Home on the Range PIT Project
Inyo National Forest, California, 2009
By Glen Higgins and Noel Van Slyke, PIT Volunteers
Project Lead: Crystal West, North Zone Archaeologist
Session One (June 1-5):
The purpose of the project was to relocate archaeological sites in the Long Valley area of the Forest, where grazing of sheep and cattle is leased to private companies, and assess the impact it may have on the cultural resources.
This is the second year we have been doing this and this year we established 1x1 meter monitoring stations in the sites, counted all the artifacts in the meter, photographed the area, and left a metal stake for relocation next year.
Although the weather was quite cool and often raining, we were able to do this in about ten different locations throughout the Forest. While searching for one of the locations previously recorded, we happened upon a new site that was very exciting, and we will most likely return there in September in the next PIT project. The area has a large "Rock Shelter" and across a small stream bed is an area of large boulders, one of which has what appears from one vantage point to be a flying eagle.
From another position a large bear's head is seen. Several projectile points and lots of lithic flaking were found and indications are this may be a very spiritual place, according to the Native American representative from the Bishop area of the Paiute Tribe who accompanied us on this project.
The last day of the project it was snowing on us as we gathered to go out for the day. Because we were towing a trailer, Lynn and I decided not to go, and to get our trailer out of Mammoth before the predicted six inches of snow could trap us there. This was a very pleasant project and an educational one as well. The people who accompanied us were very great to work with. Looking forward to the second week of the project in September.
Session Two (September 15-19):
The first day we visited five sites. At the first we relocated one of the test areas. The 1x1 meter area was evaluated for damage by the cattle that had grazed there during the summer. We recorded the number of flakes on the surface (which was different from what was observed in June), recorded disturbances, and took photos of the unit. We then recorded a new unit nearby in a heavily trampled area. At a site down the creek we evaluated another unit from June. It had also been impacted.
We started the second day with a visit to Lookout Mountain. It is the location of an obsidian quarry. The now closed road along the ridge from the summit is paved with obsidian flakes in many places. By where we parked the cars was a large block of obsidian that must have weighed 50 pounds. It was a day of animal sightings. Coming down from the mountain we spotted to deer (does). Driving along Long Valley Road heading to the first site we saw a doe with two fawns on two occasions. We checked a test unit put in June. A house pit was about 15 meters west of the unit. On the way back to the cars Lynn spotted an artifact made of vesicular basalt that was identified as a paint bowl, maybe belonging to a shaman.
The third day was spent at one site. We first checked a unit from June - it had not been disturbed - and then put in a new one in a disturbed area. It appeared that sheep had not been there since June. After lunch a few of us recorded arboglyphs in the aspen grove. Most were on dead trees. We recorded five trees. The earliest date was 1930. From the names we figured they were made by Basque sheepherders. Asemsio Beristian created many of the arboglyphs over several years. We wondered whatever happened to him.
On Thursday we visited a prehistoric site located near an historic mine. We put in a couple units. This area produced three points. I found a dart point estimated to be about 5,000 years old. Someone found a Fish Springs dart point, and someone found the tip of a point - maybe Elko.
The last day was spent at a large village site that had been visited in June. The last of these units had 156 flakes in one square meter. We ran out of our orange flags and then used pick flags. There were lots of bedrock mortars (BRMs), house rings, caches, and kitchen areas (flat rocks with many BRMs). We visited the bear rock and eagle rock they found in June. It was an enjoyable week, and we hope Crystal has another one next year.