#61 GOP Loves Arizona Land Swap Idea

UPDATE TO #50 Arizona Land Swap

"For GOP, Arizona mine a job-creating model on US land" - The Miami Herald, November 11, 2011

So it turns out, to know one's surprise, that Republicans love the idea of using 2,400 acres of public land to create 3,700 jobs at a new copper mine in Arizona.  Predictable.

While environmental groups and other critics express alarm, key backers of the project say it could become a national model for creating jobs, 3,700 in this case.

A "national model for creating jobs"?!  How is that possible?  Can we just trade land and open mines across the country to create jobs?  A model is a template that can be used in other places.  This seems like a single case with few similarities to other situations in this country.  Calling it a model for job creation is a ploy by the proponents of this deal to appeal to the ideals of Republican leaders that are pushing this deal.  It's a sneaky, underhanded, political tactic.

The House of Representatives voted last week to approve the land swap which will require the mining company, Resolution Copper Co. to give more than 5,000 acres that it owns in Arizona to the federal government.  By transferring ownership of the land, rather than letting them lease it, the company bypasses laws that would require, among other things, a cultural resources inventory.

Archaeology groups and Indian tribes in Arizona oppose the plan, fearing that it will be too disruptive to the environment.  Officials in the Obama administration have joined the opponents, saying the project needs more study and that the company needs to consult more with local tribes.

The legislation now goes to the Senate where Arizona's Senators, McCain and Kyl, "vow to do whatever they can to get it passed".

Read this article.  If this goes through, and I'm sure that it will, it will set a precedent that will be hard to defeat.  It could mean the end of CRM archaeology in many large mining areas.  Also, what's to stop other other industries from using similar tactics?  There are massive areas of public land in the west that could be "traded" for other, less important, land.  I'm not sure what can be done about this but many people should be aware of this situation.  Pass it on.

#59 Save the Battle of Blair Mountain Site

West Virginians Rally for Blair Mountain Preservation, Development” - The State Journal, Charleston, West Virginia

This site is what the 99% and the Occupy movements are fighting for. 1921 10,000 to 15,000 coal miners walked off the job at Blair Mountain.  They were fighting for the right to unionize and demanded safer working conditions in the mines.  It was the nation’s largest labor uprising and the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War.  Now, Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal want to make it a massive surface mine.

A group calling themselves “Friends of Blair Mountain” collected 26,000 signatures and presented them to the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office on November 1st.

The movement is being led by University of California, Berkeley, PhD. candidate in archaeology, Brandon Nida.  Nida is not trying to prevent any sort of mining on the site, rather, he recommends deep-mining under the site.  

"Keep on talking about Blair Mountain," Nida directed those interested in helping the cause. "Keep on sharing this history with each other. It's amazing history."

Nida feels that the property could be donated or the companies could be given tax credits for the land.

There is an effort to make sure that the mining companies are not financially damaged by the preservation efforts and to try to make everyone happy. archaeological surveys on the site found 14 sites and more than 1,100 artifacts.  

“This is one of the best-sealed contexts, the best archaeological integrity, as we call it, of any site I’ve ever been to,” said Harvard Ayers, a professor emeritus in archaeology at Appalachian State University.

Ayers was able to get Blair Mountain listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.  By December of that year the site was back off the list.  The article doesn’t say why.  The site is currently eligible for listing which doesn’t provide it the same protection that a true listing would.

A retired union coal miner, Joe Stanley, said that he is a product of Blair Mountain.  “Without Blair Mountain, there would be no middle class in the United States as we understand it,” said Stanley.

"Once the vision of Friends of Blair Mountain is completely realized, Blair Mountain Historic Park will be a fully functioning educational and tourist destination, complete with a Friends of Blair Mountain multipurpose building, battlefield tours, monuments, historic markers, a living history coal, an outdoor amphitheater, lodging, camping, restaurants and retail shops," the proposal for Blair Mountain Historic Park states.

National Geographic covered this story with a great article as well.

With the 99% and all of the Occupy movements going on right now we need to remember where the middle class came from.  We need to remember our roots and honor the people that sacrificed their jobs and sometimes their lives in support for what they believe in.  I hope the Friends of Blair Mountain can reach an agreement with the mining companies.  It would be even better if mountain-top removal mining and coal mining were to go away as newer technology replaces the need for it.  That’s another argument, however.


