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Bureau of Land Management
Celebrates Its Golden Anniversary

Robert Brook

Last July the Society for American Archaeology signed a "partnership agreement" with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the first step in commemorating the bureau's 50th Anniversary and recognizing the agency's key role in administering the federal government's largest, most culturally diverse and scientifically varied body of prehistoric resources. The formal agreement is printed on page 29.

Several sites administered by BLM were chosen as especially suitable to publicize the anniversary, and are described below.

Alaska--Mosquito Lake

The Mosquito Lake archaeological site is located in the Atigun River valley along the north flank of Alaska's Brooks Range, 110 miles above the Arctic Circle. The site lies on a thinly vegetated limestone outcrop at the mouth of the scenic Atigun River Gorge, overlooking the lake from which it gets its name. The site lies adjacent to the Dalton Highway, an all-weather gravel road that follows the route of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline and connects interior Alaska with the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. This highway provides access to the remote Alaskan wilderness for individual visitors and tour groups. A BLM campground is located at nearby Galbraith Lake, and a highway pullout with interpretive signs discussing the region's culture history will be constructed within the next two years overlooking the Atigun Valley and the Mosquito Lake locale.

Mosquito Lake Photo

The site was excavated in the early 1970s as part of the massive cultural resources mitigation project associated with the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Ninety-five percent of the fieldwork at the site has been completed. A 400-page preliminary report was written in the late 1970s and will serve as the core of a pending publication. The fieldwork remaining to be done deals with identifying lithic source locales and field checking some ambiguous details of the original report. Kristen Wenzel, an anthropology graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University, is currently engaged in this work as a thesis project.

The Mosquito Lake site was probably established as a seasonal hunting camp primarily for caribou and Dall sheep and possibly to utilize the fish resources of the nearby lakes. The site was occupied intermittently from 4,000 to 2,600 years ago by the people of the Denbigh Flint Complex (DFC), an archaeological culture that forms the basis for the Arctic Small Tool tradition and represents the earliest North American Eskimos. The DFC is the founding culture of the Eskimo Continuum--all subsequent Arctic Eskimo cultures appear to stem from it, including those as far removed as Greenland. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this site because of its place at the beginning of the culture history of all Arctic Eskimo cultures and because of its inland (Brooks Range) location. Data from this site will be extremely important when applied to the debate regarding the terrestrial or maritime genesis of the DFC and the primary subsistence strategies of the earliest Eskimos. The DFC is of additional interest because it demonstrates the Old World core and blade technology along with New World bifacial reduction technology. To the degree these technologies are manifested in the DFC, it is unique among North American archaeological cultures and suggests Old World to New World population movements at least four millennia after the Bering land bridge ceased to exist. Additionally, the stone tool assemblage at the site provides in-depth information on the step-by-step manufacturing sequence of the DFC's most unique tool, the "mitten-shaped" burin, as well as insights into lithic procurement strategies. The DFC occupation at the site was followed by the Norton Culture Eskimos who utilized the site until about 1,700 years ago. More recently, about 300 years ago, an unidentified Eskimo group (possibly precontact Nunamiut Eskimos) used the locale. It was also used by postcontact Nunamiut Eskimos during the late 1800s.

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Arizona--Murray Springs

The Murray Springs Clovis Site was excavated by the University of Arizona under the direction of C. Vance Haynes from 1966 to 1971 with funding from the National Geographic Society. The site is one of the very few places in North America where Paleoindian artifacts have been found buried with the bones of extinct, late Pleistocene animals. The site is important because it contains an undisturbed stratigraphic record of the past 40,000 years and is one of the earliest human occupations in North America, producing a radiocarbon date of 11,000 years before present.

Murray Springs is unique in having three Clovis activity areas: one where a mammoth was partially butchered, another where at least 11 bison of an extinct form were killed, and a hunter's campsite where portions of the game were prepared and where stone tools were used, repaired, and lost or discarded.

One of the characteristics that makes the Murray Springs site so extraordinary is that Clovis occupation surfaces were found in place. Bones, tools, and a hearth were discovered exactly where Clovis people abandoned them, giving us clues about their subsistence practices and the paleo-environment in which they lived.

A visitor trail has been constructed through the site, and a brochure will be printed and interpretive signs installed in the upcoming year. A group of volunteers called the Paleo Patrol monitors the site on a regular basis. The Paleo Patrol was started with a grant from Agnese Haury in 1994 for the purpose of keeping an eye on Murray Springs and other significant sites along the San Pedro River.

