The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One of the Joys of Fieldwork... finding strange and unexpected items while performing survey. For example, anyone who has performed survey in the deserts of the American southwest knows how often one comes across toilet parts and the remains of hair-care products. Why these, specifically, should be so common out there is open to debate, but they are far from the oddest things one is likely to encounter.

Case in point - some years back, I was the field director for an archaeological project at the Santa Barbara Airport. The airport is in an area considered to be highly sensitive for archaeological sites, and so I had a team of archaeologists accompanying the construction crews and looking for any sign of cultural deposits to prevent damage to any previously unrecorded sites.

I was sitting in my office one morning, working on a report for another project, when the phone rang. I answered and heard the voice of Timothy, one of my archaeologists, announcing that he had just found something rather important, and that I had better come check it out. With visions of a Chumash village in my head, I rushed over to the airport, located Tim, and asked him to show me what he found. He quickly ran off, and returned with an object in his hand that...well, at first I wasn't sure what to make of it. And then I realized what he was holding - an over sized silicon dildo. Apparently it, along with a few other sex toys, had been buried in a small hole on the airport grounds, and the excavator had uncovered them. Needless to say, this resulted in several weeks worth of jokes at Tim's expense.

On another occasion, I was performing survey in Tulare County when Randy, my field tech, and I climbed up a steep bank out of a riverbed only to find ourselves in a small area that had been cleared of brush in the center of which a series of horse skulls had been arranged into a circle. Whether this was the doing of wannabe Satanist teenagers or of a couple of bored "good ol' boys" we never did discover. However, the religious attitude of the town in which we were staying was such that a paranoid obsession with "evil cults" was common, and Randy and I derived a good deal of levity out of the silly notion that we had uncovered the headquarters of a world-wide Satanic conspiracy.

Speaking of skulls, on my current project we discovered this:

For no apparent reason, somebody thought it would be a good idea to place a cow's skull atop the remains of a child's playset.

While performing this project, we have also encountered refrigerators, stoves, pieces of furniture, etc. all int he most unlikely of places. However, the winner for "weird objects discovered" would have to be this:

Now, let me set the scene for you: this is an arid environment, there are no rivers, no permanent drainages, no water other than that which we bring with us. This was located far away from the nearest road, and there was no indication of how it got there. And yet, there it is, a boat.

Need another look?

Using my advanced archaeological talents, I can tell that safety was on the minds of the people who placed the boat here. After all, they brought safety vests.

So, there you have it. Become an archaeologist, you'll find weird-ass stuff.


Kaylia Metcalfe said...

Do you have a close up of the cow skull on the playset?

Jairus Durnett said...

You can find weird stuff when you are backpacking, too.

Following a poorly marked trail seven or eight miles away from the nearest road, we once looked up to find a stop sign - relatively new with the reflective tape edges - securely mounted on a metal pole in the middle of the woods with no apparent road nearby.

Of more interest are the graves, housing timbers, and foundation stones that occasionally poke out of the brush.

Kaylia Metcalfe said...

The Stop sign: you think it was a prank? Because that is just all sorts of awesome.