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Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

Chaco Preservation Crew Repairing Masonry at the Fort Site

Today’s Albuquerque Journal has an article, originally published in the Gallup Independent, about the Chaco preservation crew and their work maintaining the various sites in the park.  The article focuses specifically on recent work they’ve done at Pueblo Pintado.  I don’t have a whole lot to add, but it’s an interesting account that addresses some of the complications of doing this sort of work for traditional Navajos, who have a strong taboo against even visiting Anasazi sites.  The article says that the crew deals with this in part by conducting prophylactic ceremonies before starting work on the sites, which I hadn’t known.  These ceremonies are apparently led by Harold Suina, a member of the crew who is from Cochiti Pueblo and is not Navajo (although I believe his wife is, and they live near Chaco in an area inhabited almost entirely by Navajos).  The article doesn’t say this, but I suspect that Harold’s role is particularly important since Pueblos like Cochiti have different attitudes toward the sites at Chaco than Navajos do, so he may not feel as uncomfortable dealing with them as the other members of the crew, all of whom are Navajo, do.  Not all of the Navajo members of the crew are traditional, however; some are Christian, as are many Navajos in the Chaco area, and they may not have the same qualms about their work that their more traditional colleagues have.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article, and it’s nice to see the preservation crew getting some media attention.  They do crucial work for the park, but it rarely gets noticed by either visitors or the many people who have written books and articles about Chaco over the years.  When I was doing tours I would usually do a fairly detailed description of the preservation work early on in the tour, both because people often want to know how much of what they see at the sites is reconstructed (at Chaco, very little, unlike at many other parks) and because I wanted them to appreciate how much work it is to maintain the sites and why it is therefore important for them as visitors to treat them respectfully and minimize the amount of damage they cause.  Hopefully this article will serve a similar function for a wider audience.

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Entrance to Kiva at Edge of the Cedars State Park, Blanding, Utah

Sticking with the topic of the small round rooms traditionally called “kivas,” which Steve Lekson would prefer to call simply “round rooms,” it’s important to note that there is a wide variety of formal types.  In addition to the modern distinction between square and round kivas, which is basically geographical with square ones in the western pueblos and round ones in the eastern pueblos, and setting aside the highly specialized “great kivas,” among the prehistoric kivas (I’m going to stick with the traditional term for now) of the San Juan Basin there are at least two types.  In his writings on Chacoan architecture, Lekson has distinguished between two main types of kivas found in great houses at Chaco: “Chacoan” and “Non-Chacoan.”

Kiva Z, Pueblo Bonito

The type of kiva that Lekson defines as “Chacoan” (originally defined by Neil Judd, who excavated Pueblo Bonito and Pueblo del Arroyo in the 1920s) has a variety of standard features, especially in the later examples from the period of approximately AD 1075 to 1130 when the Chaco system was at its height.  They are not quite as standardized as Chacoan great kivas, but the features associated with them are nevertheless found wherever there is evidence for Chacoan influence during this period, and it seems clear that this particular suite of features is a specifically Chacoan development.  (These kivas have often been called “clan kivas” in the past, but I don’t like that term because of the huge assumptions it makes about social organization and kiva function, so I’m just going to call them “Chacoan kivas.”)  The standard features defined by Judd are:

  1. A central firepit
  2. A subfloor ventilation system with an opening south of the firepit leading to a shaft opening south of the kiva
  3. A subfloor “vault” west of the firepit
  4. A bench around the circumference of the kiva
  5. 6 to 10 low “pilasters” roughly evenly spaced around the bench
  6. A shallow recess in the bench at the southern end

Lekson adds two more features, which are certainly present in many Chacoan kivas but less universal than Judd’s and more controversial:

  1. The elevation of the kiva into an aboveground square enclosure
  2. “Wainscoting” around the edge of the bench

This set of features is certainly consistent with the general “San Juan” type of kiva that developed out of the Basketmaker pithouse, but it differs from the kivas found most commonly in areas like Mesa Verde to the north in a few ways.  Before going into the differences, though, I want to just explain the importance of the lists of features given by Judd and Lekson.

Kiva Firepit at Lowry Pueblo in Colorado

Firepit: All kivas have firepits; it is one of the defining characteristics of the form.  In Chacoan kivas specifically, the firepit is offset slightly to the south of the center point of the kiva, which is always circular.  Firepits in Chacoan kivas are deep, circular or square in plan, and usually lined with masonry.

Subfloor Ventilation Shaft in Kiva at Edge of the Cedars State Park, Blanding, Utah

Ventilation System: One major characteristic of San Juan small kivas in general is that they have ventilation shafts, usually at the southern end.  Jesse Walter Fewkes wrote an article in 1908, which I mentioned in an earlier post, in which he set forth an argument that these shafts were indeed for ventilation rather than for any other purpose, and this argument is now more or less universally accepted.  There are different types of ventilation system, however, and this is one of the major features distinguishing Chacoan kivas from other types.  Chacoan kivas have ventilation shafts that run underneath the floor of the kiva and are accordingly called “subfloor” ventilation shafts.  One end of the shaft opens vertically into the floor just south of the firepit, and there may or may not be a slab or low wall in between used as a deflector to distribute the air and shelter the fire.  From this opening the shaft runs down a short distance then turns and runs horizontally to the south underneath the floor (or as a shallow trough that would have been covered by boards or poles) until it gets past the southern wall, at which point it turns again and runs vertically upward until it reaches the ground surface (at the level of the kiva roof, but just to the south of it) and opens up to provide the source for fresh air.

Great Kiva at Chetro Ketl Showing Floor Vault

Floor Vault: Most Chacoan kivas have a single rectangular “box” sunk into the floor just to the west of the firepit.  These are often filled and plastered-over, and sometimes have boards covering them, so Lekson notes that this feature may actually be more widespread than it appears from the literature (since excavators may have missed covered vaults in some cases).  Since about three-quarters of excavated Chacoan kivas had evidence of vaults, this suggestion implies that these may have been nearly or literally universal in actual fact.  These vaults are reminiscent of the similar “vaults” known from Chacoan great kivas, although its unclear why there would be different numbers of them.  In both great and small kivas the function of the vaults is obscure.  The fact that they sometimes have wooden boards on them has led some to argue that they were “foot drums” that people would have danced on to create a drumming sound, but Lekson points out that they are often filled with sand, which makes this explanation implausible.

