Thursday, April 11, 2013

Summer Archaeology Opportunities in the Helena Area

There are basically two opportunities to get some archaeological experience in the Helena area I have heard about for this summer.

1. The field school through Carroll College. Costs seem to be $100 for the class supplies. Most field schools also require that you be a student at the college that is sponsoring it. So that would involve extra paperwork and costs. That is in a separate post.

2. The Helena National Forest is doing a joint  project with the field school, but this other route doesn't require that you be a student at Carroll and it won't cost you anything at all.

Both of these are training experiences. They don't pay you anything. But once you get done, you have this experience under your belt and you can apply to be a field technician for one of the CRM firms in Montana and the West. I used to do that sort of work, like in "Shovel Bum," before I went to grad school.

Here's the info on the Forest Service opportunity. It is hard work but it is a blast, especially if you like the outdoors and have the freedom to be away from home:

Helena NF

Deadline Extended! North Big Belts Archaeological Survey

June 10-14; 15-19, 2013 (including weekend)
Must commit to minimum of five days
Join us this summer for an archaeological adventure in the back woods of Montana! During this project, PIT volunteers and Forest staff will participate in a two-part, archaeological survey in the North Big Belt Mountains. The work will be done in conjunction with the Carroll College Archaeological Field School, which has run for several weeks each summer since 2010, and is based out of Helena and directed by Dr. Lauri Travis. Volunteers and students will work together in an "outdoor classroom" environment, learning to conduct archaeological surveys and record sites. During previous field schools, students have located and tested various prehistoric rock shelters and lithic (stone tool and debris) scatters dating to over 3,000 years B.P. (ca. Late Archaic Period). Instruction will include demonstration of proper pedestrian survey techniques, site mapping and recording, artifact identification, and use of satellite mapping systems (GPS). During Session 1, we will survey at mid-elevation ranges (5,000-6,000 feet asl) in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness for 5 days. We will be doing primitive camping on site, and we'll be backpacking into the study area. Work, study, and other equipment will be packed in on horses. During Session 2, we will move our camp and our studies out of the Wilderness to higher elevations (6,000-7,000 feet asl) accessible only by high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicles, which will entail further primitive car or tent camping. This promises to be some tough, sweaty, and dirty work at points, but participants will come away with some brand new or, at least, newly-honed skills, and will be working in some picturesque and breath-taking country! So, bring your work ethic, your eagerness to learn, and your desire to get "back to nature," and join us in June for a "hike into the past!"
Number of openings: 4
Special skills: Must be physically capable of hiking for long periods each day over rough terrain, and in a variety of weather conditions; Must be physically capable of sustained efforts at higher altitudes; Must have experience with leave-no-trace, primitive camping, and backpacking; previous archaeological survey, mapping, artifact identification, sketching, GPS, and/or photography experience helpful and welcomed, but not required
Minimum age: 18 years old
Facilities: Session 1: primitive, tent camping in project area; no potable water, no facilities; Session 2: car or primitive tent camping; no potable water, no facilities; volunteers responsible for personal camping equipment, food, water and/or water purifier, and initial transportation to designated meeting area (Ranger District Office in Helena); FS will provide transportation to project area/camp and back at beginning and end of project only; signed waivers will be required to ride in FS vehicles
Nearest towns: Helena, 25 miles
Applications due: Deadline Extended!

The info is here, along with other Montana opportunities in other Forests:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Montana's Success

What are some of the things that all civilizations that crash have in common?

Overuse of natural resources is a big one, whether because of overpopulation or waste or having some grand ideas that are held to be more important than living in balance.

Overpopulation... yep, we are there...
Grand ideas, ideologies, that are more important than living in balance... yep

When I teach archaeology, people are always asking why all those other countries had these great civilizations, the Maya, the Egyptians...and so on... yet Montana did not

Success is thought of as "progress" (whatever "progress" is...if you end up destroying yourselves, is it really "progress"?)

