Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Clovis Find in Colorado Backyard

It's not in Montana, but it is proof that just because a place has gone through intense urban development doesn't mean there aren't any archaeological sites there....

13,000-year-old tools unearthed at Colorado home

By ALYSIA PATTERSON, Associated Press Writer
Thu Feb 26, 3:34 pm ET

DENVER – Landscapers were digging a hole for a fish pond in the front yard of a Boulder home last May when they heard a "chink" that didn't sound right. Just some lost tools. Some 13,000-year-old lost tools. They had stumbled onto a cache of more than 83 ancient tools buried by the Clovis people — ice age hunter-gatherers who remain a puzzle to anthropologists.

The home's owner, Patrick Mahaffy, thought they were only a century or two old before contacting researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

"My jaw just dropped," said CU anthropologist Douglas Bamforth, who is leading a study of the find. "Boulder is a densely populated area. And in the midst of all that to find this cache."

The cache is one of only a handful of Clovis-age artifacts uncovered in North America, said Bamforth.

The tools reveal an unexpected level of sophistication, Bamforth said, describing the design as "unnecessarily complicated," artistic and utilitarian at the same time.

What researchers found on the tools also was significant. Biochemical analysis of blood and other protein residue revealed the tools were used to butcher camels, horses, sheep and bears. That proves that the Clovis people ate more than just woolly mammoth meat for dinner, something scientists were unable to confirm before.

"A window opens up into this incredibly remote way of life that we normally can't see much of," Bamforth said.
The cache was buried 18 inches deep and was packed into a hole the size of a large shoe box. The tools were most likely wrapped in a skin that deteriorated over time, Mahaffy said.

"The kind of stone that's present — the kind that flakes to a good sharp edge — isn't widely available in this part of Colorado. It looks like they were storing material because they knew they would need it later," said Bamforth.

Bamforth believes the tools had been untouched since the owners placed them there for storage.

Mahaffy's Clovis cache is one of only two that have been analyzed for protein residue from ice age animals, Bamforth said. Mahaffy paid for the analysis by California State University in Bakersfield.

A biotech entrepreneur, Mahaffy is familiar with the process. He is the former president and chief executive officer of Boulder-based Pharmion Corp., acquired by Celgene Corp. for nearly $3 billion in 2007.

Mahaffy wants to donate most of the tools to a museum but plans to rebury a few of them in his yard.

"These tools have been associated with these people and this land for 13,000 years," he said. "I would like some of these tools to stay where they belong."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Re-opening the Historic Drumlummon Mine

According to today's Helena Independent Record,the historic Drumlummon Mine at Marysville will probably be re-opening. Hopefully they will record the historic features in the mine before they remove it. There are some interesting things that survive deep in the mine:

Slowly, the darkness gives way to a fairly well-lit cavern, which is about 30-by-60 feet wide, with a 50-foot ceiling full of “stopes” or holes where miners blasted upward so the ore would fall down and they could cart it out to the mine portal in rail cars. Some stopes are as wide as 40 feet. ...It’s also in this room, known as the No. 1 Shaft Station, where the group pauses to marvel at the historic miners’ creativity. Someone used red bricks to create a retaining wall, which is perfectly curved to follow the natural rock lines. It’s a testament to a bricklayer’s skill, as well as to the money that was thrown around a century ago when the Drumlummon was producing millions of dollars in gold and silver. “That’s incredible. I’ve been in a bunch of mines, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Catherine Dreesbach, a DEQ mining engineer. Smitty proudly notes that the only other underground mine with a brick wall like this that he knows of is in South Dakota.