Chacoan Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument

Bench: There is a low masonry bench around the circumference of the room.  This is another standard feature of San Juan kivas in general, although the bench is not always made of masonry in non-Chacoan versions.

Kiva Pilasters at Pueblo Del Arroyo

Pilasters: At roughly equal intervals around the bench there is a series of “pilasters.”  This term comes from Mesa Verde kivas where the pilasters are often tall and made of masonry, and it is not as applicable to Chacoan kivas where the defining feature of a “pilaster” is a short segment of a wooden log oriented radially with one end set in the wall just above the bench.  These beams are often set in small masonry cubes which do somewhat resemble Mesa Verdean pilasters and imply a similar function.  Mesa Verdean pilasters typically serve to support a cribbed roof, and Chacoan pilasters have often been interpreted similarly, although Lekson disagrees with this interpretation.  The issue of roofing is discussed more fully below under “wainscoting.”

Kiva I at Pueblo Bonito Showing Southern Recess

Recess: At the south end of the bench there is a shallow “recess” in which the bench narrows.  The location of the recess corresponds to the location of the subfloor vent shaft, but since the vent shaft is underground it does not actually have anything to do with the recess (this is another difference from Mesa Verdean kivas, which have above-floor vent shafts that open into the recess, which is often more prominent).  There is some evidence that at least in some cases there may have been a shelf over the recess, which would have continued the line of the bench and created a large niche under it.  The purpose of this recess is obscure.

Southern Recess in Kiva at Pueblo del Arroyo

Those are the criteria Judd gives, and they are pretty universally accepted and uncontroversial.  Lekson adds two more, which are a bit more controversial.

Corner of Room Containing Blocked-In Kiva at Tsin Kletzin

Elevation and Blocking-In: The early examples of Chacoan kivas at Chaco great houses, dating from around AD 900 to 1070, are generally subterranean and usually located in the plazas of great houses, backed by suites of rectangular rooms.  The “classic” examples of Chacoan kivas, dating from about 1075 to 1130, are generally built into square rooms within the great-house roomblocks, usually on the first floor but occasionally on the second.  Lekson considers this tendency to “block-in” kivas a key part of the Chacoan kiva tradition, and in his 2007 chapter on great house form he goes into some detail on the historical development of the Chacoan kiva, starting with the early tenth-century examples, which are poorly known, and continuing through what he refers to as “transitional” Chacoan kivas, built between 1030 and 1070, only a few of which have been excavated.  The best known of these is Kiva G-5 at Chetro Ketl, which was later covered over by later kiva construction culminating in an elevated “classic” Chacoan kiva (Kiva G) but is still kept open and visible underneath the later construction.  These transitional kivas had most of the characteristics of later elevated kivas, and by Judd’s standards they would all be considered just Chacoan kivas.  Lekson makes a big deal about the blocking-in, however, and it is true that this is something that markedly distinguishes Chacoan kivas from other types.  No one else did this, and it’s very odd in a structural sense since those huge masonry cylinders needed extensive support, which often meant the “interstitial” rooms in the corners of the square room were braced with timbers or filled in with earth.  One problem with using this as a defining characteristic of Chacoan kivas, though, is that there are a few late, very large Chacoan kivas that are subterranean and located in plazas rather than being blocked-in.  These approach great-kiva size, but they lack the features of great kivas.  The best known of these is the Court Kiva at Chetro Ketl, which was later remodeled into a great kiva.  Only two other examples have been excavated, Kiva R at Pueblo Bonito and Kiva J at the Talus Unit.  Kiva R has standard Chacoan kiva features, whereas Kiva J was only partially excavated and little is known about its features.  Five additional kivas like this are known at Pueblo Bonito, and Lekson describes them as unexcavated, although at least two or three of them clearly seem to have been excavated as far as I can tell and they seem to have typical Chacoan kiva features, so I’m not sure what Lekson’s talking about when he says they’re unexcavated.  Indeed, one of these, Kiva O, is still visible in the east plaza.  (Kiva R, which is in the west plaza, is also visible.)  The fact that some of the largest Chacoan kivas are subterranean and in the plazas of great houses rather than elevated and blocked in makes Lekson’s use of blocking-in as a standard attribute of Chacoan kivas problematic, even just looking at the “classic” Chacoan kivas built after 1075.

Kiva L, Pueblo Bonito

Wainscoting: This is the most controversial of Lekson’s criteria for Chacoan kiva status.  Basically, many of the excavated Chacoan kivas have a series of thin wooden poles (or, less often, boards) rising from the back of the bench and leaning in toward the center of the ceiling.  Between them is a sort of wickerwork held together with clay or adobe (i.e., a sort of wattle-and-daub or jacal), plastered with mud on the interior side.  The space behind this wickerwork is either left open or filled in with trash or other vegetal material (Lekson’s account is unclear here).  Lekson claims that this “wainscoting,” supported by the poles, formed the ceiling of the kiva, sort of a false dome, with the exterior roof at the top being supported by horizontal beams much like those used in the roofing of standard square rooms.  This is in contrast to the standard way that Mesa Verde kivas were roofed, which was also a false dome but one made of cribbed logs beginning on the pilasters and alternating rows up to the roof.  (This is the way Navajo hogans are traditionally roofed as well.)  Some examples of intact roofs like this are reported in the Mesa Verde region, including one at Square Tower House that Fewkes used as the basis for interpreting and reconstructing the roofs of kivas at Spruce Tree House, which had not survived intact.  There is at least one kiva at Pueblo Bonito that also had a largely intact cribbed roof (Kiva L).  It has often been assumed that most Chacoan kivas, including the blocked-in ones, also had cribbed roofs resting on the pilasters, but it’s noteworthy that Kiva L is not blocked-in, although it does otherwise show classic Chacoan features, and that Kiva 67, another plaza kiva with classic Chacoan features, also showed evidence of having a cribbed roof through the impression of a log in clay spanning two pilasters, although the log itself did not survive.  It’s possible, then, that the development of “wainscoting” as a means to roof kivas was an innovation spurred by the building of kivas in square rooms, which could easily be given flat roofs like other square rooms, although it’s not really clear what the advantage of wainscoting over cribbing would have been.  It would probably have used less timber, but the Chacoans were hardly averse to importing huge quantities of timber and it’s hard to see them making decisions about architecture based on efficient use of resources.  Chacoan kiva roofing remains an open question.