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California--Calico Hills Archaeological District

The Calico Hills Archaeological District is a 2,000-acre area situated just north of Interstate 15, approximately 10 miles east of Barstow. This area contains archaeological sites, including lithic quarries, Native American trail segments, lithic work stations, and camp sites dispersed over rolling hills that separate some of the large, dry playas of the California desert. The district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1968 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as an "Area of Critical Environmental Concern" for scientific inquiry and interpretation.

Visitors can see the remains of tool making and walk the trails that connected lakes when they were full of water during the early Holocene. Manix Lake Basin, Coyote and Troy dry lakes, and the Mojave River all had water that attracted humans to the vicinity. It was here that tools were made that enabled the prehistoric inhabitants to harvest the abundant plant and animal resources that would have been present during wet or pluvial periods. Visitors can also see the area where famous paleoanthropologists Louis S. B. Leakey and Ruth DeEtte Simpson excavated while testing their hypothesis that human occupation began in the New World at an earlier time than is generally accepted by conventional scientific thinking. The balk and several units are exposed in an alluvial fan where visitors can see desert geology, an earthquake fault and in situ artifacts.

After over 30 years of scientific inquiry, the excavation of the Early Man portion of the site has provided extremely important data on depositional geology, paleoecology, micropaleontology, and rock mechanics. The district has been the focus of several master's theses in anthropology and geology. Studies on paleohydrology, catchment basin analysis, faulting, and Lake Manix pluviation, as well as research on shoreline archaeology, trail systems, and determinants of natural vs. cultural breakage of siliceous rock materials, are among topics that continue to be investigated. One of the most valuable contributions of the Leakey/Simpson excavations was the introduction of elaborate scientific data-collecting techniques focusing on the interaction of the development of alluvial fans and the distribution of artifactual and non-artifactual rock material.

While the primary excavation at the Calico Hills Archaeological District has not changed the accepted dating of human occupation in the New World, the examination of geological data as a result of the archaeological excavation has documented the presence of humans in the Mojave Desert to over 10,000 years ago. The collection of tens of thousands of items from the surface and subsurface of the district and their curation will give archaeologists and other scientists many years of opportunities to test hypotheses on a variety of issues related to Mojave Desert paleoecology and environment. Future research will certainly focus on the relationships of the artifacts and non-artifacts to alluviation, as well as on the huge lithic quarry scattered throughout the district, the well-preserved faunal record represented within the district, and the aboriginal trail network that radiates to the surrounding dry lake beds. The district continues to attract scholars from numerous disciplines conducting original desert research.

Tours are given by staff members of the BLM from the Barstow Resource Area and by the Friends of Calico. Tours begin at the interpretive center and generally end at one of the surface sites or at the balk. Visitors also can participate in the biannual archaeological symposium and hear speakers talk about desert ecosystems, participate in excavation, and walk through the area on trails that at certain times of the year are covered with brilliant displays of desert wildflowers.

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Colorado--Lowry Ruins National Historic Landmark

Lowry Pueblo was constructed by ancestral Pueblo Indian people about A.D. 1060 on top of the ruined pithouses of an 8th-century occupation. The inhabitants were farmers who raised corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. Lowry began as a small village of a few roofed-over rooms and central kivas (ceremonial features). Between A.D. 1085 and 1170 several more rooms, the Great Kiva, and the painted kiva were added. This period of occupation exhibits architectural characteristics of the style prevalent in Chaco Canyon far to the southeast. The local architectural style returns again with later additions to the pueblo. When abandoned, the pueblo consisted of 40 rooms, some of which stood three stories high, and eight kivas. The Great Kiva was used throughout the life of the pueblo and was likely a ritual place of importance to the region. Lowry Pueblo Ruins were first excavated in the early 1930s by Paul S. Martin of the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. Martin's excavation led to a realization that this site was of national importance, although it was not until 1967 that Lowry Ruin was designated as a National Historic Landmark because of its importance to southwestern archaeology.

Lowry Pueblo is the focal point for a large puebloan community. It reflects a long-lived Basketmaker through Pueblo III occupation of the area and its architecture shows influence from as far away as Chaco Canyon. Many of the sites around Lowry have been destroyed by agricultural expansion, making site preservation at Lowry especially important. Modern Pueblo people believe Lowry was important because of its location on a low rise, giving Lowry occupants sweeping views of what is now the Four Corners region. Paul Martin's excavations were some of the first scientific explorations in the area and his collections, housed at the Chicago Field Museum, remain an important legacy for southwest archaeology.

