve got.  Hope you enjoyed it.  I ruined a perfectly good pair of jeans trying to get all this information.

But it was worth it.

Archaeology Week: Part 2

Jan 26, 2010 1 comments

This is a continuation of my previous post about archaeology in the southwest and what kinds of things I found and learned about in the Arizona desert.


Agricultural tradition in the Southwestern U.S. originally came from Mexico.  In 3000 BC, people were growing corn, beans and squash, and other plants were added over the years.  Irrigation was used to adapt the southwest to farming conditions of the wetter Mexican crops.

Archaeologists recognize prehistoric agricultural sites in the field by the presence of agricultural terraces, like those in the picture shown below.  We found quite a few of these as well, and this one was the most obvious.

prehistoric agricultural terraces, humans for scale

They will often be found in a cleared area with little to no artifacts and tend to have less vegetation than the surrounding areas, due to extended use of the soil and depletion of nutrients.

FUN FACT!  Growing too much corn in one spot over a long period of time takes all the iron out of the soil and causes anemia in people who eat it.  Image from here.

One of the later plants used by the prehistoric people was the agave, which grew as both a native and a cultivated plant.  Agave prefer to grow in rocky, well drained soil, like in the picture shown here.


Prehistoric people planted agave in rock piles, which can still be seen today, without the agave.

Image from here

Some species of agave, like Murphy’s Agave, were developed specifically for cultivation.  Murphy’s Agave doesn’t flower like most other agave species do, but instead sprouts little agaves that can be picked off and planted somewhere else.  (I couldn’t find a picture of this.  boo! :-( …  Our teacher just told us about it.  I really would like to see what it looks like.)

 So what did they use the agave for?  Well, they used it for a couple things.  What they did was take something (like a stick) and use it as a lever-type device to pry the agave plant out at its root.  The bottom of an agave is sort of like an artichoke, and the prehistoric people would cook it in a roasting pit.  Evidence of a prehistoric roasting pit is something called slag.  In geology, slag means the stuff that comes out of an iron furnace.  In archaeology, as I found out, it also means burnt soil from a roasting pit.  It looks like this:

Which reminds me, there’s other burnt old stuff, that provides evidence for an archaeological site.  This is burnt daub.

It’s adobe from a stone structure that burned down and collapsed.  Cool, huh?

Anyway, back to the agave.  The leaves were also useful.  Their insides are made of fibers that could be used for making cloth and baskets and other stuff you use fibers for.

And that is about it for agriculture.  I will add the final installment tomorrow.

Archaeology Week: Part 1

Jan 25, 2010 1 comments

This week I am headed down to the Gila for an update on my para-archaeology training, which is required every year for us to continue to be allowed to work in the forest.  Because of this, I have decided to make this entire week "archaeology week."  I'll start off by re-posting my three part series that I wrote on my old blog chronicling my first time in para-arch training down on the Tonto NF in Arizona.  For those of you who have already read it, sorry about that!  You can skip over these posts if you want.  But I wanted to start off with some introductory stuff.  This time, I'll be on a different forest doing some different things, which I will post about later on during the week.

Part One (Originally posted March 28, 2009)

I was in Arizona for a total of two weeks taking this course.  For some of the time, we were sitting in a classroom learning about the history of prehistoric people in the southwest (in particular the general area that makes up the Tonto National Forest in Arizona).  The best classroom day was when we got to look at artifacts and then try to figure out what they were. The rest of the time, we were out in the field, either learning about stuff or doing archaeological surveys.

An archaeological survey is kind of fun to do but I can see how it could get somewhat repetitive and tedious after a while.  Basically, it involves walking up and down transects of your study area while looking down at the ground for any type of historic or prehistoric artifacts and structures that might be there.  In some places there may be absolutely nothing (which is good if you want to use the site for some sort of project, but not very exciting).  In other places, like where we were, there is tons of stuff.

