Current topics in archaeology, cultural heritage & historic preservation

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oregon Archaeologists Star in New TV Show..."Time Team America"

"Croatoan"...a single word deeply carved into a wooden post is the only remaining sign of one of the first English colonies in America...which mysteriously disappeared shortly after its founding in 1585.

Can Indiana Jane and her intrepid band of diggers find more clues that reveal what happened to the missing colony?

Two archaeologists with Oregon roots, Dr. Julie Schablitsky and Chelsea Rose, star in a new TV show, Time Team America, that strives to answer that question and more when it debuts nationally on PBS (Wednesday, July 8 at 8:00 pm, Channels 10, 26, and 710 in the Portland/Vancouver area). More info on the program at

Both Schablitsky (at left) and Rose are University of Oregon graduates. Schablitsky went on to earn her doctorate at Portland State and Rose is working on hers at Sonoma State University. Dr. Schablitsky now lives in Maryland, but maintains her link to the Northwest in her position as an archaeologist with the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History More on the ladies at

Having watched the preview episode (see it at: I can say that if you like archaeology you'll like this show. I'm firing up the old Tivo to record all five planned broadcasts.

(Thanks to PBS and the University of Oregon for the photos in this post).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Pre-Stonehenge Complex, and an FBI Bust!

Taking my own advice from a previous posting ("What to do...over the long weekend! " May 22, 2009) I headed for Ridgefield, WA and the Cathlapotle Plankhouse on Sunday, June 14 to check it out. I wanted to see the presentation on rock art by the famous Dr. Jim Keyser and the native pigment demonstration by Greg Robinson (Chinook) and Greg Archuleta (Grand Ronde).

Having been to the plankhouse once before (when it was closed) I was confident that I could find it again...all I had to do was follow the signs to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge...right? Fancying myself something of a navigator I smoothly found the town of Ridgefield and quickly latched onto the prominent "National Wildlife Refuge" directional signs.

Within minutes I found the huge welcoming sign for the Refuge,
turned down the gravel road and headed for the Plankhouse. I came upon a prominent kiosk that offered a very nice brochure and informed me I should stop and pay the $3.00 entry fee to the Refuge. Not seeing anything resembling the Plankhouse...and observantly noting that nothing around me looked that much like it did on my previous visit, I turned to the map in the brochure. I quickly found that I was in the Refuge's "River S Unit"...but...the Plankhouse is in the "Carty Unit" just down the road...OOPS!

As retraced my steps and headed back into Ridgefield I blithely noted the "Plankhouse" directional signs that I missed the first time and followed them right to the spot. Really, its easy to find, just don't get tricked by the first "Wildlife Refuge" signs, note the "Plankhouse" signs, go on into Ridgefield where the road will make a right turn and lead you to the correct location. You can find a ton of information...and even a map...on-line at

The Plankhouse is striking as you can see in the photo. You can enter through the traditional circular "Chinook door" or through a less traditional "ordinary" door to the right. Being adventuresome I took the circular door route and was rewarded with a great view of the full interior of the house...all natural cedar, huge beams, draped animal skins, incredible carved wood images, people have to watch the video below to really get the experience.

I cruised the display area and talked to Chinook artist Greg Robinson (who also managed construction of the Plankhouse). Greg had a few pieces of his art on display and was working with Greg Archuleta showing interested people how pigments and paints were ground from minerals, mixed with oils and applied to wood, etc. Really fascinating. I was most impressed with the art. You can see more of Greg's work at

At 2:00 pm Jim Keyser started his talk on Columbia Plateau Rock Art. I have to say he entranced his audience of 50-some people. Jim is one of the best archaeological speakers I've heard and I'm sure everyone left both entertained and enlightened.

Share a small part of my experience in this video which I've titled "Ancient Images: Cathlapotle Chinookan Plankhouse". Music courtesy of Tom Mauchahty-Ware. Hope you enjoy it!

All in all a great experience and well worth the short trip north from Portland, OR!

James Owen in London
for National Geographic News
June 15, 2009

Given away by strange, crop circle-like formations seen from the air, a huge prehistoric ceremonial complex discovered in southern England has taken archaeologists by surprise.

A thousand years older than nearby Stonehenge, the site includes the remains of wooden temples and two massive, 6,000-year-old tombs that are among "Britain's first architecture," according to archaeologist Helen Wickstead, leader of the Damerham Archaeology Project...

Read the rest of the story at:

More on the story at:

Feds: Southern Utah history stolen from the Four Corners area.
By Patty Henetz
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 06/11/2009

For two years, someone close to a large network of archaeological looters in southeastern Utah was wired with an audio-visual recorder when buying ancient baby blankets, stone pipes, seed jars, digging sticks, pots, even a pre-Columbian menstrual pad.

This "Source," as he or she is identified in a search warrant affidavit unsealed Wednesday, is an insider who worked with U.S. Bureau of Land Management and FBI special agents to nab two dozen suspects in the theft and sale of more than 250 American Indian artifacts from the Four Corners area...

Read the whole story at:

This is a fun new website with interesting stuff (don't worry, its not even PG13). In their own seeks to entice future generations of archaeologists by utilizing the image that popular media has created of archaeologists; brave, adventurous, attractive and intelligent. The program is interested in making archaeology attractive to people of all ages and sexes and proudly supports the promotion of smart archaeology and archaeological education.

Check it out at:

(Thanks to Oregon Heritage News, National Geographic, and the Salt Lake Tribune for some of the information contained in this post).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Senator Patty Murray Supports Chinook Nation...I think.

In a post on May 26, 2009 I endorsed the Chinook tribe's quest for official recognition by the federal government and asked you all to send messages of support to your elected officials. Like many of you, I took my own advice and wrote to Senator Patty Murray (WA U.S. senator, at left).