...About 2,500 feet in, the tunnel ends near a cave-in and cache of explosives. Bardswich says they’re thinking about hooking around and tunneling backward to connect with a new portal they hope to build. It’s at this tunnel’s end that the old miners signed sooty signatures on the walls, probably using carbon flames from their headlamps. Fatso Haley was here in 1925. So was Jack Smigaj and Jim Obernford. B. O’Conell drew a face in 1912. Smitty — not the one who’s here today — left his mark on March 11, 1917. Apparently he wasn’t the most popular guy, because someone else wrote that “Smitty eats ...” — let’s just call it manure. “You don’t see this stuff every day even if you work in a mine,” Dreesbach says, once again surprised by the Drumlummon. ("Drumlummon Dreaming", Helena Independent Record, Feb. 8, 2009)

And of course the historic adit, tunnels, stopes, etc. are all features of this underground cultural landscape that should be mapped and recorded before they are altered, as part of the historic record.

The people who now live in Marysville are not too thrilled with the prospects of a foreign country (Canada) coming in and messing with their quiet lifestyle; mining is a noisy and messy business. History shows that companies begin with a lot of progressive and amiable talk when the process starts, but the end results are always a damaged landscape and water pollution. The trouble is, in a terrible economy, gold is one of the few things that not only doesn't lose value, it actually gains value. Water and food are two others.

Historic mining landscapes are a significant part of Montana archaeology. Back in the days I worked in CRM (Cultural Resources Management) as an archaeologist, it seems like most of the sites I recorded in the Helena National Forest (1990-1995) were associated with historic mining, including the Ophir Creek Historic Mining District where Blackfoot City is located. Historic mining is one of the concerns of industrial archaeology; in Montana, the Klepetko Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology is the place to go to learn more about industrial archaeology, including historic mining.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Archaeology in Montana, 1805-1930

From Lewis and Clark in 1805 until the WPA in the 1930s

[This section will be continually expanded as more information is gathered.]

Lewis and Clark and Archaeology

During their exploration up the Missouri River in 1805-1806, Lewis and Clark traveled through Montana and recorded many sites. Most of them were occupation sites, ceremonial structures, and buffalo kill sites. Some were abandoned villages that were still standing, including conical lodges covered with bark. They have over 100 such references in their journals. When they reached Great Falls, the wood used in these structures changed from cottonwood to willow. Willow was considered to be a Shoshonean trait. Ceremonial structures. Near Cascade Lewis and Clark found over 80 lodges, but mainly large heavy cottonwood log structures, 60 ft in diameter. In 1806 they encountered another large ceremonial structure on an island near Clark's Fork – Yellowstone. Details- buffalo skins, feathers, buffalo skulls. Prob. Pre-Sun Dance lodge.
Fortifications made of log and stone in Plains area, used by all tribes

Buffalo jump at Arrow Creek, 100 dead animals stinking, unused, many scavengers. (
This was located in Choteau County, "about 1-1/4 miles downstream from the mouth of Arrow Creek on the opposite, or north, bank of the Missouri River and approximately 9 miles by river upstream, or west, from the mouth of the Judith River."

At this site, in the beautiful White Cliffs section of the Missouri Breaks, discussed elsewhere in this volume, the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition were probably the first U.S. citizens to see and record a buffalo jump site where the dead animals were still in place.

Before the advent of the steel-tipped arrow and lance and the rifle-musket, it was difficult for Indians to kill buffalo. A particularly fruitful method in the high Plains country was mass killing by the use of "jumps." These were located where buttes, eroded cliffs, and river gorges provided sufficient drop to kill or maim the beasts. The Indians enticed a herd within a short distance of the jump, and then started a stampede that carried the animals to the brink. There, the pressure of those behind forced those in front over the edge.

On May 29, 1805, on the westbound journey, the Lewis and Clark Expedition came upon such a jump. It was on the north side of the Missouri along the base of a 120-foot-high cliff that came almost to the water's edge. The men observed and smelled the carcasses of more than 100 dead and rotting buffalo, which wolves were devouring. Likely, some Blackfeet Indians, whose 2-week-old campsite had been discovered near the mouth of the Judith earlier that day, had conducted the jump. The explorers later appropriately named modern Arrow Creek, a little more than a mile to the west and flowing in from the south, as "Slaughter Creek."

