Thursday, May 05, 2011

Pocket Gophers, Ice Patches, Pine Bark Beetles and Fire

Larry Todd
This session looked at archeology affected by environmental change - by pocket gophers in one, as ice patches melt in the other, and after forest fire in the third.  

It's after lunch and now there are three concurrent sessions.  I had to finish up the last post and then got into a talk with Peter on issues of communicating science to others.  I've gotten into the panel on archeological Perspectives on Environmental Adaptation. 

Larry Todd just gave a presentation on "The Past as a tool for Engaging the Future" discussing his work in Colorado and how the present affects when he's looking at the past.  Pocket gophers there live all year and bring soil up and change the landscape and if you don't know about the gophers, you don't understand the context of what you're looking at. 

Jeremy Karchut
Jeremy Karchut now.  Chugach National Forest. 

Climate Change, Melting Ice, and the Frontier of Alpine Archeology - human adaptations on mountain environments.  Ice patch archeology.  Human exploitation of caribou (reindeer). The largest animal in the north that people around the Arctic depend on.  Go to high elevations in the summer, congregating at patches of snow and ice.  Get away from heat, parasitic insects, and there's fresh water because of melting ice.  People have discovered that they are pretty easy to hunt there.  And so we are finding artifacts in the melting snow and ice.  Ice patches different from glaciers.  Noticing that a lot are starting to melt and disappear - even ones stable for thousands of years.  And artifacts, final remains, insects, bone, horn, insects, birds, preserve thousands of years.

Artifacts in Swizerland and Arctic from people going over mountain passes, not just hunting.  Patches accumulate, like soil, some spread uniformly, stable, preservative.  Otzi - the iceman, probably associated with an ice patch, not a glacier.  Also found clothing, quivers and other artifacts.  I was introduced by Dr. Craig Lee who was doing surveys in Yellowstone.  Showing me ice patches.  Black patches - animal dung - big horn sheet in this slide.  Surveyed around the ice patch and found a crooked stick - a dart (adaladal?). 

A lot of this study began in Norway.  Roman artifacts - even arrows with feathers, leather shoe.  Entirely new look of archeology.  Most just have stone artifacts, but ice preserves leather and other items. 

Ice tunnel into the ice patch in Norway, with reproductions frozen in ice.  An outdoor laboratory for various scientists to study this eco systems.  Klimapark.  Summer camps with students. 

Switzerland also has a similar place.  The site is melting.  Found leather pants, shoes, DNA shoes it came from a goat they didn't know existed there. 
Q:  Goat there or trade routes? 

Back to North America.  Yukon and Northwest territory.  Decade ago ice patch archeology started here in NA. 

Artifacts back to 8000 years old.  Lot of hunters lose shoes - another shoe. 

Alaska - work of Richard Vanderhook, started about seven years ago.  Amphitheater Mountains in Wrangell-St. Elias.  2003, this patch almost gone.  Ice in many places gone and artifacts not completely gone, but they'll deteriorate soon. 

Some thought patches only used by hunters, but also found animal snares (ground squirrel), baskets associated with berry picking.

2009 Pilot ice patch project in Denali National Park.  Where do you start in 6 million acre park?  In early 2009 4 year old, kid picked up artifact in Teklanika River - Caribou antler arrowpoint.  Mom called someone.  Since soil there isn't too preservative there, so we looked around - Google Earth, then fly over in plane, finally helicopter.   Big snow year in 2009 - a little too early in the season.  Hadn't melted back as much as we'd like.  There were doll sheep hanging out.  We didn't find any cultural artifacts, but established benchmark and recovered antlers. 

Been with Chugach National Forest for about a year and a half.  Ranger had already started planning.  Took Kenaitze youth with us in Kenai and went to ice patches along a ridge - where caribou had been seen.  But had been hunted to extinction and then reintroduced. 

On way down, caribou were coming back to the ice.  Not the Forest Service's priority, but have put it in to collaborate, especially with Kenaitze.

Climate change evidence clear.  Best if multidisciplinary.  Ice patch coming up with new information. 
Anthropocene Epoch - Age of Humans - "humans have altered the planet so extensively that a new geological time interval is being proposed."  Starting 8000 years ago. 

Daniel Eakin
Daniel Eakin, Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist, "Shifting Landscapes in the GYE:  Potential Effects of Pine Bark Beetle on Native American Wooden Structures"

Catastrophic die-off of pines, spruce in West.  Archeological sites that burned and unburned areas.  Even though sites might change, but fire exposed archeological sites. 