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Mine Any kind of excavation into the ground for the purpose of extracting some kind of raw material such as stone, metal ore, coal, or flint. The simplest mines are basically pits sunk into the ground to find or follow outcrops of the desired material; these can be described as open‐cast mines. Lines of shallow extraction pits following surface outcrops of metal ore are known as rakes. Deeper, rather cylindrical holes may be described as simple shaft mines. Examples where the shaft is expanded at the bottom to maximize the area available for extracting a particular layer of material are known as bell pits. Shafts that provide access to a series of galleries that follow seams of material underground are known as galleried shaft mines. Pits that run horizontally into a hill slope or cliff following material into the slope are known as adits or drift mines.

The techniques of mining developed steadily from Neolithic times onwards in most parts of the world, the use of fire‐setting and stone mauls being the commonest way of extracting hard rocks until hardened iron or steel tools became available in later medieval times. The use of drills and explosives appears from the 18th century ad. In prehistoric times, soft rock such as gravel or chalk was excavated using bone and antler tools and stone and flint axes. The archaeology of mines and mining is often rather complicated because as well as the underground elements (which are often well preserved) there will be surface structures including spoil heaps, processing areas, working floors, a range of shelters and facilities, drainage works, and perhaps aqueducts, leats, reservoirs, and other water management works where water power was used or where material removed from the mine itself needed to be washed.

#50 Arizona Land Swap Could Damage Cultural Resources

The headline from Science, "Breaking News: Archaeology Groups Oppose Proposed Arizona Land Swap".

An offshoot of the international mining firm Rio Tinto is trying to gain 2400 acres of land south of Phoenix to mine a supposed deposit of high quality copper.  Read this carefully.  They aren't leasing federal land.  They are trading federal land for private land that would become federal.  Sneaky.

The proposal (H.R. 1904) would swap U.S. Forest Service land about 70 miles south of Phoenix for an array of privately owned lands elsewhere in the state. Under the arrangement, initially floated in 2005, Resolution Copper Co., an offshoot of global mining leader Rio Tinto (Resolution Copper), would get about 2400 acres of land believed to sit atop a vast deposit of high-quality copper. The federal government would get about 5300 acres in exchange, including 3000 acres of ecologically important land along the lower San Pedro River.

On the surface it looks like the American people would gain 2900 acres of land and loose nothing.  In reality, the mining company has found a way around the need to obtain an Environmental Impact Statement.  From what I can tell they would not be required to assess the archaeological resources, the biological resources, or any other resources.  Companies can do whatever they want on private land.  A closer look at this case could reveal that the mine has been buying up land for years in anticipation of this deal.

I hope the SAA and the other groups that are opposing this deal get their voices heard.  Deals like this would open the door for other mines to do the same and cultural resources as we know them would disappear.

Written in Sparks, Nevada


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Environmental Impact Statement A process that since the mid 1970s has been developed and increasingly applied to large and medium-sized development proposals whereby technical studies are undertaken in order to predict the likely impact that the scheme will have on the local, regional, and global environment.  The aim is to better inform the decision-making process, allow alternative proposals to be compared, and where appropriate, promote the development of acceptable mitigation measures.  EIA was first applied widely in the USA; it was made a legal requirement for certain types of scheme in Europe following a European Community Directive issued in 1985.  Archaeological remains are one of the resources that can be included in the scope of an EIA where it is believed that such things might be significantly affected by a proposed project.  Also known as Environmental Assessment.

#41 Environmental Irony

[Reposted because the reason for taking this entry down doesn't exist anymore]

To work on an active mine in this country you have to get annual training from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA, pronounced em-shaw).  If it's your first time or if you let your training lapse, you have to get 24 hours of classroom instruction.  The first 20 hours are given by an approved MSHA instructor.  The remaining four hours are site specific and are given by the mine you will be working on.  Each time you go to a mine you either haven't worked on before or haven't worked on in a calendar year you have to get four hours of site specific training.

The initial MSHA training is mostly videos and stories of people getting killed and why they got killed.  The instructor and students relate stories of tragedy and near tragedy all day long.  There are a few safety videos, some of which may actually apply to you, most of which don't.

The training at the mine is more of the same with a few interesting differences.  After you've been to a few mines, and I've been to three new ones in the past three months, you start to notice a common thread with the training.  They are really satisfied with themselves, the work they are doing, and the way they are treating the environment.

