The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How not to do your job as an archaeologist

I am preparing to head out into the field again, this time to work out in the southern San Joaquin Valley. In preparation for this project, I am reading through the records for all previously recorded archaeological sites in the area.

In 1988, a company located in Phoenix, AZ was contracted to perform surveys in this area. Their archaeologist recorded a number of things as isolated artifacts (that is, artifacts that are not associated with a larger archaeological site) that the archaeologist says in the site record are not actually artifacts. This includes rocks that were clearly hit by heavy machinery and broken in ways that look vaguely like artifacts (AKA “tractorfacts”), as well as naturally occurring rocks that are naturally broken in ways that vaguely resemble artifacts.

Now, I could see why these would be recorded if they were “borderline” – if it was difficult to tell if they were archaeological finds or just natural rocks. However, the archaeologist was very clear that these were clearly not archaeological materials.

Let me give you a quick sample of the descriptions off of some of these forms:

“A primary chert flake or fragment which is not an artifact.”

“2 secondary chert flakes…produced by modern plowing activities”

“A secondary white chert flake which is not culturally created”

And it goes on.

Okay, on the off-chance that some future archaeologist is reading this – do not EVER record as an archaeological site or isolate something that you KNOW is not an archaeological site or isolate. It only annoys the people who have to cope with your handiwork down the road.

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