The site was identified in 1963 as 24CH240 by a team from the Missouri Basin Inter-Agency Archeological Salvage Program, which surveyed sites in this part of the river. Even at the time Lewis and Clark passed by, the waters were eroding away the dead buffalo at the stream's edge. In the intervening 170 years or so, floods and erosional action have removed nearly all archeological evidence of the jump. The salvage team found only two pieces of bone fragments, some others of which the private owner had also observed.

On the return trip in 1806, Clarks saw petroglyphs on Pompey’s Pillar. Petroglyphs are designs incised into the rock; if the stone was sandstone, lines could be scratched into them, while other types of stone were harder and required designs to be pecked into the rock surface. In contrast, pictographs were drawings made with pigment, such as iron oxide.

Montana Archaeological Sites associated with the Lewis and Clark Expedition (sites mentioned in the journals)

Beaverhead Rock State Park (near Dillon) (also see Rattlesnake Cliffs, below)

Bozeman Pass

Buffalo Jump at Arrow Creek

Camp Disappointment

Junction of the Marias and Missouri Rivers

Gates of the Mountains

Great Falls Portage

Lemhi Pass, Idaho-Montana border

Lewis and Clark Pass

Lewis' Fight with the Blackfeet Site

Lolo Trail

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

Pompey's Pillar (Pompy's Tower) National Monument

"Rattlesnake Cliffs" = locals call this "Beaverhead Rock", and the Beaverhead Rock near Dillon as "Point of Rocks"

Ross' Hole (near Sula)

Three Forks of the Missouri (Missouri Headwaters State Park)

Travelers' Rest (near Lolo)


Petroglyphs preceded in observation by Francois LaRoque in 1805 similar along Yellowstone
Artifacts use- Shoshone steatite vessels
LaRoque- Canadian Fur- also steatite vessles. Near mouth of Bighorn more pictures.

1801-1802 w/ Kootenai. LaBlanc, LaGasse killed.

1808-1812 Thompson trading at Salish House – nothing to say about arch remains [but mention of Blackfeet moving south after acquiring guns, invading Shoshoni lands)
W. A. FERRIS, Fur trapper

LIFE IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: A Diary of Wanderings on the sources of the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado from February, 1830, to November, 1835. By W. A. FERRIS, then in the employ of the American Fur Company.

In 1830-1835 W.A. Ferris (trapper) 15 mi below Beaverhead, green pipestone. Point of Rocks on Beaverhead River. Flint Creek.

Aug. 24:
"On the 24th we passed between two high rocky points jutting into the [Salmon] river, and came out into an open plain two miles wide. Near the entrance, is a bed of stone, which is frequently used as a substitute for soap. It is but little harder than chalk, of the same color, and when manufactured into pipes, and burnt, becomes a fine glossy jet color, and equally hard as stoneware."

Chapter XXXI, Sept. 20: "Fifteen miles below Beaver Head, is a quarry of green stone, that is semi‑transparent, and easily cut with a knife. It is highly prized by the Indians, for manufacturing into pipes. It is situated in a bluff, on the west side of the river; over‑looking the plain." (Ferris, Life in the Rocky Mountains, Chapter XXXI)

Chapter LIII: "I observed during our stay on the Sararah, that the Indians had two kinds of arrows in their quivers, one of which was made of a single hard stick, feathered and pointed with transparent flint, artfully broken to a proper shape, and firmly fastened to the end of the arrow with sinews and glue. The others were made of a hollow weed, having six or eight inches of hard wood nicely inserted, and firmly glued into it; to the end of which the stone point is fastened, and is poisoned with venom from the fangs of a rattle snake. Hence the slightest wound from them is certain death. These arrows may be known at sight, by the natural joints of the cane; and the artificial one, where the wood part is inserted. They are not solely used in battle, as some have asserted; but are equally advantageous in hunting, for the slightest wound causes the animal to droop, and a few moments places it within the power of the hunter. The flesh of animals thus poisoned, is harmless in the stomach."