This is some of what we found:

Types of architecture went through several different phases.  Early prehistoric people known as the Hohokam started out building pithouses around 1000 AD.  Pit houses were simple structures that were dug out and covered with mud for the walls, which were held up by wooden posts.

 cross section of a pithouse

It’s really hard to find pithouses today because they’re made of dirt, and they collapsed a long time ago.  The only way to identify a potential pithouse site is to find an artifact scatter including items corresponding to the time period during which pithouses were built.  We may have found a couple of these sites, but like I said, it’s hard to tell.  One in particular was a pretty crazy site.  The first thing we noticed were a bunch of broken CD’s all over the place.  Some people were looking at them, trying to figure out what kinds of CD’s they were when we started stumbling across artifacts.  Lots of them.  Pottery sherds and lithics all over the place.  One lady in class picked up a giant agave knife and gave it to the teacher without even knowing what it was.  But the best find of the day was this:

arrowhead/projectile point

None of us could believe it.  We were standing around listening to our teacher talk about some stuff when one of the guys behind me noticed it on the ground.  It was really cool, and I was totally jealous I hadn’t found it myself.  If only I’d been standing back a little further…

Although, as it turns out, I’m not exactly the best at spotting things.  On a different day, my surveying partner Stella and I tripped right over another type of housing made a little later by the Hohokam.  This type of structure was made out of rock and we actually ended up finding quite a few of them over the course of the week, once we knew what we were looking for.  At this point, all you can really see is the outline of the walls, which may or may not be clear.  Ideally this is what it would look like, in map layout fashion:

In reality, it looks more like this:


But sometimes you get lucky and can see good walls that are still standing, like this:

Or obviously collapsed walls, like this

notice the alignment of the rocks here (going sideways across the picture)

Thus ends part one of my archaeology lesson.  Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2.

The Annoying Kid in Class

Jan 21, 2010 5 comments

You know who I'm talking about.  It may even be you.

The one who sits up in the front row and always has a comment about ev-er-y-thing.  He (or she) thinks that he is smarter, wittier, and has had more important/relevant life experiences than anyone else in the room.  He is under the impression that every syllable that comes out of his mouth is pure gold and will be of great benefit to all who are present, whether they be jokes, anecdotes, or tiny little bits of "wisdom" thrown in along the way.

Last semester it was Donnelly.  I didn't really think he was that annoying as much as just weird, though.  He made incredibly offbeat comments, like asking whether the professor played Sim City (which she had never heard of) because he thought it might be a lot like GIS (which it is not), and just standing there staring at the elevators for 10 minutes during break.  By the end of the semester, however, I had talked to him a few times and decided that he had an odd charm about him.  And just before Christmas, I ran into him at a restaurant where I was with Matt and his sister, and we had a nice little chat.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially when the annoying "kid" is actually the annoying middle-aged person.  If you run into one of these in your classes, watch out.  The older student fancies himself to be a highly superior being to us young ones and therefore has much more knowledge to bestow than his adolescent to young adult counterparts.

I knew who this semester's subject would be pretty much from the minute I sat down in my AutoCAD class last Tuesday.  The guy had a comment for almost every statement the teacher made.  Most of these were something from his own life experience, like how he has kept printouts of various papers and still uses them after 15 years, when all the teacher was trying to say was 'we're trying to save paper, so don't print stuff out if you don't need to.'  At one point she just completely cut him off, saying "I'm going to run this part if that's ok."  Matt and I thought it was hilarious.  Oh yeah, Matt's in the class with me so we discuss what happened afterward at dinner.

Even all this would be in good fun if the guy didn't feel the need to "help out" whenever he felt like it.  We were signing up for a technology account on the computer so we could access some files more easily.  For some reason, Firefox was not taking my password so I had to switch over to Internet Explorer, which did take it, albeit verrry slowly.  While I was doing this, Mr. I Know Everything decided to scoot his seat over and see how I was doing.

"You just have to put in your campus account password," he says.
"Yeah, I know, I did that."
"Well, do it again."

Umm, yeah.  Got it.  Now go away.  Turns out he had done the exact same thing with Matt just before coming over to me.  A little later, I was behind because of the whole password deal, and whispered to Matt, "Hey, babe, which link do I click on?"  Before he could open his mouth, the knowitall was right there, explaining what all the links were.  Excuse me?  Did I address you?  I didn't care what all the links were.  I just wanted to know which one I was supposed to click on.  Gah.  Annoying.

This has calmed down a bit during our second week of class because he's actually working on the assignments now (shocker!) but the commentary still manages to come out at least several times during our 2 and 1/2 hour class period.

It's people like this that make me scared for the future.  Am I one day to join the ever growing ranks of the confidently clueless?  Who knows, but in the meantime, I will say this to the ones who are already there: Would you please pipe down?  I'm trying to learn and you're setting a bad example.

2009 in Review

Jan 15, 2010 6 comments

My friend Chloe from My New Life as a Housewife did this recently and I wanted to do it too! (With my own modifications, because I can't follow directions... )

Best times of 2009: Para-archaeology training in Arizona (3/09); Basic Soil Survey in Lincoln, NE (5/09); VCNP with all of the NM and AZ crews (6/09); My first field review (10/09)

Worst times of 2009:  Finding out Matt's secret; Getting hailed on and heat exhaustion in the same week; Mid-year performance evaluation (7/09).  July was a bad month.