Now, before we go any further, let me discuss my views on open-pit mining.  A lot of people are opposed to open-pit mining because of the massive devastating effect that it has on the landscape and on the surrounding environment.  I completely agree that it is a bad thing when the mine is upstream of populated areas.  The run-off is often poorly managed at best.  However, out here in Nevada we have literally millions of acres of land that absolutely no one ever visits.  No ranchers, no hunters, and often, no wildlife.  I've been in areas where you won't see a single person or animal for weeks.  Out here, where there are no amber waves of grain and where the buffalo wouldn't dare to roam, there is no reason why you shouldn't operate an open-pit mine.  If you disagree come take a look for yourself.  It will take you hours to get to any of the large mines and you will likely get lost along the way. 

Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about the environmental impacts and policies.

All of these mines are proud of three things: their safety record, their environmental policy, and their production numbers.  In public and in front of contractors it is usually in that order, although, I think in the main office the CEO might be a little more concerned with production when he is thinking about shareholders.

Somewhere in Nevada. From Google EarthThe talk about the environmental policy is the one that really gets to me.  They love to show people how good they are to the environment because they clean up spills, recycle, mitigate cultural resources, and are mindful of animals.  Those are all good things and aside from the mile wide hole in the ground and the new mountains created solely from waste rock that now sit on the playas and valley floors, they are doing pretty well.  The question is, why are they doing what they do?  Why the environmental policy?  Do they feel guilty?  Not likely.  They do it because our elected officials told them to.

That's right.  The government that Republican and Tea Party members would like to reduce and/or get rid of entirely is responsible for the meager amount of environmental regulation these mines have to abide by.  With the price of gold continuing to rise, despite the latest hiccup, I think that mining should be more heavily regulated and fines should be steeper.  They can afford it.  And, not only can they afford it, no amount of money or regulation will ever put the land back to it's original condition.

I feel like I got off track a bit.  The point of this post is to discuss the ironic way that the mines talk about their environmental policy.  Yesterday morning I was listening to a guy talk about how good they are to the environment while sitting less that half a mile from fifteen large open pits, most of which are closed down and dormant.  Are they blind? Do they not see that just cleaning up your spills and planting seed on waste rock is not "treating the environment well"?  Maybe it simply comes down to money.  The miners need money and jobs, the company wants to prosper, and the world needs gold.  Still, it's difficult for me to keep my mouth shut during those sermons.  After all, my company and I need money and jobs too.

Five miles north of the previous image. From Google EarthI guess the point of all of this is being proud of something you are told to do and are actually heavily fined if you don't.  It's clear that mines would not have an environmental policy if they didn't have to.  The older mines that we record are a testament to that theory.  Just a few weeks ago I recorded a mine from the 40s that had a cyanide-hardened waste rock platform that we parked on.  The smell was a bit worrying.  The white chalky powder in some of the barrels was a bit suspect too.

Food for thought: the next time you think there is too much government regulation, imagine a world without it.  You probably wouldn't like what you see.

Written in Eureka, NV, "The friendliest town on the loneliest road in America".

#35 Mining, Mining, Mining

[Photos removed.  Sorry]

Recently I've been working in northern Nevada, somewhere between Idaho, Arizona, Utah, and California (I learned my lesson with the Tonopah post!). The project is a survey of just over 5000 acres for a mining company. There has already been heavy mining in the area that dates back over 100 years.

I wanted to talk a little about the survey that we are doing and what someone can expect in these types of areas. The elevation is between 5000 ft MSL and 6000 ft MSL. There are no trees or tall vegetation; just sagebrush and other small plants. We are doing block survey which means that we have a massive block of land (with weird boundaries because they are never a straight line) that we are walking over in 30 m transect intervals. Some companies do "flag and run" survey where they flag sites when they find them, take a point with the GPS, and continue surveying. They like to do this so they know how many sites they have to record and can better update the client with a completion time. This company is having us record as we go. I don't mind doing it that way on this project because it breaks up the very hilly survey. It's nice to have a break. It must make it somewhat difficult to determine how long the project will take, though.