Cribbed Kiva Roof at Edge of the Cedars State Park, Blanding, Utah

Kivas are particularly vulnerable to deterioration if they are left open to the elements, so all of the small kivas at Chaco that have been excavated have been subsequently backfilled to varying degrees.  Many have been filled entirely, so that no trace of them remains on the surface; this is the case with the Court Kiva at Chetro Ketl and many of the plaza kivas at Pueblo Bonito.  Others have only been refilled partly, in some cases to a low level so that the bench and pilasters are still visible and in other cases to a higher level so that only the upper parts of the wall can be seen.  Thus, there is nowhere at Chaco where the floor features of a Chacoan kiva can be seen.  This is in contrast to Mesa Verde, where especially at the cliff dwellings like Spruce Tree House many well-preserved kivas in sheltered locations have their floors open to be examined.   Those are generally Mesa Verde-style kivas, of course, rather than Chacoan ones.  The best example I know of a basically Chacoan small kiva where the floor features can be seen is the reconstructed blocked-in kiva at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah.  This is an outlying great house that is much more modest than what you see at Chaco, but one of its kivas has been given a restored cribbed roof and other reconstructed elements to give a sense of what it would have likely looked like in its prime, and as it happens this kiva shows most elements of the Chacoan style despite being far from Chaco itself and in the Mesa Verde region.  Also in the same region, one of the kivas at Lowry Pueblo has not been totally reconstructed to the same extent but it does have a protective roof over it and so also has its floor features open.  This is another blocked-in kiva at an outlier far to the north that is nonetheless a good example of classic Chacoan kiva design.
ResearchBlogging.org
Fewkes, J. (1908). Ventilators in Ceremonial Rooms of Pre Historic Cliff-Dwellings American Anthropologist, 10 (3), 387-398 DOI: 10.1525/aa.1908.10.3.02a00020

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Mix of Covered and Backfilled Rooms in Old Bonito

My main area of expertise when it comes to archaeology is the Southwest, but I currently live in New Jersey, and while I don’t know a whole lot about the archaeology of this part of the country I feel like I should probably weigh in on those rare occasions when an archaeological issue makes it into the news.  We seem to be in the midst of one of those occasions now, with the State Capitol Joint Management Commission having recently approved an order by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno to rebury the Petty’s Run archaeological site, which is immediately adjacent to the Statehouse in Trenton.  This site, which was uncovered in 2008, contains a variety of buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that shed considerable light on the early history of Trenton.  The site lies right between the Statehouse and the Old Barracks Museum, and the administration of then-governor John Corzine planned to make it a key part of a new state park.  The plan for establishing the park called for the site to be enclosed in glass, presumably to protect it while leaving it visible.

Room 6, Pueblo Bonito

When Chris Christie defeated Corzine last year, however, plans for the new park came to a halt and the site has just been sitting there, exposed but visible behind a fence.  Indeed, Guadagno’s problem appears to have been that the site is all too visible.  She can see it from her office in the Statehouse and she apparently considers it an “eyesore,” which is why she wants it reburied.  Many people, including political opponents of the Christie administration and Old Barracks Museum director Richard Patterson, are outraged by this move.  (The archaeologist who excavated the site, Richard Hunter, has declined to comment on the issue.)  Guadagno’s apparent motivation in having the site reburied does seem rather petty, but a lot of the outrage seems to be directed at the very idea of reburying the site.  I think this outrage is misplaced.  This may be a silly reason to rebury a site, but reburying (or “backfilling”) sites is a standard and very effective way of preserving them.

Chaco Preservation Crew at Work on the Fort Site

One of the major problems with excavation, and one of the reasons it is often avoided when possible, is that once a site is excavated it is no longer protected by the dirt that covered and preserved whatever was in it.  If left open a site will rapidly begin to deteriorate, so whatever organization is responsible for the site has a choice.  It can leave the site open and let it fall apart (not a popular option), or it can do something to preserve it.  In places like Chaco Canyon, where the visual impact of sites is considered a high priority, preservation involves an elaborate and very expensive effort at stabilizing standing walls and preventing further deterioration.  Since the main sources of impacts are weather and visitation, and these are ongoing year after year, preservation through stabilization means continual work.

Structure Covering Megalithic House, Mesa Verde

Another option is to build some sort of structure over the site to protect it from impacts while still leaving it visible to visitors.  In the Southwest this is rarely done for major sites because it makes them look “inauthentic,” with some exceptions such as Casa Grande and some of the especially well-preserved rooms at Pueblo Bonito.  For smaller sites and particularly fragile ones, however, this is a popular option, as it is much cheaper and less labor-intensive than constantly struggling to prop up the walls and generally provides better protection as well.  Many of the mesa-top sites at Mesa Verde and other parts of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah have this kind of protection.  It sounds like this is the kind of thing the Corzine administration was planning to do with Petty’s Run, although it’s not totally clear to me exactly how the glass enclosure concept would have worked.

Backfilling Using Tarps at Homol'ovi I

The final option, which is generally both cheaper and more protective than the other two, is backfilling.  This takes most or all of the site out of public view, of course, which makes it problematic for sites that are intended to be developed as tourist attractions.  For sites that are not publicly accessible, however, this is the standard means of preservation.  It can be done in a way that makes it relatively easy to open up the site again later for further excavation, and in many cases archaeologists will refill sites at the end of each excavation season with the intent of returning to them later.  This can be done with tarps, for example, as the Arizona State Museum has done in its multi-year research project at the now-closed Homol’ovi Ruins State Park in Winslow.  In some cases responsible organizations start out trying to stabilize excavated sites and end up backfilling them when they can no longer afford to.  This is what has happened at Casa Malpais, which is owned by the town of Springerville, Arizona.  Some rooms that had been left open after excavation were recently backfilled because the town could no longer afford to stabilize them.

Preparations for Backfilling a Room, Casa Malpais, Springerville, Arizona

Now, this is all based on my experience of preservation techniques at sites in the Southwest, and it’s certainly possible that archaeologists in the Northeast don’t do things the same way.  For one thing, Northeastern archaeology seems to be much more focused on the historic than the prehistoric period, presumably because there has been so much historic development overlying whatever prehistoric sites remain.  Since historic sites are often built of sturdier materials than those that were available to prehistoric people, it might not be as problematic to leave a typical historic site exposed as it would be to do the same with a typical prehistoric site.  On the other hand, preservation conditions are much worse in this humid environment than in the arid Southwest.  Water is one of the biggest threats to preservation of exposed sites, and with the amount of precipitation that is typical of this area I’m sure even the best-constructed historic sites are at considerable risk.  The fact that the Corzine administration’s park plan called for enclosing the Petty’s Run site in glass makes me think this is indeed a major concern in Northeastern archaeology.