Lowry Ruins hosts about 12,000 visitors a year. It is open to the public all year long. Lowry has been stabilized, interpreted, and is a site that visitors can enjoy. Onsite there is an introductory sign and a registration box. Numbered stops throughout the site are keyed to a self-guided tour and brochure. Lowry serves as a complement to Mesa Verde and is perhaps more typical of larger sites in southwestern Colorado. A CD-ROM for an interactive museum exhibit to be displayed at BLM's Anasazi Heritage Center has been developed to interpret the archaeology at Lowry. Four Native Americans were interviewed and provide a valuable perspective on the site and its landscape.

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Idaho--Baker Cave

Baker Cave consists of a lava tube located in the lava fields of southern Idaho. The cave was occupied for a short time about 1,000 years ago by occupants who had apparently trapped a small bison herd consisting of at least 17 animals. They butchered the animals at the kill site and carried selected parts back to the cave. In addition to the bison, a large number of rabbit remains were found in the cave, many with burned or butchered bones, indicating their inclusion in the diet.

The Baker Cave excavation has produced data that bears on several important research questions, most importantly the nature of the Late Archaic period in southern Idaho. The data collected from the site provide one of the first reasonably complete and temporally controlled collections from the Late Archaic in this part of Idaho. Further, the archaeological information contributes to the understanding of Late Archaic seasonality and bison procurement/butchering. Documentation of bison procurement as a mid-winter activity is particularly informative, contrasting with traditional views of winter subsistence patterns.

The story of Baker Cave has been told through a mobile museum display. The display includes artifact replicas, photographs, and art work, and consists of two hinged panels, each with three segments one meter long, forming the outline of a buffalo. No on-site interpretation of Baker Cave has been undertaken.

Nevada--Hidden Cave and Grimes Point Archaeological Area.

Hidden Cave is situated on a hillside that was once a shore of Ice Age (Pleistocene) Lake Lahontan. It overlooks the broad Lahontan Valley in western Nevada near Fallon, Nevada. The cave was rediscovered in the 1920s and excavated for the first time in 1940; professional excavations at Hidden Cave were continued in 1951 and again in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since a high proportion of the artifacts found at Hidden Cave were unbroken and arranged in concentrations, archaeologists have concluded that people 3,500 to 3,800 years ago used Hidden Cave as a cache site rather than as a shelter. Projectile points, other weapons, fishnets, tools, food, and many other articles that were not carried by the cave's occupants were stored for use when they returned. Today, visitors hike through a half-mile trail and duck through a three-foot-high entrance to find a single room 100 feet across and 15 feet high where archaeological excavations have been "halted" in mid-course. Bureau volunteers and employees guide two scheduled tours monthly and usually several special tours for school classes and many other groups. About 4,500 visitors tour the site annually.

Grimes Point, a nearby petroglyph site, was established as an in situ interpretive area, with a self-guided tour, environmental study area, and protective enclosures. Teacher's study guides, brochures, interpretive and protective signing, and regular range patrols are all part of an integrated program of site management. Grimes Point was first visited by Native Americans perhaps 8,000 years ago or more. The Grimes Point Archaeological Area was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The Grimes Point Archaeological Area, including Grimes Point Petroglyphs and Hidden Cave, Picnic Cave, Burnt Cave, and other archaeological sites, are extremely important Great Basin sites. In addition to containing information concerning subsistence economies from about 3,500 to 3,800 years ago, valuable climatological and ecological data is found in the well-preserved sediments of Hidden Cave. The area in general provides a unique opportunity to visually interpret the environmental and cultural landscape of the western Great Basin during Archaic times.

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New Mexico--Casamero Chacoan Outlier

Casamero Pueblo was occupied by the Chacoan Anasazi between A.D. 975 and 1175. It is an excellent example of a Chacoan "outlier" containing many of the cultural and architectural traits found at Chaco Canyon. Chacoan architectural details found at Casamero include large-scale planning, core and veneer walls, large rooms, and Chacoan kivas with bench recesses, subfloor vaults, and ventilators. Casamero is L-shaped with approximately 20 ground-floor rooms; up to 29 rooms would have been present when considering the second-story portions. The great house also contains two kivas and an enclosed plaza. A great kiva, 21 m in diameter, lies 65 m south of the great house. Numerous domiciliary structures surround Casamero Pueblo.