It's surprising how few prehistoric artifacts we have found. They must have been out here at various times over the past 12,000 years or more. The majority of what we find are shallow prospect pits and mining claim cairns. Prospect pits are usually less than a meter deep and are typically about 3-5 meters in diameter. There are larger ones and smaller ones, of course, and some are in the shape of a trench. Some of the shallow pits may be the result of some early laws in Nevada mining rather than the search for minerals. At one point (I don't know when or for how long) a prospector had to actually break ground on a claim to make it valid. You couldn't just make claims all over the place and never go out and explore them. The mining claim cairns (pronounced with one syllable, not two) are where copies of the claim papers are actually kept. They are usually just a pile of 20-30 rocks piled up around a 4x4 in post with a container nailed to the side near the top. The container is often an upright pocket tobacco tin (UPTT) or some other can that has been modified to hold papers. Sometimes we still find the papers intact and legible. Last week we found one dated to 1935 (I think, it's around 1935 anyway). Prospectors, including massive international mining companies, still have to put up their claim posts. Although now they just pound a 1 x 1 inch post in the ground and attached a film canister to the top that contains the papers.

With all of the heavy prospecting and mining activity it makes the survey go pretty slow. My crew of four (including me) is covering about 1200-1600 meters (two sets of transects, one out and one back) in a day. That is a pretty small distance for survey. The problem is that we run into a prospect pit or a cairn, or both about every 100 meters or less. In Nevada, two artifacts or features or a combination of the two, is a site. If we have a cairn and a pit, that's a site. If we have a pit and a can, that's a site. If we have a cairn and a can, wait, that might not be a site. If the can has a nail hole in it and looks like it could have been nailed to the cairn then it gets recorded as an isolated feature wit the cairn. You have to pay attention to the small details sometimes.

The mining stuff can get a little tedious but for the most part I love working up here. The entire Nevada mining operation is fascinating to me. I can't imagine the hardships and the struggles that those early pioneers went through to get out into some of these areas in search of fortune and glory. It takes us about 75 minutes to get to our project area from the nearest town with a hotel and that's doing 80 mph! The living conditions, clothing, and equipment 100+ years ago would have made doing even the simplest of tasks difficult. I have to admire them for that, at least.

Just as a carrot to dangle in front of anyone reading this from the rest of the U.S., the temps have already started to fall here. We may be having our last days in the 90's next week and could possibly get snow in some parts of the state as early as a month or two from now. Summer comes on pretty suddenly here but leaves just as quickly. The mornings are chilly and the afternoons are pleasant right now. Come work in the Great Basin! No humidity!

See you in the field.

Written in Battle Mountain, NV: Half way to everywhere (Their slogan, not mine)

#23 Conflict of Interest

I'm working with a company that is contracting on a large, well established, open pit mine site right now.  The mine has been in operation for several decades and have excavated themselves a fairly large hole.  All waste rock is stacked up in piles hundreds of feet high all around the pit.  That's where we come in.

The mine, like all other mineral mines in the area, is looking to expand their operations into areas with less mineral volume per ton.  The price of gold is high enough to allow a profitable extraction in these less dense areas.  As a result, archaeology in the area is booming.  We are surveying and inventorying everything around the current mining operations and in some cases survey in new areas is taking place. 

At the mine we are currently working for, the new areas are being used partially for expansion of the mountainous waste rock piles and for some exploratory drilling.  This drilling is done on small pads that are cleared and leveled by bulldozers.  That brings me to what happened at the end of our session on Tuesday of this week.

We were having somewhat of a lazy day driving and mapping roads within the project area.  If you have ever been to a western desert state then you understand the network of two-track roads that exists out here.  If you haven't, imagine a circuit board from the 80s with all of the exposed circuit pathways and you'll start to get the idea.  For those who don't know, modern circuit boards, as opposed to boards from the 80s, are micro-miniature marvels of engineering.  The boards are multi-layer and you often can't even see most of what's going on.  They are quite fascinating.  I think I went astray somewhere.  Oh right...desert roads.

Anyway, we were driving all of the roads within the project area so we could get them in the GPS.  Some would need to be recorded as historic sites in their own right while others are just access roads for sites and areas.  Near the end of the day (about 1130 since we still had the 4.5 hour drive back to Reno) we had traveled over to an area that we surveyed in the previous session.  Actually, we were right next to a site we designated number 1, so, the first site we recorded on this project.  There was a bladed pad centered at the intersection of two historic two-track roads and at the edge of site number 1.  The boundary for site 1 was extended to encompass a possibly historic mound of dirt near one of the roads.  This is the portion that was destroyed by the blading of the pad.  The rest of the site, an historic debris scatter with prospect pits and a collapsed adit, was left intact.  However, we usually leave at least a 30 meter buffer around sites when work is being conducted near them.