Structure Covering Coombs Village, Anasazi State Park, Boulder, Utah

The upshot of all this is that to the extent that the Christie administration is showing a lack of respect for the state’s heritage in its treatment of the Petty’s Run site, that’s being manifested in the decision not to pursue the park plan rather than the decision to backfill the site.  Guadagno may be motivated by superficial aesthetic considerations in wanting the site reburied, but whether or not the site is an eyesore leaving it exposed is not the way to preserve it.

Highly Deteriorated Vertical Intramural Beams at Pueblo Bonito

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Excavating the Lift Station Site in the Chaco Maintenance Yard

Continuing my recent agriculture kick, I thought I’d just point to an interesting post from a little while back talking about modern agriculture, private property, contract archaeology, resource protection legislation, and the tendency for people (even archaeologists!) to not understand how they all relate to each other in practice.  I don’t have much to add, but it’s a nice post and well worth reading.

Shoveling at the Lift Station Site in the Chaco Maintenance Yard

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Parry Lodge, Kanab, Utah

Several years ago I was in Kanab, Utah on the Fourth of July.  When the segment of the town parade representing the local office of the Bureau of Land Management went by, a man standing near me in the crowd yelled out “Management, not ownership!”  The people around him laughed and slapped him on the back good-naturedly.  It was obvious that he was just saying what they were all thinking.  This was just a few years after President Clinton’s controversial establishment of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is administered by the BLM’s Kanab Field Office, and there was still a lot of obvious bitterness about that.

Sign for Anasazi Indian State Park, Boulder, Utah

I was there because my family had decided to do a big trip that summer to explore the new monument.  I was a teenager at the time and had never been to that area, but my parents used to go to Kanab and the surrounding area a lot before I was born and they were curious to see if and how it had changed with the new designation.  (It’s also just a beautiful area; I went through it again last year when I did a big road trip to California.)

Sign Describing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Kanab, Utah

We did a lot of things on that trip.  We camped at Calf Creek in the monument itself and visited Anasazi State Park in Boulder, Utah, which is a fascinating place, of considerably more importance archaeologically than I realized at the time.  We ended up in Kanab, where we stayed at Parry Lodge, which prides itself on its history of housing movie stars who came to film in the area, and which was also where my parents used to stay when they had come to Kanab years before.  It’s a nice little town, but it’s definitely part of southern Utah and has its share of the political attitudes typical there, as shown clearly by the man’s outburst at the parade.

Linear Roomblock at Coombs Village (Anasazi State Park), Boulder, Utah

That kind of attitude toward the BLM in particular, and the federal government in general, is very common in southern Utah.  It’s particularly obvious right now in light of the outrage over a leaked government document mulling the possibility of establishing new national monuments throughout the West, including at two sites in southern Utah, but it’s been there for as long as there have been white people in the area and it’s never really diminished.  Another recent example of the same attitude is the local reaction to the arrests in the Blanding pothunting sting, many of which portrayed it as an example of the BLM and FBI overreacting to a harmless hobby and oppressing good people for no reason except to show that they could.

Entrance Sign for Natural Bridges National Monument

There’s a fundamental selfishness and sense of entitlement lurking behind this attitude, a feeling by many of these people that they should be allowed to do whatever they want just by virtue of being who they are.  How exactly “who they are” is defined differs in different contexts, but most of the time I think it boils down to being white people (often specifically white men) in a country where the untrammeled right of certain white people to do anything they want has long been a powerful ideal.  It’s an easy attitude to imbibe as a white person growing up in America, and I think it’s much more widespread than extreme examples in the rural West would suggest.  I’ve encountered plenty of good liberals who are quite happy to propose and support policies that restrict the ability of others (corporations, polluters, police, soldiers, etc.) to do whatever they want, but whenever their own freedom is threatened suddenly change their tune.  It’s an easy enough attitude to understand, and I don’t mean to be accusing anyone of hypocrisy here.  I’ve certainly done plenty of this sort of thing myself.  I’m mostly just suggesting a bit more humility and a bit less self-righteousness on everyone’s part, not as a transcendent moral principle but as a practical way to get along in a pluralistic society with lots of conflicting interests and opinions.

Southern Utah Regional Map, Kanab, Utah

It’s in that context that I note a good post by Keith Kloor on the monument kerfluffle, which includes a link to a very good meditation on some of these issues from an environmental journalist who is very clearly aware of his own sense of entitlement when it comes to issues of wildness and preservation.  Resource management and preservation are fundamentally difficult issues to address, and there are no easy answers.  There are too many conflicting priorities and contrasting opinions for there to ever be a simple way out.

Sign for Butler Wash Ruins Overlook, Southern Utah

Keith’s quote from Ed Abbey is a case in point.  I’ve never read any Abbey, but I know my dad hated him, more for The Monkey Wrench Gang than for Desert Solitaire, which I don’t remember him ever mentioning.  I’m not sure what it was exactly about Abbey that rubbed him the wrong way, but I suspect it had to do with what Abbey represented: the outsider blundering crudely through a place extolling its virtues without ever really understanding it the way the locals did.  My dad was very much a local in the Southwest, and while he had his own strain of entitled-white-guy thinking, it was very different from Abbey’s.  It wasn’t so much Abbey’s environmentalism per se that annoyed people like my dad and his relatives, many of whom were strong supporters of the Sierra Club, Rachel Carson, and the “mainstream” environmental movement that they saw as totally compatible with their small-town petit bourgeois Republican worldview.  Abbey, though, was different, a representative of a worldview that, while “environmentalist” in some sense, seemed to be more about self-indulgent destruction and nihilistic romanticism than about stewardship and preservation.  It was people like Abbey, and especially his more extreme acolytes, who I think contributed heavily to the souring of local white people in the rural West on environmentalism in general and activist groups composed mainly of people from elsewhere in particular.  It’s a shame, too, because there is actually a lot of sentiment among westerners in favor of conserving natural resources and limiting destructive development, but these days that sentiment seems to be used mainly as a rhetorical cudgel against environmental groups, giving cover to exploitative corporations, some of which have become pretty good at ingratiating themselves with local communities.  I don’t mean to try to pin all of this on Abbey, since there has obviously been a lot of other stuff going on that has contributed to this dynamic, but I do think he played a role.