From Chaco Canyon, a network of prehistoric roads radiated outward, linking the canyon to outlier communities. The roads permitted a redistribution system to operate between Chaco Canyon and the outliers located in diverse environmental settings. Goods, services, and labor were transported along the trail system. This interlinked regional settlement system permitted buffering of food shortages resulting from local fluctuations in food production.

It is believed Casamero was built to exploit the farmland along Casamero Draw. Foods grown and pottery produced at Casamero may have been traded to other outliers or to Chaco Canyon. Along with Chaco Cultural National Historical Park and six other outliers, Casamero is included in the World Heritage List, a compendium of world-class cultural and natural properties maintained by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Because of this designation, BLM has set aside 160 acres containing Casamero to ensure the preservation of cultural features.

The site was professionally excavated several times between 1966 and 1974. In 1976 and 1977, BLM completely stabilized Casamero to prevent deterioration of the walls. Once the stabilization was completed, interpretive signs were placed at the site describing the cultural history of the Chacoan Anasazi and the features present at Casamero. Casamero Pueblo is fenced to keep livestock and vehicles from disturbing the site, although pedestrian walk-throughs are provided. A parking lot was constructed along McKinley County Road 19 for visitor use. Other management actions have included withdrawing the area from mineral entry and off-road use, annual photo-monitoring, completion of an intensive archaeological survey of the property, and updated stabilization of standing architecture in 1986.

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Oregon--Macks Canyon Site

The Macks Canyon site (35SH23) is a large prehistoric village site situated on an alluvial terrace overlooking the Deschutes River in north-central Oregon. The site as currently known covers an area 400 x 80 m and contains 51 depressions, surface lithics and exposed riverine shell deposits. Twenty-nine of the recorded depressions appear to be the remains of shallow circular semisubterranean houses essentially identical to those known along the Columbia River (23 miles north) and utilized by various Columbia Plateau tribes. The function of the 22 remaining depressions has not been determined. Limited excavations conducted in the late 1960s by David L. Cole of the Oregon State Museum of Anthropology indicated that the Macks Canyon site was the location of a winter village occupied by Sahaptin-speaking people. Although the main period of occupation appears to have occurred after 2,000 BP, the presence of large side-notched projectile points suggests that the site may have also been occupied much earlier, perhaps sometime after 7,000 BP. Food-grinding implements are common in the collection, and faunal remains are dominated by freshwater mussels, bighorn sheep, and deer. Fish remains are infrequently found.

The Macks Canyon site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 based on its scientific value (i.e., extensive site area and relatively great time depth). Today, the houses are merely shallow depressions overgrown with sagebrush and grass. The site has been enclosed within a protective fence, and an interpretive sign provides the visitor with general site information.

Much of the Macks Canyon site remains intact due to both the protective fence and the small area of the initial excavations. Because no archaeological investigations have been conducted at the site since the late 1960s, opportunities for additional data recovery efforts are available. The information collected could address a myriad of questions related to riverine settlement/subsistence patterns, site function and formation processes, cultural chronology, social organization/interaction, and trade networks. Further investigations at the Macks Canyon site would contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the lower Deschutes River region and its place in the prehistory of the southern Columbia Plateau and northern Great Basin transition zone.

The lower Deschutes River region has received little attention for scientific study from federal agencies, researchers and/or universities. In fact, our present understanding of the region's prehistory is derived primarily from site salvage excavations conducted prior to construction of the Columbia River dams between the 1930s and 1960s. Although more archaeological research has been conducted in the last six years than in the previous 20, and partnership opportunities with federal land-managing agencies are on the rise, there is still a general lack of regional information. Many areas have not been surveyed for cultural resources, and the majority of sites that have been recorded need National Register of Historic Places evaluations. In addition, numerous sites with notable research potentials are situated in concealed locations susceptible to looting and in highly erosive and high-use recreation areas, leaving them vulnerable to site disturbance and the loss of valuable information. Given the above information, it is safe to say that the lower Deschutes River region warrants prompt attention from the archaeological community.

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Mule Canyon Ruin

Located in the center of scenic Cedar Mesa just off Bicentennial Highway U-95 in southeast Utah, this stabilized and interpreted unit pueblo typifies the mesa-top occupation that occurred from 800 to 900 years ago in this part of the Colorado Plateau. Excavated in 1973 by the University of Utah in preparation for highway construction, the public can visit a pueblo of 14 rooms, a ramada-covered kiva, a separate tower, and connecting tunnels.