Up until the introduction of the horse in about AD 1650-1700, Montana's Indians lived mostly the same way, hunting and gathering, through different climate changes, changing only the species they focused on hunting or gathering. Certainly there were times they starved in the late winter and early spring. Yet Montana Indians lived pretty much the same way of life for over 11,000 years.

That's a different kind of "success" I'd say.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Red Paint Cave

"Where did the Salish first come from? We know only the story our old men told our men down from the beginning: the first Salish were driven down from the country of big ice mountains, where there were strange animals. Fierce people who were not Salish drove them south. So in our stories our people have said, 'The river of life, for us, heads in the north.'

After many generations, the Salish held the grounds from way west, eastward, and past the red-paint caves near Helena." -Flathead/Salish elders interviewed by Bon Whealdon in 1923, quoted by Ella Clark in her book "Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies" (University of Oklahoma Press, 1966, p. 107).

I read this passage in my teens, in the 1970s, when I read all the mythology and Indian history I could. I always wondered, where are these red paint caves? Years later I learned of various red paint (iron oxides, etc.) deposits in the area, along the banks of the Missouri near Townsend, and further away, along some of the road cuts between Helena and Missoula, yet I never heard of any "red-paint caves near Helena," and no one I talked to had either.

When I worked for the Helena National Forest as an archaeologist in the early to mid-1990s, I found a cave in one of the gulches of the Big Belt mountains. Most cave entrances in the Belts are above eye level, but this one was down below the road and looked to be a long crack under the cliffs inclining downward, with lots of loose eroded material sloping down into the cave. I went down, as it was walkable, more like a very large rockshelter really. I always hoped to locate human activity in such places, as that was my job, to document these places.

Once I slid my way down onto the cave floor, I noticed there was a screen set up there, as if someone had been doing archaeology, through there was no record of any such efforts, at least not since the Canyon Ferry surveys of the 1950s by Richard Forbis and Carling Malouf. It was dim of course, but the floor was stable, the room was long and of decent size if my memory serves me correctly, though the ceiling was low. I could see the cave continued back and downward into blackness. Not being a spelunker and aware of cave hazards, I backed off and made my notes, and told myself I would return with some folks and investigate further. Work however had other priorities, and I never returned.

This week I was reading James A. Teit's "The Flathead Group," an extract from "The Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateaus" (45th B.A.E. Annual Report, 1927-28)...On page 340:

"A famous spot for obtaining red paint in the Flathead country was at a'pel yu'tsamen ('possessing red paint'), near Helena. The paint was obtained from a large, long cave under a cliff. As the paint rock was at the head of the cave, and it was quite dark inside, a rope was tied to the waist of the man who went in, so that he might readily find his way back. When the head of the cave was reached the searcher felt with his hands and pulled down blocks of the decomposed rock, returning with as much as he could carry. When he came out he divided the paint among the people, who put it into hide sacks. Long ago the best quality of paint rock from this place was exported by the Helena people to neighboring tribes. After the introduction of horses, parties of Flathead and their allies [their later historical allies included the various Salishan groups, Nez Perce, and sometimes the Shoshoni] gathered paint at this place when passing or hunting near there. It is said that several men lost their lives or were injured in this cave by rocks falling on them. There was also a belief that this cave could open and shut at will, and that several men had been killed by it." (p. 340).

Was this cave I entered the red-paint cave of the Flathead/Salish tradition? Perhaps. The description of the cave is right. The gulches in this area are full of pictographs painted in red on the cliffs. Most of these seem to be related to the vision quest vigil, where the seeker fasted in a lonely place in hope that a spirit-power (Salish: "sumesh") would take pity and grant medicine (spiritual power/ability) to the seeker. Perhaps not. But the caves still await discovery.

I located several interesting places and had a few odd experiences during my job as an archaeologist in the Helena National Forest and over the next few posts, I will relate some of them here. I shall not pinpoint the locations exactly, because people tend to vandalize what they don't understand.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Prehistoric Peacemaking"

This is an oil painting I did a number of years ago. It portrays two precontact Native American groups in Montana, ready for war, but choosing to make peace instead. The large shields which covered more of the body were used previous to the introduction of the horse. Currently it is in a private collection in Nebraska.