Butler Wash Ruins Overlook, Southern Utah

One other thing about Abbey that Keith notes in his post, however, is the fact that he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey when he completed Desert Solitaire, and he may even have written the whole thing there.  One way to interpret this, in light of what I wrote above, is that it reinforces his “outsider” status relative to the West, but I think there’s a better way to look at it.  Abbey’s West, like most people’s, existed primarily in his mind, and his perception of the landscapes he wrote about was filtered through his experiences and preconceptions.  That doesn’t make it any less “real,” however.  Abbey’s books, which I emphasize again I have not read, should stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of how much or how little time their author spent in the places they describe.  I’m a strong believer in the idea that physically being in a place, while helpful and perhaps necessary to having a “complete” or well-rounded understanding of it, is not a necessary precondition for talking about it at all.  Indeed, I could hardly think otherwise, given that I write all about the Southwest on this blog while living in (a different part of) New Jersey myself.  For me, then, the idea of Abbey sitting in a bar in Hoboken recalling the canyons of Utah makes me more sympathetic to him, not less.

Slickrock along Trail to Butler Wash Overlook, Southern Utah

Personally, I’m not a very adventurous type.  I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve seen a lot of things, and those experiences have been immensely valuable to me, but I’d fundamentally prefer to be sitting in a cute little coffeeshop somewhere, reading or writing a book, rather than hiking across slickrock canyon rims contemplating the beauty of the landscape.  Not that I don’t enjoy the latter, but it’s not my usual preference.  Personal preferences don’t matter that much to larger issues most of the time, but when aggregated across large numbers of people they do add up, and in the context of resource protection there are actually some important implications.  One way to look at it, and by no means the only one, is to ask a simple question: On the margin, who is impacting the landscape more, the reader in the coffeeshop or the hiker on the canyon rim?

Bench on Trail to Butler Wash Overlook, Southern Utah

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Pipe Shrine House, Mesa Verde

When I visited Mesa Verde this summer, I noticed a rather odd sandstone block at Pipe Shrine House, one of the mesa-top sites known collectively as the Far View Group.  These sites, like many others in the park, were excavated by Jesse Walter Fewkes in the early twentieth century, and documentation of the work done on them is correspondingly sparse.

Sandstone Block with Spiral Petroglyph at Pipe Shrine House, Mesa Verde

The block in question has a spiral pecked into it.  Not a whole spiral, though; rather, the middle of a spiral, with the upper and lower parts missing, as if the block were cut from a cliff face where a spiral petroglyph had been pecked.  Indeed, the only really plausible way to explain the block is that it was indeed cut from such a cliff face.

Block Incised with Zigzag Lines at Coyote Village, Mesa Verde

This is very odd.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it elsewhere.  There are a few other sites in the Far View Group that have blocks with designs on them, mostly parallel lines, but those are generally incised and they don’t bear much resemblance to common petroglyph designs.  They don’t show any particular evidence of the designs having been present on the stones before they were cut, either.  The spiral, though, is a very common type of petroglyph, and the Pipe Shrine block remains very puzzling.  Who cut that block?  Where?  Why?

Incised Parallel Lines in Building Block at Far View Tower, Mesa Verde

It’s very hard to say.  The fact that the block is at the top of the current wall strongly suggests that it was not originally part of the site.  In sites like this the top stones are generally modern capping put on with cement to protect the original walls beneath.  The spiral block, then, was almost certainly put on in the twentieth century.  It may have been put on by Fewkes himself after he excavated the site; recent dendrochronological research at the Sun Temple, which Fewkes also excavated and stabilized, has shown that he did a substantial amount of rebuilding there, and it’s quite plausible that he did the same at Pipe Shrine House.  If it wasn’t Fewkes, it was probably some later Park Service stabilization crew.

Plaque Describing Work by J. Walter Fewkes at Far View House, Mesa Verde

Regardless of who put the stone where it is now, though, the bigger question is where they got it, and how.  The mystery is amplified by the fact that Mesa Verde is known for having relatively few petroglyphs compared to many other areas with comparable ancient populations.  The stone looks like the same Cliff House Sandstone (Mesa Verde Formation) as the other stones in the wall, although its patina seems to be a slightly different color, which may or may not be relevant to its origin.  There’s no reason to think it comes from anywhere other than Mesa Verde, but that makes it all the more inexplicable that Fewkes or anyone else would have cut into one of the few petroglyph panels on the mesa for building stone when there are few things in the area more plentiful than sandstone.  I’m no expert on Mesa Verde, of course, so it’s quite possible that the story of this stone is well-known or at least published somewhere in the voluminous literature on the archaeology of the area, but if so I haven’t seen any reference to it.  It’s just very puzzling, and I don’t have a clue what the answer is.

Vent at Sun Temple, Mesa Verde

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newaltolookingnorth

Looking North from New Alto

When I was working at Chaco, we would often get visitors who would complain about how hard it was to get there.  They usually focused on the road in and asked why there wasn’t more effort to pave it and make it more accessible to the American public.  After all, isn’t that what national parks are for?  Well, no, I would often respond.  The Park Service mission is preservation foremost and visitor services secondarily, and most of the time concerns about preservation trump concerns about accessibility and interpretation.  There is one interesting exception at Chaco, but for the most part the park is concerned more with preserving the sites than with showing them to the public.

areaclosedsign

"Area Closed" Sign on Peñasco Blanco Trail

Some people were satisfied with this explanation, but many weren’t.  I didn’t have much to say to those who took a more absolutist position on the right of the public to access the parks.  That’s just a basic philosophical difference, and the best we could do was agree to differ.

farmingtondowntownseeyousoon

Downtown Farmington, New Mexico

One thing I often thought about saying, however, was that it might be better to just build a full-scale model of Pueblo Bonito in downtown Farmington (or even Albuquerque).  For a lot of the visitors who come to Chaco, it’s really just a matter of seeing Pueblo Bonito, marveling at it, and going on their way.  They’re the ones who complain about how hard it is to get there; arguments about how the isolation is part of the point carry no water with them.  I never actually said this, but I do wonder if it might be a good idea.  One of the ways in which the two aspects of the Park Service mission are very much in tension is that preservation and visitation are not only different, they’re actually often in direct conflict.  Visitor impacts are among the most serious threats to the preservation of the sites.  Sometimes people deliberately vandalize the sites, carve their names one the canyon walls, or steal artifacts, but even the vast majority of visitors who don’t do anything deliberately nonetheless destabilize the sites just by being there, walking through them, inadvertently touching the walls, and so forth.  The biggest single thing the park could do to improve preservation of the sites would be to limit public access to them.

