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Front Page » August 21, 2007 » Lifestyle » Archaeology Camp 2007
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Archaeology Camp 2007

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Corinne Springer, Nick Van Veen, Brandon McCandless, Gatlan Huntington, Cameron Stilson and Lou Sansevero.

For three Emery County students, a student from Seattle Wash., and three adult chaperons, the dog days of summer were transformed into a five day adventure in archaeology as we were, for the second consecutive year, given the unique opportunity to fully participate in the University of Utah's eight week archaeology Field School at the Wilcox Ranch in Range Creek Canyon. This opportunity was part of a program sponsored jointly by the Emery County Economic Development Council, Emery County, and the Emery County School District designed to expose the young people of Emery County and select non-Emery County students to a broad spectrum of vocational opportunities through a series of summer camps. Aside from the archaeology camp this year's program gave additional students the opportunity to participate in other camps exposing them to such diverse subjects as paleontology, criminal investigation, as well as three sessions of the popular dino-day camp for younger (pre-school through fifth grade) students.

This year our archaeology team consisted of Gatlan Huntington, Cameron Stilson, and Brandon McCandless all of Emery County, Nick Van Veen of Seattle, Wash. with myself-Lou Sansevero, Mike McCandless (Director of Economic Development for Emery County), and Mark Stilson (Emery County Economic Development Council board member) serving as chaperons.

The university's archaeology field school is an intensive eight-week field course designed to teach basic archaeological field methods to undergraduate college students from all over the country who are pursuing professional careers in archaeology. Under the direction of Dr. Duncan Metcalfe (Professor of Anthropology and Curator of archaeology, Utah Museum of Natural History), our students were given the opportunity to fully participate with 12 college students in receiving training in a variety of archaeological field techniques including survey, mapping, soil identification, aspects of paleo-ecological research, as well as modern archaeological field and lab techniques in an ongoing Range Creek Project field research program. This season, for the first time during the field school, both the college and our students participated in actual, hands on, excavation of Fremont Indian "pit houses" in the "big village" location.

The adventure began for me at 8:30 a.m. on July 16 when I loaded my gear into Mike's county owned SUV, and we picked up Mike's son Brandon and headed to Price to join up with the rest of the team at the College of Eastern Utah museum to begin the two hour drive into Range Creek. Once in Price we linked up with Mark, Nick and Nick's parents (who would accompany us into Range Creek and spend the day with us at the Wilcox Ranch. We continued our journey to Wild Horse Canyon and up the narrow, steeply inclined road which crosses the pass at the 8,700 foot level and descends again to the main gate of Range Creek where we were met by Corinne Springer, a Utah Museum of Natural History Archaeologist, the Range Creek Ranch Manager, and Duncan's right hand (wo)man. After I briefly introduced the members of our party, Corinne gave us the "Reader's Digest" version of the pre-history of Range Creek, the Wilcox Ranch, and the Range Creek Project as we all lunched on sandwiches and ice cold drinks provided by the Emery County Economic Development Council. Corrine then unlocked the gate and escorted us to the ranch. On the way Corrine gave us a special guided tour stopping at numerous prehistory sites containing Indian writings, granaries, and pit houses which dot the roadside between the front gate and the ranch complex proper and which would surely be missed by all but the most observant hiker.

We arrived at the Wilcox ranch complex at about 2 p.m. and were greeted by Dr. Metcalfe (who prefers to be addressed as Duncan rather than Dr. Metcalfe) and his staff who made us feel at home, laid down the ground rules (mainly no food in your tents (bears you know) and invited us to set up camp. We unloaded and set up our tents in the camping area (Duncan, his staff, and the college students are housed in tents in a beautiful, park like setting adjacent to the main ranch buildings) and joined the rest of the students, Duncan, Corrine, and the teacher's assistants at the main building for what would be the pattern of our daily activity for the remainder of our stay; a short lecture on some aspect of archaeology, a description of the days activities, and the division into groups after which we picked up our water and field gear and headed out into the "field" to complete the days assignments. Once in the field we were treated by the TAs just like one of the undergraduates fully participating in using the equipment, making measurements, surveying sites, digging, and recording the results.

During the previous season the teaching syllabus for the week we were there mainly involved historic archaeology (archaeology of the site since contact by Europeans). This involved using GPS equipment and technology to map the ranch complex, collecting and documenting historic artifacts, and using the "total station" device (a device similar to a GPS device but which is capable of recording locations in three dimensions and is mainly used to produce a topographic map of a site) to document the features of historic Range Creek in preparation for preservation of the complex. This season would be different. This season the emphasis was on the pre-history (before contact with Europeans) of Range Creek. This season our students were not only involved in the high-tech aspects of modern archaeology but also got involved in surveying (walking in line across a prehistoric site, visually scouring the site for artifacts (arrowheads, tools, pot chards, etc.) recording them and, if the artifact was deemed of significance, collecting them, as well as in excavating sites and screening the excavated materials identifying and collecting material. During our stay Duncan, Corrine, their staff and the undergrads extended themselves to ensure we had the opportunity to experience pre-historic archaeology "up close and personal". Each evening, after supper and clean-up, members of the U of U's team arranged for Emery students to hike into or, in some cases, up to pre-historic sites around the area where we were allowed unprecedented access, at times coming within feet if not inches, of Indian writings, granaries, and artifacts. By weeks end every member of our team had discovered artifacts, each had learned how to look at a possible habitation or work site with the critical eye of an archaeologist and how to distinguish the remains of dwellings, ceremonial or work sites from natural occurring rock falls, how to tell rock tools from plain ol' rocks, and most important, how to appreciate and interpret what they saw.

After five days immersed in archaeology and field work we struck camp, bid tearful goodbyes to our new colleagues, loaded up our gear and returned to civilization with its comfortable beds, showers, and air conditioning an adventure behind us that we will all remember the rest of our lives. All of us who participated in this project deeply appreciate the hospitality of the University, the students, and Dr. Metcalfe, Corrine Springer and their staff in allowing the students of Emery this unprecedented access into their world.

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August 21, 2007
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