GYE - in Yellowstone, Wind River area.  Yellowstone Park is doing well, the 1989 fire put them on an even keel.  White Park pines took it in the shorts.  Mountains near Laramie, where I live are bad, almost totally brown and other areas around there. 

Forest archaeology - generally can't see much.  But with pine bark beetles and fire, visibility is totally different.  All organic material gone from the ground surface.  The scale of the environmental change is massive.  Surface erosion, snow melt, sun light onto forest floor.  Need to consider soil if you want to call it that.  Where I'm from and northward into Canada, soils O Horizons over E.  Horizons?  I've learned that O Horizon - basically a horizon that can

[From Wikipedia
A soil horizon is a specific layer in the land area that is parallel to the soil surface and possesses physical characteristics which differ from the layers above and beneath. Horizon formation (horizonation) is a function of a range of geological, chemical, and biological processes and occurs over long time periods. Soils vary in the degree to which horizons are expressed. Relatively new deposits of soil parent material, such as alluvium, sand dunes, or volcanic ash, may have no horizon formation, or only the distinct layers of deposition. As age increases, horizons generally are more easily observed. The exception occurs in some older soils, with few horizons expressed in deeply weathered soils, such as the oxisols in tropical areas with high annual precipitation.
O horizon
The "O" stands for organic. It is a surface layer, dominated by the presence of large amounts of organic material in varying stages of decomposition. The O horizon should be considered distinct from the layer of leaf litter covering many heavily vegetated areas, which contains no weathered mineral particles and is not part of the soil itself. O horizons may be divided into O1 and O2 categories, whereby O1 horizons contain decomposed matter whose origin can be spotted on sight (for instance, fragments of rotting leaves), and O2 horizons containing only well-decomposed organic matter, the origin or which is not readily visible.
E horizon
“E”, being short for eluviated, is most commonly used to label a horizon that has been significantly leached of its mineral and/or organic content, leaving a pale layer largely composed of silicates. These are present only in older, well-developed soils, and generally occur between the A and B horizons. In regions where this designation is not employed, leached layers are classified firstly as an A or B according to other characteristics, and then appended with the designation “e” (see the section below on horizon suffixes). In soils that contain gravels, due to animal bioturbation, a stonelayer commonly forms near or at the base of the E horizon.
The above layers may be referred to collectively as the "solum". The layers below have no collective name but are distinct in that they are noticeably less affected by surface soil-forming processes.]

vary from few centimeters to much more - undecomposed organics - pine needles, rotten branches, etc.  Key element is fire ecology.  O Horizon as old as forest it lies under. 

O Horizon containing archaeological artifacts. . .  More common in most fires, total incineration of O Horizon and any artifacts - settle down - and left with assembly of artifact lying atop of he soil.  Put clothesline so you can see it.  This would have been invisible without the fire.  A single sheep butchered in this area.  Assortment of both stone and trade bit material (post contact site).  Obsidian projectile points.  Machine screw, trade beads.  If you went to unburned forest to find this - good luck.  Would be under a foot of dust.
In burns, very dirty work.  REsponse time important.  Not only swat team - getting there before it washes away.  Be careful, right after fire hazardous - easy to get crushed by falling trees on windy days.  Particularly windy days 40 miles/hour - you hear trees cracking down after 20 years.  Smart thing to do is establish a safe zone in open meadow, and if wind comes up, retreat.  Put your tent there.

Getting there soon enough before hidden by reveg or washes away.  20˚ slope, storm would wash it away.  Recovered near 1000 artifacts, including trade beads 9 (four square feet.)  Little indication of disturbance.  It's amazing working in a burn after working where everything you dig out of the ground and all the work to document it and time.  But after fire, basic information is what you can get out of regular excavation - in burn, it's all laid out before you.

Another site in Yellowstone.  Only mechanism for burial here at higher elevation is soil creep, but over a long time, stuff doesn't move around a lot.  Unlike stream bed.  Vegetation here is pretty thick after 1988 fire.  Coming back on terraces.  In the trees some bare areas, had burned to EHorizon.  No sedimentation has occurred on this land.

Perishable structures - Wikiups, sheep traps - 19th century features preserved on the Wyoming landscape. 

All these sheep traps are now in areas where the trees are bark beetle killed.  Would burn in next fire. 

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