bonitofromabove

Pueblo Bonito from Above

A full-scale replica of Pueblo Bonito in another location would have a similar effect: drawing the casual visitors away from the canyon and leaving it to the more serious people who are willing to brave the road to get there.  There would be little need to recreate any of the other sites, except perhaps Casa Rinconada; Bonito is what people come to Chaco for.

rinconadalookingnorth

Casa Rinconada, Looking North

It won’t happen, of course, but it’s not as crazy an idea as it sounds.  I was reminded of it by Paul Barford’s recent post on an idea proposed by Trevor Watkins for dealing with the recent disputes among governments over some high-profile antiquities.  The proposal is to make replicas indistinguishable from the originals, then trade both the originals and the replicas back and forth between the source countries and the countries that currently have the objects without telling the public if what they see is original or a copy.  This seems like a bizarre thing to do, and I kind of doubt the source countries will be in favor of it (though they might like a version in which they get to keep the originals permanently and the acquiring countries have to make do with copies), but the proposal notes that there are actually some archaeological sites, particularly the Paleolithic caves at Lascaux and Altamira, that have full-scale replicas, and visitors seem to like them just fine and to even say that they are better than the originals because they allow better visibility of the interesting parts, which in the case of the caves are the cave paintings for which they are famous.  This is kind of an extreme version of the reconstruction of prehistoric sites that was popular in the Southwest in the 1930s, moving beyond that only in that the replicas are not adding on to the originals but are separate entirely.  In addition to being more convenient for visitors, this would also be better for preservation of the original sites.  I think American archaeology might actually be moving in this direction too, with the reburial of Baker Village after excavation, with only the protective capping on the walls visible from the service, being an early indication.

altolowwalls

Low Walls at Pueblo Alto

More directly relevant to Watkins’s proposal, perhaps, is the famous jet frog found in Room 38 at Pueblo Bonito by the Hyde Exploring Expedition in 1897.  Often considered one of the most remarkable Anasazi artifacts known, the frog is made of jet with turquoise inlay forming its eyes and neck, and is intact except for a couple of pieces of inlay on the neck.  Like all the rest of the material found by that expedition, the frog was sent to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where it remains to this day, not on display but somewhere back in the storage cabinets.

chacomuseumjetfrog

Jet Frog Replica at Chaco Museum

There is, however, a jet frog prominently displayed in the museum at the Chaco visitor center.  Although it is not labeled as such, this is an exact replica of the original, right down to the missing inlay pieces.  Since the American Museum is notoriously protective of its collections, this is the best the park could do to show what the jet frog looks like.  This is exactly what Watkins is advocating: exact replicas, put on display without any indication that they aren’t original.  Unlike his proposal, of course, in this case the original and the replica don’t move back and forth, but any real-life implementation of the proposal would probably end up that way.

chacomuseum

Museum of Chaco Culture

What all this goes to show, I think, is that most people who come to archaeological sites and museums to see the wonders of the past aren’t all that concerned with the “authenticity” of what they see.  Indeed, for a lot of people an impressive reconstruction is preferable to an unimpressive original.  We would get some people who really wanted all the sites to be rebuilt to their original state.  (No way that’s ever going to happen, for a lot of reasons.)  There are visitors who only want to see the “real stuff,” but it’s important to realize that that isn’t everybody, and it may not even be a majority.  Many people go to see this stuff as entertainment, and they judge it on that basis.
ResearchBlogging.org
Pepper, G. (1905). Ceremonial Objects and Ornaments from Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico American Anthropologist, 7 (2), 183-197 DOI: 10.1525/aa.1905.7.2.02a00010

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Highly Deteriorated Vertical Intramural Beams at Pueblo Bonito

Highly Deteriorated Vertical Intramural Beams at Pueblo Bonito

I’ve been talking about climate change more than about Chaco lately, which is a pretty big shift from the earlier days of this blog.  In part this just reflects the major changes in my life: while before I was living and working at Chaco, now I’m going to school and spending a lot of time learning and thinking about things like climate change.  I’ve also, frankly, been getting a little bored with Chaco and archaeology, so I’m taking a bit of a break from it.  I’ll definitely come back to it at some point, don’t worry, but for now it’s not among my highest priorities.

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

One of the major points I’m trying to make with this blog, however, is that climate change and other environmental challenges today are by no means disconnected from Chaco and the past.  This is true in various ways, some more abstract than others, but a major report just released by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (via Keith Kloor) on threats to national parks from climate change points to one quite concrete connection.

Mesa Verde from Escalante Pueblo

Mesa Verde from Escalante Pueblo

Like many other parks, Chaco is threatened by the effects of global warming, effects that are starting to become apparent in changes to weather patterns and climatic trends.  It’s not listed as one of the parks most at risk, although Bandelier and Mesa Verde are, but the fact sheet for New Mexico does describe Chaco as being subject to the same pressures as other parks in the region.

Light Snowfall on Fajada Butte

Light Snowfall on Fajada Butte

The main effects of climate change on these parks are decreased snowpack, the closely related problem of reduced water supplies, increased erosion resulting from heavier and more frequent downpours, and loss of flora and fauna as a result of habitat changes.

Entrenched Arroyo

Entrenched Arroyo

These are indeed serious problems, and pretty unambiguously linked to global warming, but they are matters of degree, not kind.  Problems of this sort have always been major concerns in the southwest, where water supplies and the vagaries of precipitation are and always have been hugely important to human settlement patterns and decision-making.  The intensification of these processes due to climate change is of major concern, but it’s not very flashy and it’s unlikely to attract much attention in and of itself.  No major catastrophes to grab headlines and focus attention are likely to result from these changes, but they are serious threats nonetheless.  As so often in the southwest, natural disasters are long and slow, subtly and almost imperceptibly changing the landscape until the status quo become untenable and major, often painful, changes suddenly become necessary.