Ancient buffalo jump discovered on Blackfeet Reservation

BROWNING — A vast former hunting complex where bison were stampeded over a cliff at least 1,000 years ago has been uncovered on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana, archaeologists say.

Researchers said the 9-mile-long area contains a well-preserved “drive-line” system used to funnel bison to their deaths, along with bison bones and the remnants of campsites with hundreds of tepee rings.
Maria Nieves Zedeno, an archaeologist from the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology and Bureau of Applied Research, said it is one of the best-preserved drive-line systems she has seen.

“We really need to preserve this site for future generations,” Zedeno said.

The site is on a remote plateau overlooking the Two Medicine River, on land owned by the Blackfeet Tribe. Researchers said it could become one of the most significant and largest Blackfeet heritage sites in the region.

Plains Indians harvested bison hundreds of years ago by stampeding them over cliffs, and other jump sites, as they’re called, exist in the region.

John Murray, the tribe’s historic preservation officer, said the new site will help tribal members understand their history. He said officials hope to one day build an interpretive center at the site.

“The project is important to connect the culture and heritage,” Murray said.

Researchers said that besides the bison kill site, they have been uncovering artifacts with social and religious significance, including a camp site with 651 tepee rings.

Murray said some Blackfeet members have known about the site for some time, and that increasing oil and gas exploration on the reservation has prompted a push toward preserving cultural sites.

Zedeno said similar kill sites on the reservation have been destroyed by bone collectors, and other kill sites are either damaged or on private land.

At the most recent site, much of the excavation work has been going on at the base of the 30-foot cliff the bison were driven over. Another dig is taking place about 20 feet away that’s thought to be a processing area.

Bison scapulas have been found lined up in an intentional manner, but archaeologists are unsure of the significance.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Barton Gulch PaleoIndians

"People of the Hearth" is an excellent video I show in my archaeology class about the Late Paleoindians that lived about 9400 years ago in Barton Gulch, in the mountains down by where Dillon, Montana, is now located. This is the Wikipedia article on it:

Definitely worth watching. I am not aware of any other videos out there specifically on an archaeological site in Montana, so if you know of another, please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2010 Introduction to Archaeology Syllabus


CRN 39222 / ANTH 103A /3 credits
Spring 2010/ T & Th, 3:30-4:45 pm / DON 206

Instructor: Lance M. Foster, M.A., M.L.A.
Academic Web Site: N/A
Office Hours/Location: By Appointment (Home phone: 422-5911)

Course Description

Archaeology is the study of the human past through the remains of their material culture. Archaeology uses many different approaches and tools to study and explain how people lived in the distant and not-so-distant past. Artifacts, sites, settlements, and landscapes may be studied to help reveal how people lived, how they saw themselves and their world, what the environment was like, and how these factors interrelated and changed through time. In this class you will gain an overview of what archaeology is, how archaeology is done, and what it can tell us about our world, past, present and perhaps even a glimpse of our future. This course is intended to be an introductory survey of archaeology for undergraduate students, either as an elective or as a foundation for further studies in archaeology. There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Outcomes

Students who participate fully in this class will:
• Students will be able to describe the scientific approach to archaeological investigation and ethics, and how this differs from popular misunderstandings about the discipline
• Students will be able to trace the historic origins and key thinkers of archaeology
• Students will able to discuss a basic understanding of archaeological cultures in Montana and the practice of archaeology in the state
• Students will be able to define and discuss the key terms and concepts used in archaeology, from artifacts and features, through excavation and analysis
• Students will be able to identify and discuss a basic outline of major archaeological cultures at the national and international levels
• Students will be understand and compare diverse interests in the past
• Students will be able to describe the concepts of archaeological ethics and stewardship
• Students will learn to apply the lessons of archaeology as applied to contemporary developments in society today

Required Texts

Ashmore, Wendy, and Robert J. Sharer
2000 Discovering Our Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology. 3rd edition. McGraw-Hill.