Chapter LXIII: "Their weapons are bows, arrows, and war-clubs, and are of their own manufacture. Their bows never exceed two and a half feet in length, and are made usually of the rib bones of the buffalo, two of which, in the construction of this weapon, are neatly jointed, glued together, and wound with thongs about the joint; it is gradually tapered from the middle toward each end, is polished, and rendered more elastic by sinews glued on the back, from end to end, over which rattle snake skins are sometimes cemented for ornament. The string is always composed of sinews, twisted together into a cord. Bows are made sometimes of elk horn, and sometimes of wood, but are always strengthened by adding sinews to the back, and not, as an eminent western writer has observed, "by adding buffalo bones to the tough wood."

Their arrows (except the poisoned ones of the Sann pitches) are made of wood, slender, never above two feet in length, and are pointed with sharp transparent flints, neatly broken to a dagger-blade shape, from half to three-fourths of an inch in length, which never exceed the latter. These points are ingeniously inserted in a slit in the end of the arrow, are fastened by sinews wrapped around it, and are rendered less liable to damage by being covered with a coat of glue. They have three or four distinct feathers, six or seven inches in length, placed opposite to each other, remaining parallel, but turning gently on the arrow, in order to give it a spiral motion, which prevents its wavering, and enables it to cleave the air with less resistance.

They manufacture spears and hooks, also of bone, for fishing, but they are not to be compared to the same instruments made of metal by the whites. But they have been supplied by the traders with light guns, spears, and iron arrow points, which have in measure superseded their own weapons; still, however, bows and arrows are most frequently employed in killing buffalo."



1833 Maximillian, Prince of Wied. 2 large piles of elk antlers not far from confluence of Yellowstone and the Missouri. 80 miles above Ft. Union, 15 ft high, 30 ft diameter. No skulls. Strength of party red strokes. In 1830 no one could remember anything about the piles. Completely destroyed by river boat crews after the 1850s.



1862 first professional anthropologist in Montana, Lewis Henry Morgan, but no interest in archaeology, mainly kinship terms. At Fort Benton he saw a lodge, 6-sided made of horizontal cribbed interlocked logs.


1866 Montana settlers- J.A. Hosmer traveling Yellowstone, conical lodges, one found lodge but tore it down for firewood. Rock markings, pictograph paintings on a log.

1870s. “Battle lodges” some still used, cone-shaped. Description by Yellowstone Kelly- sweat lodges, platform burials. Conical structures, and rock fortifications on hilltops.

1879. First archaeological report by P.W. Norris, superintendent of Yellowstone Park. Stone piles on prominent points, flint quarries along the upper Yellowstone near Emigrant. Long lanes of rock piles. Responsible for idea of “Sheepeater Indians.”

Also an article in the Helena Herald mentioning the Hellgate Gulch Pictographs near Townsend (

1892. Indian remains on upper Yellowstone. Col. William Brackett for Smithsonian. Indian semicircular forts from square rocks. 4 feet high near Emigrant. Completely destroyed. Fine buffalo jump- sketches.

Garrick Mallery mentioned in the BAE report on pictographic writing near Fort Assiniboine south of Havre, but no detailed information on site and still not located today.

So far most descriptions of Indian sites were from eastern Montana. Nothing really from western Montana until Professor Elrod 1908 brief description, photo of large panel of pictographs near Rawlins on Flathead Lake. The pictographs were badly weathered, almost imperceptible. He thought they were Indian writings. Risky business to put yourself into someone else’s mind [Taylor]. Some frequency so can guess, as marks llllll might be day counts.

American Museum of Natural History, NY, sent ethnographers- Lowie, Wissler, others in the early part of the 1900s, and they commented on remains they encountered.

