great basin

#156 Pigments on Arrow and Dart Shafts in Southern NV

In a recent paper from Eerkens, et al. (2012) titled, "Chemical Composition, Mineralogy, and Physical Structure of Pigments on Arrow and Dart Fragments from Gypsum Cave, Nevada" the authors analyze pigments found on arrow and dart fragments to determine their chemical composition, mineralogy, and physical structure. They show that green, red, pink, brown, and black pigments were created using a variety of minerals:

The combined analyses reveal that the pigments from Gypsum Cave were produced from a variety of different minerals. None of the five subjectively-defined colors was characterized by a homogenous/standardized compositional or mineralogical recipe. This indicates that the individuals who used Gypsum Cave exploited a wide range of minerals and blended them in varying amounts to create the palate of colors seen in the weaponry fragments recovered during the archaeological investigations.
…the study demonstrated that interesting patterning existed within colors and between color and substrate type, but produced more questions than it answered. For example, analyses revealed the presence of many other non-pigmenting minerals within the paint, such as quartz, feldspar, gypsum, and various alumina-silicate minerals. It is unclear whether these were contaminants from sediments within the cave or were intentionally added to the pigments.

The authors speculate on the reasons for the different chemical compositions for the same colors on wood and can shafts. They suggest several possibilities ranging from availability during seasonal rounds and religious or traditional beliefs.

Read the paper here.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!

References Cited

Eerkens, Jelmer W., Amy J Gilreath, Brian Joy

        2012     Chemical Composition, Mineralogy, and Physical Structure of Pigments on Arrow and Dart Fragments from Gypsum Cave, Nevada. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 32(1):47-64.

#34 Shovelbums Guide Part 8: A Note About Hotels

Sunrise Motel, Cedarville, CA (c) 2009 Chris Webster

(Note: For some reason this post disappeared off of the website.  So, I reposted it and added some pics.  Enjoy)

I've written about hotels in a previous post but I wanted to discuss a little more about HOW to live in a hotel and be happy.  Here it goes.

Some companies do not allow you to live wherever you want to and force you to live in a hotel of their choosing.  While this isn't what I would call an ideal situation it is something that we deal with in this profession for one reason or another.  I’m currently working for such a company.  I'm dealing with this situation right now because I like all of the other aspects of the company, including the people that I work for, and I'm willing to overlook the hotel thing.

So, how do you live in a hotel and not be absolutely miserable?  The most basic way I can put this is to make the room your own.  Make it your home and think of it that way.  When I'm out in the field I say things like, "When I get home I'm going to read my book and have some wine".  I'm not talking about my permanent home.  I'm talking about my hotel room, or my tent, or whatever I'm sleeping in that night.  If you are constantly pining for that home that you left or that you don't even have then you are not going to be happy with your current living situation and that attitude will reflect upon your coworkers.  No one wants to hear someone complain all day about how much they think their life sucks right now. 

Ranch House near Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (c) 2008 Chris WebsterI know that in most of the country archaeologists are underpaid and under appreciated.  Luckily, out here in the Great Basin the pay and the per diem are much higher than the national average.  An entry level field technician could conceivably take home $36-40k in an eight month field season when salary and per diem are both counted together (calculated at $13 per hour, 40 hours per week, and $125 per diem for eight months).  That's not too bad.  Now, I'm not going to presume to understand everyone's personal situation but in my experience, field techs try to save every possible penny that they earn by sacrificing living conditions.  The exception to that is alcohol.  I was in the Navy and I still have never seen someone spend more money on alcohol than the average field tech.  Explain that one to me.

Many western archaeologists save money so they can live during the winter months.  I get that.  I'm doing the same thing.  Work is not always a guarantee during the snowy season.  You have to prepare your savings account to take a hit during that time.  I just don't understand living like a homeless person so you can save a few bucks, though.  Where does all of the money go? From what I've seen it doesn't go towards clothing, food, cars, or personal items.  Student loans?  Maybe.  Student loans are a good way to build credit and they are likely the lowest interest rate loans you can have in this economy.  I'm not saying don't pay them off as soon as you can but having that balance isn't really going to break the bank either.

I guess my point is that your attitude towards living on the road is what you make of it.  If you don't enjoy and embrace it then you will be unhappy.  You have to realize that if you stay a field CRM archaeologist you are likely going to be in the field for quite some time before you land that desk job writing reports and proposals.  When you do get there you will likely miss going out into the field.  Take this opportunity to see new things and meet new people.  Every project is an adventure if you choose it to be.  If you keep your blackout curtains closed and your TV on your view of the world will be as myopic as the view out of the peephole in your hotel room door.

Water Canyon Campground, Winnemucca, NV (c) 2009 Chris WebsterWe have a job that most people envy.  Talk about it.  Spread the love.  Be thankful that you say things like "Does that rock outline look like a structure platform?" and "Do you think that was an impact fracture?" rather than "Paper or plastic?" and "Do you what fries with that?".

See you in the field.


Written on Southwest Flight 416 to Seattle, WA.