All posts by Alison Stenger

PALEONTOLOGY FIELDWORK LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

Two field opportunities occurred in the summer of 2018, with one event in July and the other in August.  Two different site areas within the boundaries of the City of Woodburn were investigated.  Both had been previously tested, with positive results from both excavations.  Included in previous finds were the giant bison (Bison antiquus), giant ground sloth (Paramylodon harlani), western horse (Equus occidentalis), and western camel (Camelops hesternus), all of which are now extinct. Some predator species in the area include the Pleistocene bear that became the black bear (Ursus americanus), dire wolf (Canis dirus), and a huge predator bird with a 12’-14’ wingspan (Teratornis woodburnensis).  Also at this site are the remains of more typical species, including rabbit, muskrat, beaver, gopher, turtle, snake, deer, elk, coyote, and five other species of bird.  

A horse vertebra in the initial stages of being cleaned (L), and very capable volunteers excavating their units (R).

NPR/OPB came to do interviews and document our work, and visiting scientists from the Stedman Lab at the Center for Life in Extreme Environments came to take soil and water samples.  They also shared their previous work with us during a lunch break. Some of their work is featured at https://www.extremeviruses.org/.  These sites are a wonderful research environment, as the preservation at both sites is so good that even 12,000 year old wood still looks fresh.

A copy of the poster that first introduced us to the Stedman Lab was presented to site coordinator and biology teacher, David Ellingson (L).  Wood that still looks fresh after millennia was noted (R). 

While the recovery of animal bone, mammalian hair, and the occasional lost cultural item are not frequent, nearly everyone recovers something.  After troweling through blocks of different types of soils, volunteers water screen the sediments.  This allows us to find specimens that were previously hidden within clumps of soil.  Whether troweling or screening, archaeological methods are used.

Ancient mammal bone emerges from 12,000 year old sediments. This year, horse and bison were the dominant finds.

The different layers, or strata, reflect the many different ecosystems that have existed here over the last 16 millennia.  Clearly seen are an ancient forest, stratified peat bogs, loamy soil interludes, and flood silts.  Each is a different color, a different texture, and represents a different part of the area’s history.  Every year, volunteers are stunned by the dramatic changes that have occurred within a single place on the landscape over time, and by the preservation of even small seeds and ancient leaves.

The strata exposed in trench walls record a history of the area that spans nearly thirteen thousand years (L).  Researchers have found novel virus genomes in samples from the dig area and several viral sequences in the metagenome from ancient peat (R).

2019 ARCHAEOLOGY OF OAHU & HAWAII ISLAND: TRAVEL ARCHAEOLOGY SERIES

This year’s travel archaeology class visited sites that spanned the centuries.  We went first to Pearl Harbor and then on to ancient Hawaiian village sites with house features that are still visible.  Our focus while in the field was to document some of the prehistoric site elements, but Pearl Harbor set the stage for a broad view of Pacific island locations, which were as relevant in prehistory as in the 20th century.

Tour of Pearl Harbor, including a showing of the new film with information about the time leading up to the attack.  A motor launch (boat) tour of the harbor followed.

Stone wall separating the ocean from the anchialine ponds behind.  Visitors are invited to walk the wall for a short distance.  This feature is substantially larger than the original must have been, as one goal in rebuilding this wall was to provide protection for the prehistoric aquaculture ponds just to the east.

Rock gathered from around the site area were used to develop the new wall.  Some of the rock had previously been utilized for other purposes.

Participants preparing to document features by first setting compasses and reviewing a task list.

Photo documenting the interior of a house foundation.  While vegetation obscured some features, others were still apparent.

Most features were not large, and were placed so that substantial area existed between houses, water catchment areas, etc.

Beginning the documentation process. The focus was both wall and interior features, including palm remains and packed shell floors.

Small pond by a village area far to the south. Salt catchment areas are nearby.

A stacked wall at one site forms a large rectangle around interior features.

One of the smaller features inside a large, partial enclosure.

A newly restored path seen in the middle of this photo leads from one habitation area to another, which is  only now being cleared.