Good news: Got a promotion (12/09); started school again (8/09)

Bad news: I gained 20lbs.; It's going to be years before Matt and I have a normal schedule and life together

Coolest thing(s) in 2009: Tool Concert (8/09); My thesis work getting published (9/09)

2009 was my first full year in the "real world."  My first full year living completely on my own.  My first full year with a boyfriend.  Looking back on everything, it wasn't perfect, but it was good.

My Day at the Spa

Jan 11, 2010 4 comments

A little while ago I got a huge discount on a gift certificate for 4 treatments at the local spa.  This weekend I used one of them.  I got a facial and it was, I have to admit, a little weird, but cool at the same time.

I got there and they asked me if I wanted tea or water.  I was feeling thirsty so I went for the water.  Later, Matt told me I should have went with the tea but oh well, next time.  Then I went into this little waiting room with benches and comfy cushions and they had me fill out a form saying "how my skin felt today."  A girl came in a little later and said something really fast so I couldn't understand what she said.  Then she said, or do you just want the facial?  Thinking the other thing was going to cost more, I said I just wanted the facial but she said "are you sure, it comes free with it?" so I said yes, then, I wanted that too, and she led me to a little room with a bed in it.

Turns out the thing she said earlier was an eyebrow wax.  Okay.  She just said eyebrow really weird.  I've never had my eyebrows waxed before so I was a little nervous, but it didn't hurt nearly as bad as I expected it to.  I told her it was my first time getting my eyebrows waxed so she didn't take off very much and I think it's hard to notice a difference.  They still look pretty good, though.  Cleaner and not as bushy.  I thought Matt wouldn't notice the difference but when I showed him, he seemed to like it, so I guess it's noticeable enough.  What do you think?



I may have to try it again and get more taken off next time.  What I'm wondering is what I should do in between, when little eyebrow stubbies start growing in and they're too short to get out with tweezers.

After that she led me to another little room which was totally dark except for two little ceiling lights, and I totally tripped over something when I went in.  She told me to take off my shirt and bra and lay on the bed.  Ummm....WHAT???  I was super weirded out by that point but figured, what the hey, so I did it, and waited for her to come back in.  She came in telling me something about salicylic acid... blah blah and then made me smell some stuff before proceeding to rub a whole bunch of different things all over my face.  The weirdest part was when she put something on my face with a paintbrush.  Then she turned on a humidifier and rubbed something else all over my hands and arms.

After she finished, she gave me a towel and told me I could just chill in there for a while and then come out and meet her in the front.  I came back out ready to "pay" and leave but she wasn't done yet.  She wanted to put some lipstick on me.  Not really sure why, but I went with it.  Then she proceeded to show me all of the many numerous expensive objects she put on my face that I could buy.  I said I'd "think about it."  She told me I should get a facial every 5 weeks.  Yeah, I'll get right on that.

My next appointment is a haircut and some highlights or something on Feb 20, so I'll keep you posted on what happens with that.


My First Pot Roast

Jan 5, 2010 10 comments

This weekend I used the crock pot Matt's parents gave me for Christmas to cook my first ever pot roast.  The night before, Matt and I went to Albertson's to buy ingredients (and get enough stickers to pay half price for the wok that they were giving away).  Then we said goodnight and he went to work.

The next day, I began preparing my pot roast recipe, which I got from here, with some modifications.  My roast was 2lbs instead of three, I only used two potatoes and replaced the others with 2 tomatoes (because it's what I had), added two garlic cloves, and used low sodium chicken broth instead of beef bouillon and water (chicken because it's healthier than beef broth; I also used about 1/2 cup instead of 1/3, but it just depends on how soupy you want it).  Oh, and I added about 1/2 cup of green chile, because that's how we do it here in New Mexico.

In the end, it turned out pretty good.  I think I cooked it a little too long because I wanted to make sure it was done, so it was not as tender as I had hoped, but it was still pretty good.  Here's how it turned out.

Not bad, huh?  I thought so.  Unfortunately, I was the only judge that night because my meal companion did not make it.  He had planned to come over around 7 so that we could eat and spend a little time together before he had to go to work, but around 7:30 I got a text message indicating he had overslept (which is common) and wouldn't be coming over.  I was crushed.  I had just spent a good part of the day preparing and cooking a meal for us to share together and he didn't even come over.  I wasn't really mad, just disappointed that this keeps happening over and over again.  The boy seriously cannot get out of bed.  It's a real problem for him.  I can only hope that it will get better once he gets a more normal schedule (one that doesn't require him to work nights) but the end to that is nowhere in sight.  I feel sorry for him, and for me.