So, where do we stand?  Portions of two un-recorded historic roads were destroyed.  The site boundary of an historic site was compromised but no artifacts were disturbed and no verified historic features were destroyed.  Also, the site in question is likely not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places although it is, as of the time of this writing, still un-evaluated.  Unless the site was used by an important historical figure in the area, it will likely be ineligible and the mine would be allowed to plow through it anyway (with a monitor present).

Another factor in this saga is the fact that sporadic surveys have been done in the area before.  Several times in the past 20 years the mine has had small pad-shaped areas and access roads surveyed.  One of our jobs is to re-evaluate the previously recorded sites in the area.  It is possible that the mine thinks they are working on one of the previously "cleared" areas.  This may be true but they hired us to block survey the entire area and to report back with our findings and recommendations.  They should check with us prior to any ground disturbing activities.

Here is where the conflict of interest comes in.  The area we are surveying is BLM land.  It is owned by the taxpayers of this country.  The mine is leasing the land for it's use (and will likely be destroying it and "reclaiming" it later, but that is a topic for another discussion).  If they damage un-evaluated cultural resources they could be subject to fines under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of ???? (ARPA).  The only people that are going to report them to the proper authorities would likely be us.  They are our client.  We are costing them time and money.  You can see the problem.

We have an ethical responsibility to ensure that the cultural resources on the property are treated with care and are diligently recorded for future generations to learn from.  We also enjoy working and putting food on the table.  It would be nothing for the mine to pay their fines and then award the next contract to another firm.  They have literally mountains of money.

What should our PI's do?  I think they'll start by talking to the environmental person at the mine.  If that person acts favorably and responsibly then the problem is solved.  We can still record most of the road that was destroyed and nothing on the site was really affected, this time.  If they deny wrong doing then they should be reported.  That is my feeling but I'm not responsible for making this decision.  

It should be known that I would not hesitate in reporting them in the case of a denial of wrong-doing.  It is our responsibility as stewards of the cultural heritage of this country to protect and defend those resources.  I usually speak my mind and sometimes it gets me in trouble.  In the end I believe that I'm doing good and that the end result, not my well being, is what matters.

What do you think?  How would you react?

Written at the end of a winding road in the Coastal Range of Southern Oregon at the Skull Creek Recreation Area campground.

#7 Tonopah Wrap-Up

I just finished up what was likely my last session in Tonopah, Nevada for a while. That is, until they add even more to the survey! I thought I'd give a quick History of Tonopah and a summary of the field work because it all turned out to be quite interesting.

Early 1900s Tonopah.The modern city of Tonopah was founded on May 19, 1900 by Jim Butler. Butler was traveling through the area and stopped for a little break. A popular version of the story is that Butler's mule wandered away and he went to look for it. When Butler found the mule it was standing near a rock outcrop that appeared to be saturated with silver. Butler took a few samples to send to the assayer. After one assayer said the samples were worthless, another confirmed Butler's suspicions of rich silver ore deposits in the Tonopah area.

Word was sent to Butler concerning the rich silver in his samples, however, Butler did not respond rapidly. Instead, he stayed at his Monitor Valley ranch to finish up his hay harvest. Butler's neglect to file a claim on his lode site nearly lost him a fortune. Word spread of the Butler Claim and scores of miners flocked to the Tonopah area to find it. The claim remained elusive to all but Butler.

On August 27 Butler finally traveled to Belmont, Nevada to file his claims. Belmont was the county seat of Nye County at the time. Butler filed eight claims including the famous Desert Queen, Burro, Valley View, Silver Top, Buckboard, and Mizpah claims. These six claims turned into some of the largest producers of silver that the state had ever seen.

Once the Mizpah mine was started in October of 1900 a small camp called Butler began to form. In December Butler decided to lease all of his claims for a period of one year. Butler and his partner, Tasker Oddie (future Governor of Nevada and namesake of a street I live near) would receive 25% royalty on all gold and silver mined from the claims.

The town began to grow. In January there were 40 men in the camp. By March there were 60 men and within a few weeks the population was 250. A post office named Butler opened on April 10, 1901 and it wasn't until March 3, 2005 that the name changed to Tonopah.