Tributary Drainage in Chaco Canyon

Tributary Drainage in Chaco Canyon

This gives ample opportunity for people to react and to minimize the damage, of course, but it also gives little incentive for them to do so until it’s too late, which is what makes it so pernicious.  Life in arid environments is always lived on the edge, and the margin for error is minimal, so adaptation to a certain environmental context is always very risky, a huge bet on a particular outcome with unknown odds.  There’s a lot more I could say here about gambling as a metaphor for economic and environmental decision-making, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Storm Clouds over Fajada Butte

Storm Clouds over Fajada Butte

On a lighter note, I was amused to see this in the New Mexico fact sheet:

In some parks, such as Bandelier and Chaco, snow does not linger that long, but with less snow in winter fewer visitors would get to see the parks at their scenic best.

Chaco’s definitely at its scenic best in the winter, but I can say from experience that very few visitors ever see it.  Winter at Chaco is a very quiet time of year.

Fajada Butte Obscured by Falling Snow

Fajada Butte Obscured by Falling Snow

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Kiva A at Pueblo Bonito

Kiva A at Pueblo Bonito

When I was working at Chaco one of the frequent questions we would get from visitors was about the extent of reconstruction of the sites there.  This would be phrased in various ways, with the background assumptions ranging from the idea that the sites were totally untouched to the idea that they were totally reconstructed.  The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between, but much closer to the untouched end than many people seemed to think.

Walls at Pueblo Bonito Showing Capping

Walls at Pueblo Bonito Showing Capping

Compared to a lot of other parks, Chaco has taken a pretty hands-off approach to reconstruction.  Most of the modern construction you see today on the sites in the canyon is only what is necessary for stabilization, which in most cases means capping along the tops of all the walls, and in some cases rebuilding of things like doorways where they have begun to deteriorate.  There has also been substantial re-mortaring of the stonework, especially on the exposed exterior walls, but in those cases the original stones are generally left in place.  Other than those few things, pretty much everything you see is original, and the fact that it’s in such good shape is due to the quality of the original construction rather than to anything the Park Service has done.  The figure we would usually cite was 15% reconstruction, 85% original; I don’t know where those numbers come from, and I suspect they’re largely guesswork, but some visitors just really want numbers, so we gave them some.

Casa Rinconada, Looking North

Casa Rinconada, Looking North

There are a few exceptions.  On some of the buildings there has been a bit more reconstruction than is typical throughout the park.  The most extensively rebuilt structure is Casa Rinconada, which was excavated in the 1930s when reconstruction was at its height of popularity.  The walls of Casa Rinconada were in a substantially reduced state when it was excavated, with big breaches in them at regular intervals, which is typical of great kivas when they are first found.  Gordon Vivian, who excavated the site as part of a UNM field school, also supervised the reconstruction.  He seems to have done a pretty good job, but as always it took some guesswork to restore the parts that hadn’t survived, and some of the stuff at the upper levels of the site was probably never there originally.  There’s also no real way to know how far up the walls went, so the height of the walls that you see today is basically a guess too.

Secret Passage into Casa Rinconada

Secret Passage into Casa Rinconada

Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl have also seen a bit more reconstruction than average, although nowhere near as much as Rinconada.  For one thing, their great kivas have also been restored in much the same manner as Rinconada, but less ambitiously, and the one at Chetro Ketl even shows some of the other floor and bench layers that were found when it was initially excavated.  Also, Neil Judd’s expedition in the 1920s repaired the many holes that had been punched in the back wall of Pueblo Bonito by pothunters in the late nineteenth century.  This work was done to erase that episode of Bonito’s history, so the masonry was intended to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding stonework, and it does.  It’s nearly impossible to tell where the original ends and where the reconstruction begins.  Judd’s group also did some restoring and stabilizing of the upper parts of the back wall.  Other than that, and the ubiquitous capping, Pueblo Bonito is basically unreconstructed.

Chetro Ketl from Above

Chetro Ketl from Above

Chetro Ketl was severely damaged by a flood in the late 1940s, and major parts of the north-central section along the back wall were basically totally rebuilt at that time.  Aside from that, however, there hasn’t been much reconstruction.  The other sites, whether excavated (e.g., Pueblo del Arroyo) or unexcavated (e.g., Hungo Pavi), have just been capped and shored up, without any additional rebuilding.

Plaza at Aztec West, Showing Reconstructed Great Kiva

Plaza at Aztec West, Showing Reconstructed Great Kiva

This is in contrast, of course, to many other parks in the southwest, where sites have been substantially rebuilt.  This work was done mostly in the 1930s, much of it by the CCC as part of the New Deal, and it therefore reflects understandings of the architecture as of that time.  The most spectacular example of rebuilding is probably the great kiva at Aztec, which was completely restored in the 1930s in accordance with somewhat speculative interpretations of its original condition made by Earl Morris when he excavated it a couple of decades earlier.  Like many other examples of rebuilding, however, the great kiva is now generally thought to be inaccurate in some respects, most notably the roof level, which is almost certainly much too high.

Reconstructed Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument

Reconstructed Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument

This is the big problem with rebuilding: if you rebuild something according to even the best understanding of the archaeology at the time you do it, but understandings of the archaeology then change (which is not an uncommon occurrence at all), you’re kind of stuck.  What can you do?  Tear down the earlier reconstruction and start over?  But what if the new interpretations get superseded in their turn?  Just tear down the reconstruction and leave the ruins in place?  That seems like an awful lot of wasted effort.  The usual solution in these cases is to leave the reconstruction in place and put up a sign explaining to visitors how it is now thought to be inaccurate.  Hardly the most elegant way to deal with the issue, but at that point options are limited.

Inaccurately Reconstructed Room at Agate House, Petrified Forest National Park

Inaccurately Reconstructed Room at Agate House, Petrified Forest National Park

Another problem comes when sites that have been heavily reconstructed are used for certain types of research.  It’s very important to ensure that the research is looking at the original, rather than the rebuilt, parts of the site.  I mentioned this problem recently in connection with archaeoastronomical research at Wupatki, which has been very substantially reconstructed.

Partially Reconstructed Wall at Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

Partially Reconstructed Wall at Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

As a result of these concerns, today substantial reconstruction is rare.  Excavated sites are generally preserved in place as they are, with interpretive signs and literature provided to explain how they may have looked like originally.  This is satisfactory for most visitors, but some want more obvious visual cues.  For them the parks that have lots of reconstruction, such as Aztec, Bandelier, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, and others, are preferable to parks like Chaco that have a lighter touch.  But so be it.  You can’t please everyone.

