Forget You Forest!

imagejpeg_2I had planned on writing about my last stint in the forest surveying sections of a massive pipeline, it was kind of terrible – terrible to the point that we were laughing hysterically in the middle of a gravel road because out luck was so consistently bad. I had the worst possible luck, every day. Tires popped off the argo, we got stuck (a lot), our fold-up ramp gave out while driving, I ripped the track off the argo, we almost got dumped in a lake, insanely long access routes….oh, I also discovered that bald eagles are not my spirit animal – every time we saw one we would end up having a most shockingly miserable day but they look so deceptively majestic! Apparently only one gender of bald eagle is good luck, I have yet to figure out which one is the lucky one and how to tell that in the field.DSCN1465

However, I have since forgotten all of those woes and moved on to much more awesome things – winter excavations on the prairies! Sounds bloody cold, doesn’t it?And yes, yes it is. Thankfully we managed to get out here a few days before the snow hit and set up some temporary garages/tents, add a couple of generators and heaters and tada! a cozy little oasis to do our excavating in. Really, the only downside to this plan is the long, chilly walk to the unheated port-o-potty – please let me know if you know of any that have heated seats…

We have 4 different sites to excavate, a total of 160 square meters, with the majority of them being excavated to IMG_5478over a meter deep – we’re going to be at this all winter (I hope!). As the snow set in we also covered areas of the sites we’ll be opening up later with hay bales to keep the ground from freezing, which has worked so far and also gives the tents a somewhat pleasant barn smell, until the hay gets wet that is.

The first site is amazing so far. We have at least two distinct occupation levels and there are tons of artifacts, bones (bison + a variety of other animals), fire cracked rocks, and stone tools and flakes. It is such a nice change to actually be finding things after all the forestry I did this summer where we hardly found anything. Thus far it definitely looks like it was a processing site, some evidence of butchering on the bones we’ve found and lots of tool manufacturing going on, as well as numerous boiling pits and hearths. So far we have a 50% ratio of features to units open which is exceptionally good for any site I suspect – hopefully that continues. More pictures of all the pretty things we’re finding to come, but sleep first! The temperatures have dipped to -23 degrees Celsius tonight – it is going to be a frosty morning on site tomorrow!13-246~92

Holes in the Prairies

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Oooh a hat full of artefacts from the first couple of days!

My my how time flies when you’re busily trying to complete fieldwork before the onslaught of fall and winter. Last month we furiously dug a buried campsite, or at least what we hoped would be one. Our initial shovel tests were so promising! Fire broken rock, bone and flakes – all this points towards a buried campsite. 20130923_155154

What we found was far from exciting, but we all put forth a valiant effort of ramming our shovels into the cement-like prairie for days on end to make giant empty holes, which we then ceremoniously refilled. The first units we excavated seemed to give up a decent amount of artefacts, but as we progressed these dwindled to a paltry amount.

20130925_103538But now I have excellent practice at excavating empty holes, I could have done without the fiercely blowing wind every day though. That is one benefit of forest work, at least the wind is muted by the trees. But despite the wind and the frosty mornings I still managed to get a sunburn on the last day, I am a special one.

Since we didn’t find much of note, our client will be allowed to proceed with putting their line transmission line through the area. DSCN1379Work was already being carried out adjacent to us, and despite the numerous safety orientations we had to go through they neglected to tell us of the explosions they would be using to tighten up the wires….the ones that could blow out our truck windows…We had to wear hard hats while in the middle of the prairies but no ear protection for that – I love how misguided safety can be.