That was Saturday.  The next day he came over after work and we were able to spend some time together then.  We did kind of do what he wanted (which was to examine every centimeter of his new model airplanes and then watch home video of old air shows) for a good part of it, and I was a little bored, but I guess I didn't really mind that much.  After all, he did help me go grocery shopping for a meal he didn't even get to eat.  I guess it's all about compromise.

Much Ado About Something

Jan 4, 2010 1 comments

"It has seemed to me that each year one should pause to take stock of himself, to ask: Where am I going?  What am I becoming?  What do I wish to do and become?" --The Walking Drum

I really like that quote.  It asks some good questions.  Questions that I have thought about over the past year but haven't really done anything about. This time of year, like every new year, is a good time to clear my mind, if you will, to get rid of the clutter and start over.  Because a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind, or something like that.   So I decided to make some goals, or "resolutions," for the new year that will allow me to look at my life and the world around me in different ways and decide what's next.  Some are more personal, while others are an effort to make some sort of impact on society while also improving myself and my outlook on life.  So, without further ado, my goals for 2010...

  • Go on a road trip with Matt.  I do a lot of traveling.  A LOT.  But it's either for work or to visit my family.  Matt and I haven't ever had a chance to just go away together, with no ulterior motive other than to have some fun in a new place.  The circumstances of last year really tested our relationship, and although we've gotten through it, there are still many challenges ahead.  It would do us a lot of good to get away from it all for a little while.
  • Read the news.  I really don't know as much as I would like about the state of our nation and the world, so this year I have decided that it is important for me to learn about what is going on and think about what I could possibly do about it.  (If anything... there has to be something, right?)
  • Join a volunteer organization.  This is something I've been wanting to do for a while but I haven't been able to decide what kind of volunteering I should do or what type of organization I should join.  I'd like to do some research in the near future to help me figure this out.
  • Train for and participate in a 5k race.  (Or some other kind of racing-type thing).  I'll have to see what's out there, but whatever it is I end up doing, I really need to get in shape this year, not only for myself, but for my job.  Last field season was rough, and I think the main reason for that was how hard it was for me to hike up mountains and other tall, rocky geography.  I figure having a concrete goal to work up to will make it easier for me to achieve it.
  • Ride my bike down the tramway trail.  I've ridden my bike about one time since I moved here.  This is sad.  The Tramway trail is close and paved and (relatively) flat.  Seems like a good place to start.  I'd like to do the Bosque trail as well, but I don't want to get too ahead of myself.
  • Do yoga at least twice a week.  I really like yoga but I've kind of failed on doing any at all since field season started last spring and I had to stop going to the gym during the week.  A couple new opportunities have come up recently so I'm going to work on that.

That's probably enough, eh?  I would like to use this blog as a means of documentation and communication about what I am doing to achieve these goals.  As I (hopefully) achieve these goals, I plan to post about what I've been doing and what I've learned.  I don't know what's going to happen or how well I will do at achieving these goals, but I'm going to try, and hopefully I'll come out of this year a better, more informed person, and maybe you'll learn something too.

A New Year, a New Blog

Jan 2, 2010 2 comments

Well, kids, the time has finally come for me to move into my new blogging home.   It was taking me for-ev-er to decide how I wanted my layout to look, and I changed it about a million times until the html code made me crosseyed, but in the end I decided on a pre-made layout with a simple header.  However!  I am taking computer programming and computer aided design (CAD) this semester in school as part of my GIS certificate program, so maybe I'll come up with some new ideas then.  (I'm crossing my fingers!)

I'm pretty happy to be back in school again.  I took Physical Geography last semester, which I enjoyed very much (and met some interesting characters along the way), and this semester I'm really looking forward to working with computers.  I think they're fun and challenging to learn.  Perhaps that's part of the reason why I like blogging so much.

This year, I wanted give my blog a fresh start.  I wanted a little more freedom to decide how things looked and to expand my network to areas I haven't yet explored in the internet and blogging world.  I also hope to come up with some new and fun ideas to keep you informed and entertained.  We'll see how that goes...

Until next time, I hope everyone had a nice holiday season and that your new year started off well.  I'm sure 2010 will be full of lots of fun and adventure.  Let's get this started, shall we?