#125 33rd GBAC, Day 1 Detail (Part 1 of 2)

(In an effort to keep these posts from being filed in the tl:dr category I’ve split this one into two parts. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)

OK. Here is my detailed accounting of the papers I heard presented on day one of the Great Basin Anthropological Conference. First, I have a complaint. Big surprise, right? There were no less than five symposiums and two general sessions during the first half of the day. There was one plenary session in the afternoon. Now maybe the reason for that was to drive people to the plenary session, I don't know. What I do know is that I missed a lot of good papers Thursday morning because I couldn't be in more than one place at once. What am I, a Q-bit? Extra points if you know what that is. Since the inability to split ourselves into multiple components like an evil wizard afflicts us all I'd like to plead for more use of Twitter at events such as this one. Currently, there is one other person tweeting at this conference and we are attending many of the same papers. If there were more people tweeting then someone could follow other presentations while watching one or, while not even being at the conference at all. OK. That's my rant for now. I'm sure there will be more in the future.

The first symposium I attended was the Paleoindian Research one organized by G. Smith and T. Wriston. The papers presented focused on several questions including, "(1) when did humans colonize the northern Great Basin?; (2) what is the relationship between fluted and stemmed projectile points?; (3) how did Paleoindians use the landscape at both a local and regional scale?; and (4) how can new approaches be used to tackle old questions?" Pretty much all the big questions in Great Basin, and North American, archaeology. They did a descent job of it.

Obsidian overshot flake.The first paper was entitled, "Identifying Fluted Point Sites in the Desert West" by Mike Rondeau. His idea is that fluted point sites can still be identified even if all the fluted points have been removed by collectors. This is done, in part, by identifying overshot flakes that are a typical byproduct of the fluted point knapping process. In fact, overshot flakes themselves are sometimes worked into other point types through time. Rondeau says that there are thousands of fluted points in the hands of collectors in the Great Basin alone. What does knowledge of where these sites are located tell us about the Clovis First model? My own question is how many of these sites have already been identified by CRM archaeologists that didn't know how to identify them? Probably quite a few. I know I'll be taking a closer look at prehistoric lithic scatters from now on.

Obsidian HydrationNext, I heard a paper by Fagen, et al. on trace element analysis and obsidian hydration dating of obsidian from a massive site in southern Oregon. It was located as part of the Ruby Pipeline project for those of you familiar with that project. The site was a monstrous 1,200 acre lithic landscape with buried deposits. There was also a habitation area situated right on top of the source obsidian. Fortunately, most of the obsidian occurs in small nodules, otherwise, the medical bills from small cuts would have been enormous! Analysis of the obsidian showed that there was non-local toolstone there as well which illuminated the trade and exchange networks in the region.

The third paper in the Paleo session didn't discuss projectile points at all! Instead, the authors, Barker et al., discussed textiles and the radiocarbon dating of textiles found mostly in caves and rock shelters from around the Great Basin. Some of the 8-10 kyo sandals and baskets were made on loom-type frames, which I didn't know existed back that far. Of course, I know little to nothing of prehistoric textiles.

Historic tram. The one discussed in the paper had a wooden box.After the textile lesson I jumped over to a discussion of tram use on a historic mining site. The tram was several miles long and served a number of mines. It's amazing that such a thing existed in the 1870s. White mentioned that the ore box was a 2 ft by 2 ft by 10 in wooden box that carried ore over 11,000 ft with an elevation drop of over 2,000 ft. High grade ore was still moved by wagon since it was deemed to valuable to risk.

Tomorrow I'll post the second part of day one.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field.