But really the first scientific descriptions and archaeological research in Montana came from Brown and Nelson.

Barnum Brown was an old time naturalist who dug into a jump near Emigrant, and described stratigraphic levels.

Nels C. Nelson, (1875-1964) considered father of stratigraphic excavation in the New World. In 1917 over near Pryor Gap, Nelson found rock piles, and systematically peeled off rocks, but found nothing inside. "Nels Christian Nelson was a Danish-born archaeologist, who conducted archaeological work on shell mounds in California and the American southwest as well as in his native Denmark and Spain during the early decades of the 20th century. He worked on refining the stratigraphic methodology begun by researchers of the 19th century, and is probably best remembered as the person who fired the interest of later investigators such as A.V. Kidder in the prehistoric pueblos of the American southwest. "
Nelson's work in the Pryor Mountains was mostly in the 1940s for the American Museum of Natural History; he did a series of popular and scientific articles on his excavations there (


Of course there were many collections of artifacts made by amateur enthusiasts, farmers, and ranchers. But otherwise not much happened until the 1930s, when the Depression resulted in creation of government work agencies like the WPA and CCC.

(SOURCE: Dr. Dee Taylor's Lectures; Vol. 3, no. 2 Archaeology in Montana “Short History of Montana Archaeology”)

Monday, February 2, 2009


These are the working topics for the book MONTANA ARCHAEOLOGY so far:

- A. What archaeology is and is not (sorry, it's not about the dinosaurs that Montana is so famous for-- that's paleontology)
- B. SCALES OF ARCHAEOLOGY IN THE LAND (ARTIFACT, FEATURE, SITE, LANDSCAPE, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS, REGIONAL COMPARISONS) -- Not all archaeology is subsurface-- some of what it studies, still stands today
- C. HOW ARCHAEOLOGY IS DONE-- survey, excavation, analysis
- D. ARCHAEOLOGICAL ETHICS AND THE LAW -- collection, legal issues

II. ARCHAEOLOGY IN MONTANA (the bulk of the book)
- A. HISTORY OF ARCHAEOLOGY DONE IN MONTANA, FROM LEWIS AND CLARK TO TODAY. Special look at what the tribes of Montana thought, and still think, about the past and about archaeology
- B. CULTURES IN TIME- PREHISTORIC CULTURES (PaleoIndians, etc.) -TRIBES (connecting tribes to archaeological cultures)-
- D. CULTURES IN TIME - HISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGY IN MONTANA (exploration, trails and roads, military (forts and battlefields), furtrade, mining, ranching/farming, settlement, industrial, urban, underwater, etc.)
- F. PRESERVATION and analysis of archaeological historic/cultural landscapes (archaeological patterns on the land, typologies of prehistoric and historic landscapes)

- A. Info on places you can actually go visit, and any events; museums, historic sites, archaeological sites, landscapes

- A. Recommended sources (publications, websites) for the general public
- B. Organizations you can join; ways to participate in archaeology

BIBLIOGRAPHY - citations from sources consulted
GLOSSARY - specialized terminology
INDEX - how to find what you are looking for!

In some ways, this book is a public performance art piece; it is a work in progress... This project is not about jargon or trying to be the smartest monkey in the trees, but it's about the end-user: the kid with a school project, the guy in the hills that finds something interesting and old, the landowner or politician that has to make heads or tails of archaeology stuff they have to deal with-- and maybe even enjoy dealing with!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Montana Archaeology: An Introduction to the Author and the Project


My first solo book, about the Native Americans of Iowa, will be published later this year (Fall 2009) by the University of Iowa Press. I have also been working on the research for a book on the archaeology of Montana, just a general introduction and guide for those interested in Montana's prehistoric and historic past. I developed and currently teach a class in introductory archaeology as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Montana, Helena College of Technology.

