(This is the second installment of the first day of the 33rd GBAC. Click back one post for Part 1 of Day 1.)
OK. Back to day 1.
Paisley Caves occupied my time for the next three papers. The first, by McDonough et al., discussed the lack of evidence that humans actually interacted with megafauna near the Paisley Caves. They examined the distribution of artifacts and mammal bones beneath the well-dated Mazama tephra. The analysis used Spearman Rank correlation to determine that the distribution of artifacts, bones, and coprolites was not random and was a result of cultural activity. This, the authors believe, is the first real evidence of interaction between humans and megafauna.
Jenkins himself discussed the next paper. He used temperature recording devices placed inside shotgun shells and distributed throughout one section of the Paisley Caves to better determine the temperatures experienced by that cave in order to refine the dating of obsidian using hydration. They did this for one source only since different geochemical obsidian types hydrate at different rates.
The paper by Davis on the three-dimensional digitization of Paisley Caves artifacts was inspiring. They are creating 3D point clouds of artifacts down to several microns and then doing a wide range of things to them. With the point clouds they are able to create hi-resolution digital representations of artifacts. Then, they can manipulate them and do creative analysis on them using tradition GIS techniques to identify flake scars. They've also purchased a MakerBot 3D printer so they can make normal and large-scale reproductions for analysis. Truly forward thinking ideas by this group.
A friend of mine, Randy Ottenhoff, presented a paper based on research he's doing for his dissertation at the University of Central Lancashire, England. The paper was titled, "Incised Stones of the Great Basin: Chronology and the Archaeology of Context". Randy is studying, not the patterns on the incised stones as has been done previously, but the association of the incised stones with other artifacts and their positions within cave settings. We had an interesting conversation regarding some of the things he’s studying regarding the positioning of the stones within cave settings. I won’t steal his dissertation thunder by discussing those things here.
The final paper of the morning included a re-hash of the Dietz Site artifacts in south-central Oregon. O’Grady, et al., reanalyzed the obsidian material at the site using geochemical sourcing. They determined, unlike previous studies, that much of the obsidian used for fluted and stemmed projectile points recovered from the site came from nearby sources rather than distant sources. The previous 25 years of research at the Dietz Site was based on the assumption that many of the obsidian tools originated from the nearby Buck Mountain source in California. This just proves that quality recording during the initial excavation and meticulous cataloging of artifacts after excavation is key in allowing future research to continue. You can never know what new analytical techniques will be invented 10, 20, or even 50 years in the future.
The morning paleo session ended with a synthesis from Great Basin Paleo royalty, Charlotte Beck and George T. Jones. It was great just to hear them speak and give their thoughts on the papers presented that morning.
The final session of the day was a series of papers on the comparisons between the Great Basin and Central-Western Argentina. As it turns out there are many similarities ranging from weather, fauna, flora, to archaeology. There are high elevation sites and valley sites in both locations and the cultural similarities, particularly between paleo- indian and early Archaic groups, are striking.
Overall it was a great first day. Check back later for recaps of the next two days of the Conference.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field.