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The People from the Top of the Land

Feeding time
Feeding time at Fort Ross (Darren Modzelewski photo)
Team Kashaya: the compass bearer, mapper, pin flagger and pacer

FORT ROSS, CA – After a weekend away at home, I know I'm back at Fort Ross when I wake up to a particular serenade – the choir of mooing cows, tweeting birds, gobbling turkeys, and an occasional sea lion bark. This is our second week and our intensive first week of training is about to be put to use. We've been sent into the field to use everything we've learned so far in a real life archaeology situation. It's a bit scary knowing that what we do from now on is for real – that we're collecting actual data that is a part of the Fort Ross research project, and not simply doing practice exercises. Reading bearings on compasses and gathering coordinates on GPS systems to locate ourselves on USGS maps remains a learning experience for us all.

Today we began surveying areas around the proposed Interpretive Trail near the park's Visitor Center, walking through an area we shared with a herd of cows, enduring crazy winds I felt would blow me away, and traversing along a deceptively hilly landscape that actually contained a gulch from an old spring (that we still managed to go into and survey) … definitely an adventure.

It was exciting because each member of our five-member group was given a particular duty – and thus a feeling of great importance – as the bearer of the compass, the mapper, the pin flagger, or the pacer, and we worked as a crew to scour hundreds of meters of land for anything appearing significant. We came across a few artifacts, ranging from an old telephone pole glass insulator, to some lithics – a few chert flakes from the production of stone tools. There's nothing like the feeling of excitement from finding an artifact!

While we've been working hard from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day (with night lectures twice a week, too!), our few hours of free time have been a lot of fun, and definitely a time of bonding among the crew, undergrads, GSIs and adults alike. Our most recent thing has been roasting marshmallows over our nightly bonfire to make s'mores, a group activity accompanied by plenty of conversations (both serious and trivial), jokes, stories and laughs. Archy Camp has become a place of quickly developing friendships – but then again, how can you not make friends when you're with the same people 16 hours or more each day? I think at this point the only thing that can dampen our spirits is rain … although waking up around 6 a.m. and sitting outside, huddled around the fire in the combination of cold and fog (or wind), is a close second. Still, being on the beautiful, breathtaking California coast, and surrounded by wonderful, friendly people, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather spend four weeks of my summer. I'm learning how to be a real archaeologist!

— Kelly

P.S. I haven't seen any squirrels, but I've seen deer, seals and sea lions, turkey vultures, a snake, and even a little bunny!

Kelly Fong is a fourth-year Anthropology major.