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The People from the Top of the Land

Battling the wind, the team stumbles on an ancient tool shop

 Katie Wintermute
Katie Wintermute with a stadia rod, a surveying tool (Darren Modzelewski photo)
 

FORT ROSS, CA – I'm sitting here in the lab at Archy Camp (a name that makes me smile each time I use it), checking out the dirt under my fingernails, listening to everyone outside around the campfire, and reflecting on how Week Two of our field school is almost over. The past two weeks have gone by so fast, but at the same time we've done so much that it feels like we've been living here much longer.

This week, we divided up into crews and began our surface survey of the proposed Kashaya Pomo Interpretive Trail. The challenge was to see if we could detect any possible new sites and find out more information about those already known. My group consisted of four undergrads and a graduate student who is our crew chief. I seriously believe our group got one of the windiest parts of the trail to work on. At times, we couldn't even talk to each other or walk in a straight line because it was so windy. But the wind made for great stories, and it actually played a vital role in our survey. We discovered an awesome new site in our survey area; interestingly, the location of the site is one of the few places on the point sheltered from the wind.

The site is a previously unrecorded low-density "lithic scatter." We think it was an area where Kashaya Pomo Indians once worked on making tools but not a place where they stayed for long, maybe because of the gusty costal winds. We found a few chert flakes and cores (archaeological lingo for describing stone tools), as well as one piece of obsidian. Everything was spread fairly far apart.

One of the coolest things about our survey was getting to put all the things we learned about last week into practice in the field. I've always heard that learning by immersion is best, and these past two weeks have made me a firm believer. Being able to actually do the things we learn and discuss in class is amazing. It's a fun and rare experience to be camping out with professors, grad students and well-known archaeologists while spending all day by the ocean learning what it takes to be a good anthropologist.

Life at camp is a lot of fun and I'm really starting to dig living in a tent. Plus, the area around here is beautiful and there is a photo-op everywhere you look. It feels like a different world, even though we're only a couple of hours away from Berkeley and we still get San Francisco radio stations.

If you haven't been here before, I definitely recommend checking it out. This field school has been incredible so far, and I can't wait to get more dirt under my fingernails while looking for artifacts made and used hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

— Katie

Katie Wintermute is a third-year Anthropology major.