One feature leads to another in a huge village to the north.  Hawaii Parks is doing a tremendous job of restoring this area.

Paleontology Field Opportunity & Learning Archaeological Methods

July 21-24 & August 21-23, 2015 Sign up with the Oregon Archaeological Society for July, or PCC for Aug. (9TR 610P, or CRN 34060)


For a few days in July and August, a limited number of people will have an opportunity to trowel through the soils of a known paleontological site. We will be exploring two different sites that are known to contain numerous extinct, huge animals. These include the giant bison (Bison antiquus), giant ground sloth (Paramylodon harlani), western horse (Equus occidentalis), and western camel (Camelops hesternus). Some predator species in the area include the Pleistocene bear that became the black bear (Ursus americanus), dire wolf (Canis dirus), coyote (Canis latrans), and a huge predator bird with a 12’-14’ wingspan (Teratornis woodburnensis). Also at this site are the remains of extant species, including rabbit, muskrat, beaver, gopher, turtle, snake, deer, elk, and five other species of bird.image-01Examples of Woodburn megafauna from the terminal Pleistocene. Graphic courtesy of H. G. McDonald, NPS.

The different layers, or strata, reflect the many different ecosystems that have existed here over the last 16 millennia. Clearly seen are an ancient forest, stratified peat bogs, loamy soil interludes, and flood silts. Every year, volunteers are stunned by the dramatic changes that have occurred within a single place on the landscape, and by the preservation of even small seeds and ancient leaves.image-02

Every stratum, or layer of soil, has a different color and consistency. Each layer is dated, so the approximate age of the specimens can be readily determined.

Participants won’t have to travel far from home, as we will again be at Woodburn, just 30 miles south of Portland. If you are interested in being one of the limited number of volunteers, please complete the form on this website, or contact the Oregon Archaeological Society (for July) or PCC (for August).

Be sure to check this website for a list of what to bring, and also to see pictures of past projects. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn archaeological methods while investigating a paleontological site. All tools, training, and laboratory supplies will be provided, but please bring a pair of clean kitchen (rubber) gloves. See you this summer!

ARCHAEOLOGY OF HAWAII ISLAND

FEB.19-23, 2016

One of the most popular IAS travel adventures takes people to archaeological sites in the Hawaii Islands. In 2016, we will again escort a very small group to Oahu and then the Big Island (Hawaii Island), to share with them many of the archaeological resources of Hawaii. Each morning we will visit sites, then have the afternoons free to relax or go exploring apart from the group. We will meet again in the evenings to discuss the day’s events, and plan for the next morning’s outings, while enjoying a nice meal. We are limiting the trip to a maximum of 8 participants. There is so much to see and to do that part of our goal is to customize this journey so that the interests of everyone involved are addressed.

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The trip is priced to include roundtrip airfare, including interisland travel, transfers, rental cars (one for every two people), hotel room (two people per room), all entrance fees, daily tours and discussions lead by archaeologists, and travel insurance. Although airline prices continually change, our expected package price is $1,795.00 per person. This amount can be reduced by using your airline miles instead of a purchased ticket! Enrollment begins in early September, but the contact form on this website can be used to sign-up before that time.

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This adventure could have multiple titles. These include the Archaeological Sites Many People Miss, Touring Archaeological Sites While on Vacation, an Introduction to the Prehistory and Early History of Hawaii, and How Hawaiian Archaeology Fits into the World of Archaeology.

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ARCHAEOLOGY & HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND: FINDING NEW SITES TO SHARE

MAY 8-11 2015

In planning for our visit in 2016, the people who help guide our Travel Archaeology program met on the Big Island in early May. The goal was to identify new sites, add to the types of sites we include in the trip, and to look at what access options might be available for people with physical challenges. Happily, all this was accomplished, guaranteeing an exciting journey into Hawaiian archaeology in 2016! In all, we located newly exposed features, observed expanded site boundaries, and learned about some upcoming interpretive programs that should hold everyone’s interest. Please see our posting for the Hawaii class of 2016. We will limit the class size to 8 people, so the things you are interested in will not be missed!