#79 Prospect Pits and Cairns

Well, I’ve been out of the loop for a little while.  I started a new job at the beginning of January and they put me on a project that needed a lot of work right off the bat.  I spent many days staring at the computer typing up site forms and doing research.  The last thing I had energy for at the end of the day was writing a blog post.  Also, my wife and I finally went on our honeymoon to Maui during the last week of January.

Hawaii was great!  I’ve lived on the west coast most of my life so I always heard of people going there and they always said how crowded it was and how expensive it was.  My image of the entire state has always been one of crowds of floral print clad tourists jumbled around one fake Hawaiian attraction after another.  For the most part, that’s true.  There are lots of people with floral print shirts but that’s just the lifestyle.  And, there are people crowded around all of the touristy things near the bigger cities.  The trick is to get out and explore.  Go off the beaten path.  Of course, on a small island, even the path less traveled still has some people on it.

We managed to get our rental car out to some great picturesque areas that weren’t too crowded.  After a little while we noticed that most people are crowded around what ever attraction is nearest the parking lot.  If you take the side trail or go a little further you can escape the crowds and see some really great stuff.  This isn’t really the place to get into everything we did but I’ll leave the topic by saying that I look forward to going back some day.

A cairn in south-central Nevada.Now, back to archaeology.  In the past I’ve been on projects that involve recording mining prospect pits/trenches and mining claim cairns.  Usually we record them using metric units.  I recently worked with someone that measured them in imperial units.  He insisted that everything historic should be measured in imperial units.  What I was taught is that things should be measured in the units they were built or constructed in.  For example a mining structures and historic cans are measured in imperial units but prehistoric artifacts are measured in metric.  Also, everything else is measured in metric units.

I’ve measured historic roads (width), prospect pits, cairns, and mine shafts using metric units.  Of course, all prehistoric artifacts are measured in metric units.  There are some special cases that you could treat in different ways.  For example, a mining claim cairn with a claim post has two distinct types of things to measure.  In most cases I’ve measured the cairn using metric units and the post using imperial units.  You can tell some things about a wooden post based on whether it is exactly 4 in x 4 in or the more modern dimensional size of 3 ½ in x 3 ½ in (we still call it a 4 x 4 but it’s actually smaller).  That doesn’t seem confusing to me.  It feels natural.

What do you think?  Should everything on a site be measured in one set of units?  Is that thinking a bit to rigidly?  Or is it good science?  I don’t think there’s a problem with having two sets of measurements on a site or even on a single feature.  My brain seems to be able to handle it.  

Oh, and I love my job!  The high desert in the winter is a great place to be.

On another note, who’s going to the SAAs in April?  I’m pretty sure I’m going.  I haven’t made any room reservations yet but I’m willing to share a room with any of my cleaner, more organized, friends.  No offense but I’m not in college any more.  I know many people have a wild time at the SAAs but I’ve never been a big drinker.  Plus, I plan to be quite busy.  I’ll be blogging, tweeting, and hopefully doing interviews for the podcast. Last year I had a great roommate!  She was considerate, not messy, and didn’t mind my typing.  So, if you want to have a quite roommate who will be furiously typing the entire time, let me know!

See you in the field...