Mike Toner, in the Spring 2014 issue of American Archaeology, writes about the threats to American archaeological sites posed by extreme weather. Forest fires in the southwest, Drought from Texas to California, melting glaciers in Alaska, and sea level rise along the coasts are exposing previously unknown artifacts but also destroying them.
Some of the facts and figures are astounding: over 100 prehistoric wooden dugout canoes were uncovered around one shrinking lake in Florida. Entire historic towns, once covered by reservoirs, are now exposed. Wooden arrows, complete with fletching, have been found melting out of ice patches. With so many archaeological resources, and so little time and money to properly identify and preserve them before they are destroyed by nature or looters, archaeologists are forced to practice triage. One of the sadder quotes comes from a National Park Service official: “There are going to be some situations where we will have to learn to say goodbye to resources we can’t protect.”
Mike Toner, “The threat of climate change”. American Archaeology, Spring 2014, pp. 12-19.
To read the whole article, you have to get it from your local newsstand, but see one of the dugout canoes at the Archaeological Conservancy.
Spray paint and bullets were used to deface Hidden Cave, a major archaeological site on BLM land in Nevada. A $1,000 reward is being offered, and public tours of the site have been suspended while officials investigate. According to the official press release, this is the first incidence of vandalism at the site.
Hidden Cave was most extensively excavated by David Hurst Thomas and the American Museum of Natural History and provided valuable information on Late Archaic hunter-gatherers. The Museum has a nice post on the history of the cave, (conditions in the cave during excavation sound horrid) and they also make the full site report freely available.
There’s a Lamoka connection, too: Mark R. Harrington, the first archaeologist to explore Hidden Cave, was married to the sister of Arthur Parker, head of the Rochester Museum while Lamoka Lake was being excavated in the 1920s.
Thoroughbred racehorse Native Diver, who was buried at the Hollywood Park racetrack in California after his death in 1967, is being excavated by archaeologists from the University of Southern California. Hollywood Park closed for good at the end of 2013, and the horse’s owners wanted to ensure that all the remains were recovered safely so that Native Diver could be reburied at the Del Mar racetrack.
Artifacts from the early Spanish site in St. Augustine, Florida (associated with Pedro Menendez de Aviles, not Ponce de Leon) are being donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. U. Florida archaeologists have been excavating the site, and storing the artifacts, for many years, so it appears this will make the curatorial arrangement permanent, and perhaps provide a tax break for the owners of the site.
The Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University has just posted a 3-D scanned image of a passenger pigeon bone. Follow the link to their site, as they have have scanned and posted several other bones from Ectopistes.