Nearly $750,000 in gold and silver was produced from Tonopah mines by the summer of 1901. The mines were consistent producers for the next 40 years. By 1901 the town had assay offices, doctors, lawyers, lodging houses, saloons, merchants, restaurants, and a population of 650.

By 1902 Butler consolidated his claims into his new company, the Tonopah Mining Company. The company controlled mines in several states as well as one in Nicaragua. In Tonopah, the company owned three shafts, the deepest of which was 1500 feet. The ore was mined in more than 46 miles of lateral tunnels. Other companies produced ore at similar rates and soon processing facilities would be built at Tonopah. Until then the ore was shipped to other towns for processing.

The peak in ore production for Tonopah took place from 1900 to 1921 with $121 million in gold and silver extracted. 1913 produced the most ore at $10 million. By WWII only four companies remained in Tonopah and a huge fire in 1942 destroyed one of them, including a nearby hotel. The end of the major mining period in Tonopah came when the Tonopah Goldfield Railroad ceased operations in 1947. The tracks were removed and no railroad connects to Tonopah to this day.

Over the years since the boom individuals and companies have made claims at mines in the Tonopah district but nothing substantial was located. Now, however, a new resurgence is beginning.

With the ongoing technological advances in mineral extraction technology companies like Allied Nevada Gold are coming back to Tonopah. High yields of deep ore deposits are forecasted to earn millions of dollars for the modern gold companies and their stockholders. This would likely mean an increase in populations and a resurgence of business activity for some of the former great towns of the gold and silver rush era.

That leads me to our current survey project outside of Tonopah. All of this information, by the way, is publicly available. Check out Allied Nevada Gold's website and you can see presentations on expected mineral yields and profiles of core drilling projects. They are entirely transparent as a company because they are publicly traded on the NYSE.

For our survey we first conducted a thorough walk-over of the entire area. We mostly found evidence of historic mining with only a handful of prehistoric sites recorded. Most of the mining related features that we recorded were prospecting pits and mining claim cairns. Over 1800 of these features were recorded!

Some of the larger sites that we recorded included larger historic mining sites. These sites often contained a large waste-rock pile with a leveled platform at the top where access to the shaft was located. In all cases the headframe was gone but the internal frame of the mine shaft remained. Sites also included foundations for hoists and generators and leveled platforms for other mine support buildings, such as tents, blacksmith buildings, and carpentry buildings. These sites always included a large amount of historic trash that was used to date the sites.

Again, this information is all publicly available. A large portion of the project area is on leased BLM land and there is frequent local recreational vehicle traffic through the area.

I gained an appreciation for historic artifacts on this project that I previously did not have. My interests have always centered around the axiom, "The older the better!" However, I've always liked how datable historic artifacts are. If you know a bit about can manufacture and bottle maker's marks you can almost date a site to a single year, if not a narrow range. That is pretty nice. I even encountered a concrete platform that had a date engraved right on it! You can't ask for better dating.

While working on this project I bought and read several books on historic mining and the history of Tonopah. They gave me a better understanding of the town and its history. They also showed me the value of understanding an area before you go to work in it. Since I've worked in many areas across the country I have always tried to find literature about the cultures in the area before I go there. That was especially important here because none of us knew anything about historic mining practices and equipment, yet, we were asked to describe these sites and, essentially, reverse engineer what we saw for our site descriptions. We learned a lot as we went along and I'm sure our site recording accuracy improved every day.

I can't count the number of times that I've gone to a project and worked with people that just put their heads down and walked. They were looking for, what? I don't really know. When you have worked all over the country you realize that not every historic site and not every prehistoric site is the same. That might seem silly to say out loud but think about it. How much do you really know about the unique cultures and their life-ways before you work in an area? Did they build subtle earthworks? Did they have pottery? Did they build mobile structures like teepees or did they built pit houses? All of these things have different expressions on the ground after hundreds and thousands of years of neglect and abandonment. We have to know how to tell what we're looking for. We have to be professionals. We have to be committed to the archaeology and to the people who's history we are trying to describe.  That's not to say that I haven't worked with some really great, dedicated, archaeologists.  There are those out there that really enjoy their job, and not just during work ours.

I highly recommend a stop in the sleepy town of Tonopah if you are traveling US95. It's the main highway between Las Vegas and Reno. And no, you will not see alien spacecraft as you pass the Nevada Proving Ground and the infamous Area 51. Critical thinking is a skill that you have to work on and develop every day.

Cogito Tute! (Think for yourself)