Diamond, Jared
2005 Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Penguin Books.

Feder, Kenneth L.
2005 Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 5th Edition. McGraw-Hill.

Course Grading and Expectations

A. ATTENDANCE: Attendance will be taken for every scheduled class; students are responsible for making sure they sign the sign-in sheet themselves which is passed out at the start of every class. The student should also attend the entire class and not duck out early. This is because if students are having trouble in class it is often because they miss too many classes. In addition, if the student is failing, we are required to tell the administration the last day the student attended class, which may also affect some funding sources. Every full class the student attends is worth 5 points.
The only exceptions will be for documented medical situations. Please get the notes from other students if you have to miss a class. The professor will not provide copies of his lecture notes to students. Makeup exams will only be given for documented medical situations.

B. PARTICIPATION: Classes include lectures, discussions, and videos. Assigned readings must be done IN ADVANCE so you can DISCUSS the material in class. Lectures include material beyond that in your texts for which you will be responsible on exams, so note-taking and attendance are required. You are encouraged to bring in articles from the current news media to discuss. Class participation is expected and will count positively towards your final grade.

C. EXAMS: There will be two exams, a midterm and a final. Both are made up of fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice and matching, with short essay-type questions. Each will cover assigned readings for that time period as well as lectures and other class materials. The final will be cumulative to a small degree in that you will need to know the basic concepts of archaeology to interpret the record of prehistory and early history. There will be NO makeup exams except in fully documented serious circumstances. A makeup exam must be taken within one week of the missed exam, and will consist of all essay questions.

D. There is a Special Project worth 50 points which will be discussed in a later class.

Also, be sure and read the “Academic Integrity” statement from UM-Helena below; students will be held strictly accountable to this statement.


Attendance 30 classes = 5 points each = 150 points
Midterm (closed book) 50 points
Final (closed book) 50 points
Special Project/Presentation 50 points

300 points possible, divided by 3 = final score

100-90 points = A
80-89 points = B
70-79 points = C
60-69 points = D

Late policy/penalties: Assignments are due in HARDCOPY at the beginning of class on the day they are assigned; papers will be dropped one full grade for each day they are late.

Students with physical, cognitive, or psychological disabilities are encouraged to meet with the Director of Disability Services, Cindy Yarberry, in the ACCESS Center, to discuss possible accommodations. She can be reached at 444-6897 or at All information will be kept confidential. If a student requires testing accommodations, it is the student's responsibility to ask me to send a copy of the test to the ACCESS Center at least 24 hours in advance of the test

Academic Rigor
Based on the UM-H Academic Rigor Value Statement, here what you should expect from me:
1) that I communicate the course expectations to you and have them summarized on this syllabus;
2) that I come to class prepared, and that I give you useful feedback on your assignments in a timely manner;
3) that I am available to you outside of the classroom;
4) that you can collaborate with your classmates on writing assignments as long as the products of those assignments are truly your work;
5) that the assignments are relevant, meaningful and challenging;
6) that I approach guiding your learning in ways geared to your diverse talents and abilities;
7) that I reduce, if not eliminate, your perceived need to plagiarize, and that I challenge plagiarism should it occur.

Based on the UM-H Academic Rigor Value Statement, here is what I expect from you:
1) that you will set high expectations for yourself along with a strong sense of collegiate purpose; that you come to class prepared, and complete and submit assignments by the deadlines;
2) that you make the most of your time with me in and out of class;
3) that you treat fellow students and the classroom with respect, and participate in our process;
4) that you manage your time so that you can treat college and this course as real work with real value;
5) that you participate with complete honesty and integrity; and finally
6) that you accept responsibility for learning and the grades you earn.