Mule Canyon Ruin is important because of the information it provided concerning the dynamics of interaction between the Mesa Verde Anasazi to the east and the Kayenta Anasazi to the west. Opportunities for future research at the site focus on those important prehistoric interactions and the function of the towers. Volunteer opportunities include assisting with interpretation and maintenance.

Development at the site includes accessible walkways with benches, museum-quality interpretation in a kiosk, a remarkable wood-and-steel circular roof over the kiva, and restrooms. A marked nature trail leads to a viewpoint overlooking Mule Canyon to the north, with views of Cedar Mesa visible to the south.

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Wyoming--Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site

The Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site is the centerpiece and headquarters of the Medicine Lodge Habitat Area, a partnership area involving the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service. The site is staffed year-round by Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites staff.

The archaeological elements include a rock shelter excavated by George Frison of the University of Wyoming, which uncovered 60 cultural levels spanning at least 11,000 years of occupation, along with extensive rock art on the cliff face. Information relating to the excavations is incorporated into interpretive displays housed in one of the log cabins associated with ranching activities at the site. The displays include photographs of the excavations in progress, the features located, and casts of many of the excavated artifacts. The interpretive materials provide information about the lifestyles of the people using the area.

Interpretive signs enhance the rock art panels, which show affinities with both Plains and Great Basin localities and include pictographs, some of which are polychrome (red, black, green, and yellow), and petroglyphs, some with applied color. Chalking, rubbing, casting, and peeling of the art elements have made it difficult to determine the age of the rock art. Despite these impacts, however, there is very little vandalism of the art because of an on-site park supervisor.

The information recovered from excavating the rock shelter has been crucial to understanding the prehistory of the Bighorn Basin and the surrounding mountains. The Medicine Lodge archaeological site has a free campground, horse corrals, and fishing., and is open to the public from May 1 through November 4.

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Society for American Archaeology and Bureau of Land Management's Golden Anniversary Partnership: America's Adventures in the Past

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) agree to enter into a partnership to celebrate the BLM's Golden Anniversary. The SAA will publicize the role that the BLM plays in administering the Federal Government's largest, most culturally diverse, and scientifically most varied and important body of prehistoric resources. The SAA will recognize, through various mechanisms available to the Society, some of the outstanding prehistoric properties managed by the BLM that the public can experience and enjoy.

The Society for American Archaeology shall:

(1) Select, in consultation with BLM staff, a representative sample of prehistoric properties of interest to members of the Society and the general public for special recognition. The criteria for the selection of sites will include:

a) integrity of the property or resource;

b) accessibility to visitors either through on-site visitation or public education and interpretation programs;

c) ability to protect the cultural property from inadvertent harm due to public visitation;

d) opportunity for members of the general public to experience an "adventure in the past."

(2) Encourage SAA members who have conducted archaeological investigations on the public land to assist BLM State, District and Resource Areas to interpret and educate the public about the unique archaeological resources managed by the BLM.

(3) Publicize in the SAA newsletter BLM's 50th anniversary and this Golden Anniversary Partnership between the BLM and the SAA, including a copy of the agreement and a short discussion of each of the prehistoric sites to be publicly featured; also, publicize the partnership on the SAA's Internet home page.

(4) Publicize in the SAA newsletter and on the home page any follow-up partnership activities involving members' participation.

(5) Publicize museum exhibits, publicly oriented books, and videos on archaeological subjects that relate to the public land states, pointing out the extent to which these products are based on materials and information from BLM lands.

(6) Recognize and publicize the Bureau of Land Management's excellent programs in public education about archaeology, emphasizing the ways these programs and educational materials they produce can enhance public understanding and appreciation of the featured BLM sites and of the many other archaeological resources cared for by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Bureau of Land Management shall:

(1) Continue to promote the basic theme of cultural resource stewardship and shared public responsibility in cultural resource protection.

(2) Distribute copies of the SAA newsletter and Internet home page address both within the Bureau and to other interested parties.

(3) Work with local SAA members, as feasible, to assist the Bureau in developing public education and interpretation programs.

(4) Seek other partnership-based funding to manage, protect, study, and interpret archaeological resources on the public lands.

Agreed to and signed this July 18, 1996.

Robert Brook is with the Bureau of Land Management

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