Although I got my M.A. in Anthropology from Iowa State University, I graduated with my B.A. from the University of Montana's anthropology department back in 1984. I grew up here in Helena, walking around in the hills with my family since I was a little kid, looking at the ghost towns, abandoned mines, and pictograph sites that peppered the forests. There was a lot more around you could see back in the 1960s and 1970s; much has been destroyed by time, vandalism, and development over the last few decades. At the University of Montana, in the early 1980s, I took courses from Dr. Dee Taylor, Dr. Carling Malouf, and Dr. Thomas Foor. Dr. Taylor taught the class "Archaeology of Montana" which I took (and got an A in!) I still have notes from his class, which provided part of the framework and content for this project.

I returned home to Montana from my time on the road for several years (1986-1990) as an archaeovagrant, aka shovelbum on various projects around the U.S.; it's called "paying your dues" in the world of archaeology. In 1990, I worked as a field archaeologist on the Helena National Forest (HNF). I then became a student intern for HNF in 1991 and returned to get my M.A. at Iowa State University. I continued to work as a field archaeologist during the summer seasons for HNF until 1994, when I graduated with the M.A. in Anthropology. Unfortunately I was not converted as a fulltime employee at that time, as was supposed to happen, and so I returned to ISU to get an M.L.A. in Landscape Architecture, with the focus in historic and cultural landscapes. I graduated with the M.L.A. in 1997.

From 1997-2006, my career took me in different directions, from working for the National Park Service in the Southwest and Alaska, to working for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). In 2006, I returned to Montana and in 2007 started teaching a class in art at UM-Helena; in 2008 I developed and taught a class in archaeology; last year's blog entries on this site were part of that class. This is the second year I am teaching this class, but am taking a different approach.


This book is intended to be a basic introduction to the archaeology and historic/cultural landscapes of Montana. I started doing some background research for it last year, but when I read an article this week, I was inspired to take this book in a new direction:

Chris Anderson wants to give his next book to you for free. No, the Wired magazine editor-in-chief and author of The Long Tail hasn’t lost his mind, nor is he trying to go broke. It probably doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that he’s a trained physicist and a descendant of one of the founders of the American anarchist movement. With his keen eye for trends in the Internet-driven world and the tech savvy that earned Wired its first National Magazine Award under his tenure, Anderson believes giving away his book will actually help him sell more books.

...Anderson’s strategy for giving away his new book (and for marketing products in general), aptly titled Free, is in many ways a testimony to the staying power of the printed book.

Anderson says he and his publisher plan to make Free (to be published in 2009 by Hyperion) available in every way possible, beginning with e-book and audio versions, and “further than that”—though he won’t say what, exactly, further will look like.

“I believe that the physical book is the superior product,” he says. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do this. I make a physical magazine, after all; we understand what paper can do that pixels can’t. Physical books will remain the superior way to read longer, immersive takes on a subject.”

...“I don’t come from the book or media world; I’m trained as a computational physicist,” Anderson says. “We in the software world wrote our code in public. That’s what beta testing is all about. Doing things in public is the norm. I took the habits that were most conventional, just like getting peer reviews in science, and applied it to my books.”

...No matter his commitment to the varieties of technology, the rise of blogging and other electronic forms of reading other than books, Anderson still subscribes to the paper and ink form.

“I’m a huge believer in the traditional book,” he says. “Everything else just helps cement the form of physical books.” (

This is the rationale behind writing the book in public. One of the most enjoyable experiences I ever had was painting a mural on a bar in a village called Ara in Nigeria, Africa in 1996. People were always coming around, watching, offering criticisms and ideas. While some artists sequester themselves in a studio, I really enjoyed the energy of working in public. So that's why I decided to take Anderson's idea of writing in public and turning this Montana archaeology project into a publicly-written book. We'll see how it goes!

This blog/book is written for the interested general public, rather than specialists. Please add comments, ideas, corrections, things you would like to see! When the project is done, the book will be available not only as this blog, but as a free download in PDF form, as well as some hardcopy traditional published form yet to be determined.