Academic Integrity
The University of Montana-Helena adheres to high standards of academic integrity. A single instance of the following violations will result in an F grade for that assignment; a subsequent violation will result in an FX grade for the course (see Catalog), and in both cases I will report the violation to the academic dean:

• Plagiarism: submitting the words, work or ideas of others without properly crediting them; this includes tracing/copying the artistic work of others, including sources from the Internet
• Using work generated in another class, by you or someone else, for credit in this class without permission from the instructor.

This syllabus is subject to change. Please turn off cell phones during class.
Students with unique learning needs are encouraged to see me to discuss course requirements and approved accommodations. Students who seek information about disability services should contact Disability Services Director Judy Hay, located in the Access Center, at 444-6897, or at

Class Schedule
*IMPORTANT: Guest speakers are invited and 1-2 field trips are planned; due to weather considerations, etc., when they occur, the schedule will be adjusted accordingly.


Jan. 19 T First day of class; class introductions, class syllabus, standards and expectations; the required texts and other materials.
Reading assignments for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 1: “Introduction,” pp. 1-24; Feder, Chapter 1: “Science and Pseudoscience,” pp. 1-16

Jan. 21 Th What Archaeology is—and what it is not. Archaeology defined; ethics and misuses of archaeology; archaeology as science, as history and as anthropology; archaeology as a profession.
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 2: “Archaeology’s Past”, pp. 25-38; Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 3: “Contemporary Approaches to Archaeology,” pp. 39-60.


Jan. 26 T The History of Archaeology: Origins, development, and the contemporary scene. The (sub)culture of archaeologists and archaeology.
Reading assignment for next class: Feder, Chapter 2: “Epistemology: How You Know What You Know,” pp. 17-43 and Chapter 3, “Anatomy of an Archaeological Hoax”, pp. 44-63,

Jan. 28 Th Epistemology (how you know what you know), critical thinking, and scientific archaeology. The Cardiff Giant: frauds and hoaxes in archaeology.
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 4: “How Archaeology Works,” pp. 61-86.


Feb. 2 T Archaeological data, deposition and site transformation processes, research design; archaeological research projects.
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 5: “Fieldwork,” pp. 87-124 and Feder, Chapter 10, “Good Vibrations: Psychics and Dowsers,” pp. 261-277.

Feb. 4 Th Archaeology in the field: Survey, excavation, data processing, classification.
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 6: “Analyzing the Past,” pp. 125-156.


Feb. 9 T Archaeology in the laboratory: Analysis of artifacts, ecofacts, and features.
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 7: “Dating the Past,” Pp. 157-178.

Feb. 11 Th
Archaeology in the laboratory: Chronology, seriation, sequence comparison, stratigraphy, geochronology, obsidian hydration, floral and faunal analysis, radiometry, archaeomagnetism, limited/experimental methods.
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 8: “Reconstructing the Past,” Pp. 179-211.


Feb. 16 T Archaeological Interpretation: Analogy and the abuse of analogy, Identifying activities in space and time
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 9: “Understanding the Past,” Pp. 212-237 and Chapter 11, “Old Time Religion – New Age Visions,” pp. 278-310.

Feb. 18 Th Archaeological Paradigms: Culture History Approach, Processualism, Post-Processual and Emergent Interpretations, Multiple Approaches, Alternative Archaeologies
Reading assignment for next class: Ashmore and Sharer, Chapter 10: “Archaeology Today,” pp. 238-254 and Feder, Chapter 12, “Real Mysteries of a Veritable Past,” pp. 311-333.


Feb. 23 T Contemporary Issues in Archaeology: Ethics, looting and antiquities collecting; destruction in the name of progress; Cultural Resource Management (CRM); nationalism. colonialism and war; working with descendant communities; the responsibilities of archaeology.
Reading assignment for next class: None, as there will be an exam that class

Feb. 25 Th Contemporary Issues in Archaeology (continued); Midterm Exam Review



Mar. 4 Th Discussion of Exam. Reading assignments for next class: Feder, Chapter 7, “Lost: One Continent – Reward,” pp. 177-206.