Casa Rinconada from Pueblo Bonito

Casa Rinconada from Pueblo Bonito

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Vermilion Cliffs above Kanab, Utah

Vermilion Cliffs above Kanab, Utah

One of the things that makes cracking down on pothunting so difficult in the west is the fact that, while it is strictly illegal to take any artifacts from archaeological sites on public land, and the vast majority of the land in the west is public, it is perfectly legal to take them from private land with the permission of the landowner.  Since the west is so huge, and the government agencies responsible for guarding most of the land can’t possibly patrol it regularly, the only practical way to establish the origin of an artifact is to rely on the word of the person who claims to have found it.  There are forms on which people who are selling artifacts openly certify that they found the items on private land, but there is generally no way for the authorities to confirm this.  Unlike fossils, artifacts bear no physical traces of the places where they were dug up.

BLM Visitor Center, Kanab, Utah

BLM Visitor Center, Kanab, Utah

As we’ve seen in the Blanding cases, then, pothunters can quite easily conceal the findspots of their looted artifacts by lying on the forms.  The undercover operative who secretly taped his interactions with looters who sold him stolen antiquities recorded the process of filling out the forms and concealing the actual findspots.  This shows just how big a loophole this policy of leaving decisions about artifacts on private land up to the landowner is.  If a landowner in the area is in cahoots with looters and will vouch for them, as apparently some in the Blanding area were, there’s nothing the authorities can do short of an elaborate sting operation to determine which artifacts are legitimately from private property and which are looted from public land.  Indeed, some have even proposed dealing with the problem of looted antiquities by abolishing private ownership of artifacts altogether, making them public property regardless of where they were found.  Not that anything like that is likely to happen anytime soon, of course, given the strength of private property rights in America and the popular sentiment in the west especially.

United States Post Office, Kanab, Utah

United States Post Office, Kanab, Utah

There are, however, some advantages to the almost unlimited discretion of private property owners over archaeological sites and artifacts on their land.  While some allow their land to be pillaged by looters, others take advantage of their authority to keep sites on their land protected.  This has resulted in the remarkable preservation of many sites in the southwest that would likely have been torn apart if they were on poorly overseen public land or private land with less scrupulous owners.  Perhaps the best example of this directly related to the Chacoan system is Salmon Ruin near Bloomfield, New Mexico, a Chacoan outlier that was well-protected by the Salmon family, which homesteaded the land, and by subsequent owners until it was acquired by San Juan County and excavated in the 1970s.  Another more recent example is Range Creek in Utah, where the hostile reputation of the landowners allowed them to keep the many sites of the Fremont culture (roughly contemporaneous with Chaco) on their land in nearly pristine condition.  When they donated the land to the State of Utah, archaeologists were amazed at the number and state of preservation of the sites, which no one outside the family had even known about before.

Kanab Creek, Kanab, Utah

Kanab Creek, Kanab, Utah

Unfortunately, such situations are the exception rather than the rule, and most private property in the west with significant archaeological resources ends up either being torn apart by looters or developed for modern use with no concern at all for the sites or artifacts.  I was interested, then, to read a piece in the Salt Lake Tribune by Beth Kampschror (via Southwestern Archaeology Today) in which she discusses a recent effort by a developer in the southern Utah town of Kanab to excavate and preserve a substantial proportion of the sites that would otherwise be destroyed by construction.  The development seems to be called “Chaco Canyon,” which is interesting and somewhat ironic, since this part of Utah, while part of the Anasazi cultural sphere, seems to have had little or no direct contact with Chaco.  In addition to excavation and preservation of sites, the project involves the creation of a museum that will, as Kampschror put it, “create jobs and educate children about the need to respect these ancient sites, much as they’re taught to respect pioneer Mormon settlements.”  She puts this in the context of the long tradition of pothunting among local people and the uproar over the Blanding arrests, and points to the museum, and the project in general, as a way to smooth over difficulties between locals and archaeologists.  She notes that the organizers of the project hope to convince some of the local pothunters to bring their collections to the museum through an amnesty program.

Plaque Commemorating Fort Kanab, Kanab, Utah

Plaque Commemorating Fort Kanab, Kanab, Utah

This project is interesting for a lot of reasons.  While certainly less preservation is involved than would result from just leaving the land alone, what the project is doing seems to involve much more preservation than a typical residential development would.  Since the developer owns the land, it can do this without going through the enormous hurdles to excavation on public land.  (It’s no coincidence that many archaeological field schools these days take place on private land.)

Levi Stewart Memorial, Kanab, Utah

Levi Stewart Memorial, Kanab, Utah

Clearly this is primarily a marketing gimmick on the part of the developer, but it seems likely to result in considerable information nonetheless, provided the project results are published in a reasonably timely and accessible matter (which is not a trivial consideration).  Indeed, while salvage archaeology has become a standard part of infrastructure projects on public land throughout the west and elsewhere, the explicit decision to preserve many of the sites by the Kanab project will result in a compromise more in keeping with the spirit of the National Historic Preservation Act than most salvage, which still adheres to the priority on harvesting information from sites that are to be destroyed anyway expressed in the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act.  These conflicting priorities have been in tension for some time, and have led to certain odd results in the theoretical orientations of some regional specialties within American archaeology.  Here, however, the research design clearly states that, while excavation of some sites to be directly impacted by construction is necessary, and one site is to be excavated and stabilized as a field school project of Southern Utah University, many other sites are to be not only avoided, as is typical when significant sites are found in the course of salvage projects, but developed for public use and interpretation, which is the sort of thing generally more associated with historic preservation than with salvage archaeology.

Heritage House, Kanab, Utah

Heritage House, Kanab, Utah

In general, the topic of preservation is a thorny one when it comes to archaeology.  The general orientation of preservationists is toward preserving historic structures in place, while archaeologists tend to have the rather different mindset that excavation, with the resulting preservation of information, is preferable in many situations.  (This is one of the ways that archaeologists are not as different from pothunters as they like to think.)  Salvage archaeology offers one situation where the archaeologists’ interests win out over the preservationists’.  In other situations, such as with major unexcavated sites within national parks, the preservationists win out over the archaeologists.  In this Kanab project, however, precisely because of the flexibility offered by its context on private land with an interested and indulgent owner, both approaches are getting something.  Private land is often something of a thorn in the side of public land management agencies, and therefore for the archaeologists who work for them, but from the perspective of many of the archaeologists it’s not always such a bad thing.  It’s important to be dealing with a sympathetic owner, however.

Photo Shop Sign, Kanab, Utah

Photo Shop Sign, Kanab, Utah

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