Mar. 9 T Outline of Old World Archaeology: Hominids: The Peopling of the World (Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas); DNA and archaeological evidence.
Reading assignment for next class: Feder, Chapter 4, “Dawson’s Dawn Man: The Hoax at Piltdown,” pp. 64-90 and Chapter 9, “Mysterious Egypt,” pp. 234-260.

Mar. 11 Th Outline of Old World Archaeology: Agriculture and the Great Civilizations; Internationally-significant archaeological sites/landscapes of the Old World.
Reading assignment for next class: Chapter 8, “Prehistoric E.T.: The Fantasy of Ancient Astronauts,” pp. 207-233.


Mar. 16 T New World Archaeology: The Peopling of the Americas; Controversies and Native American views.
Reading assignment for next class: Feder, Chapter 5, “Who Discovered America?,” pp. 91-145 and Chapter 6, “The Myth of the Moundbuilders,” pp. 147-176.

Mar. 18 Th New World Archaeology: Agricultural Societies and New World Civilizations; Internationally-significant archaeological sites/landscapes of the New World.
Reading assignment for next class (after Spring Break): Begin reading Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”, Prologue pp. 1-23, and further, to get a head start).


Mar. 22-26 SPRING BREAK – No Classes; College Open


Mar. 30 T Montana Archaeology Overview: Prehistoric Archaeology in Montana; the Historic Indian tribes of Montana; Historic Archaeology in Montana: Mining, ranching, timber, industrial.
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part One: Modern Montana; Chapter 1: Under Montana’s Big Sky,” pp. 25-75.

Apr. 1 Th Lessons from Archaeology: Montana in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse.”
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part Two: Past Societies”: “Chapter 2: Twilight at Easter” (pp. 79-119) and “Chapter 3: The Last People Alive: Pitcairn and Henderson Islands” (pp. 120-135).


Apr. 6 T Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: Easter Island and the Polynesians
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part Two: Past Societies”: “Chapter 4: The Ancient Ones: The Anasazi and Their Neighbors” (pp. 136-156) and “Chapter 5: The Maya Collapses” (pp. 157-177).

Apr. 8 Th Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: The Anasazi and the Maya
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part Two: Past Societies”: “Chapter 6: The Viking Prelude and Fugues” (pp. 178-210) and “Chapter 7: Norse Greenland’s Flowering” (pp. 211-247).


Apr. 13 T Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: The Vikings, Part I
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part Two: Past Societies”: “Chapter 8: Norse Greenland’s End” (pp. 248-276) and “Chapter 9: Opposite Paths to Success” (pp. 277-308.

Apr. 15 Th Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: The Vikings, Part II
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part Three: Modern Societies”: “Chapter 10: Malthus in Africa: Rwanda’s Genocide” (pp. 311-328) and “Chapter 11: One Island, Two Peoples, Two Histories: The Dominican Republic and Haiti” (pp. 329-357).


Apr. 20 T Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: Modern Societies: Africa and the Caribbean
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Part Three: Modern Societies”: “Chapter 12: China, Lurching Giant” (pp. 358-377) and “Chapter 13: ‘Mining’ Australia” (pp. 378-416.

Apr. 22 Th Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: Modern Societies: Asia and the Pacific
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Practical Lessons”: “Chapter 14: Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?” (pp. 419-440) and “Chapter 15: Big Businesses and the Environment: Different Conditions, Different Outcomes” (pp. 441-485).


Apr. 27 T Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: Practical Lessons: Societies, Businesses and the Environment
Reading assignment for next class: Diamond, “Practical Lessons”: “Chapter 16: The World as a Polder: What Does It All Mean to Us Today?” (pp. 486-525).

Apr. 29 Th Lessons from Archaeology: “Collapse”: Practical Lessons: “What Does It All Mean to Us Today?”


The Final Exams are scheduled as a whole by the college. To avoid conflicts and allow for extra length of some finals; as soon as I know the schedule for our final exam, I will inform the students. The other class will be a field trip.

May 4 T -Flex-

May 6 Th -Flex-