Senator Murray just sent a response to my letter and I'm going to share part of it because its indicative of the fight the Chinook are in.

Let me start by saying that Senator Murray has a long and solid history of supporting Indian people and issues, so I'm not trying to pick on her. I believe she is an ally.

That said her message to me is a beautifully written exercise in political speak. Senator Murry wrote...

"In May 2009, Representative Baird (D-WA) introduced H.R. 2576, the Chinook Nation Restoration Act... Should H.R. 2576 or similar legislation come before the full Senate for a vote, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind."

Notice she didn't commit to support the legislation, but only to keep my thoughts in mind.

She goes on to say...
"...Throughout my Senate tenure I have consistently supported tribal self-determination and opposed efforts to erode the rights of Native Americans."

True, but again, no clear statement either way on the Chinook issue.

As I said above, I'm not trying to be critical of Senator Murray. I'm trying to illustrate that the Chinooks are NOT in a battle of facts or science. They're in a political fight and have been for years. Senator Murray's carefully worded letter is an acknowledgment that she (like every other elected official) has other powerful political forces to consider as she looks at Chinook recognition.

All this just means that the Chinooks continue to need your support!

If you're moved to do so, you can find your elected representatives at this link: They'd love to hear from you!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Visiting Ancient Rock Art in the Columbia River Gorge

Let's take a short video trip to one of the Pacific Northwest's premier rock art sites. This culturally and spiritually important area has been used by native people for thousands of years.

In April of this year I was privileged to accompany Dr. Jim Keyser on a day-trip to photograph the site for possible inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, the site (actually many sites in close proximity) holds hundreds of ancient petroglyphs and pictographs and remains very important to the Indian people of the region.

This was a return trip to one of my favorite Northwest places. Over a period of about 5 years beginning in 1998 I worked with Dr. Keyser, tribal members, and many other volunteers to catalog and preserve the extensive body of rock art found in the area.

Almost pristine, the area is closely monitored and watched over by the U.S. Forest Service, Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Enforcement and a number of other law enforcement agencies. Thanks to the work of the Forest Service and The Trust for Public Lands the site is protected and now belongs to all of us, ownership having been passed to the Forest Service a few years ago.

Following is a short video that I hope will give you a feel for this special place...enjoy the trip!

(Click on the triangle in the center of the screen to start the video. Don't forget to turn on your computer's sound. To watch "full screen" click on the small gray rectangle second from the lower right corner of the video control bar)

You can learn more about this culturally sensitive and important site and the rock art of the Columbia Gorge in a series of books written by Dr. Jim Keyser, myself (Mike Taylor), George Poetschat, and others. Published by The Oregon Archaeological Society Press, you can find them at and at book stores around the Northwest. (All money from sales of the books goes to the non-profit Oregon Archaeological Society).

The books most closely relating to this area are:

- Echoes of the Ancients, Rock Art of The Dalles-Deschutes Region
By James D. Keyser, Michael W. Taylor and George Poetschat

- Visions in the Mist: The Rock Art of Celilo Falls
By James D. Keyser, Michael W. Taylor, George Poetschat, and David A. Kaiser

- Talking With the Past: The Ethnography of Rock Art
By James D. Keyser, George Poetschat, and Michael W. Taylor

Hope you enjoyed the trip!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Otzi Talk Fascinates Crowd! Oldest Pottery...More Northwest Events

Dr. Angelo Fossati talks about Otzi, the Iceman.

Dr. Angelo Fossati came to Portland last Saturday to give his talk "Unraveling the Secrets of Otzi, the Iceman: His Life, Times and Death". Fossati thrilled the crowd with an excellent presentation that covered many aspects of Otzi's life and death.

Dr. Fossati makes a point during his Otzi lecture.

We learned about Otzi's culture, his clothing, food, weapons, and much more. Most fascinating was Fossati's new theory that Otzi's death was actually recorded in stone carvings on a stele (an upright stone or slab with a carved surface) recently uncovered under the altar in a church near where Otzi would have lived.

This image, carved on a stele, may
show events surrounding the death of Otzi.

The event was well attended and the crowd seemed delighted with the talk and with the enthusiastic question and answer period afterward. OAS can be very proud to have brought a presentation of this quality to Portland.

Becky Steed (left) volunteered to sell imported
Italian t-shirts, under the smiling supervision
of OAS President Robin Harrower.

OAS members Donna Tallman (in red) and Denise
(Cramer) Hershey (seated) sell books to interested attendees.

“Rock Art of the Lower Columbia River” Dr. James Keyser, Rock Art Researcher, will share his knowledge and images of the rock art along the lower Columbia, 2pm. Also featured, Greg Archuleta and Greg Robinson teach how native earth pigments have been and are made and used through demonstration and hands-on activities. Noon to 3:30.

Please visit or phone 1-360-887-4106 for seasonal hours, information, and directions. For more Refuge events visit

State Parks Day on June 6 will highlight the state's sesquicentennial, have a theme of *Happy Birthday Oregon!*, and include living history presentations, special tours, exhibits, free fishing, free admission and lots of cake.

Champoeg*s renovated visitor center with its new exhibits will be a focal point and provide tours of the park*s 1860s kitchen garden and the old Champoeg town site. Evening programs with historical themes will take place in the campground and at the Historic Butteville Store. The Friends of Historic Champoeg and Daughters of the American Revolution are co-sponsors.

Other state parks with heritage activities include Farewell Bend, Cape Blanco, Crown Point, Carl Washburne, Fort Stevens, Jessie Honeyman, Silver Falls, Sumpter Valley Dredge, Tryon Creek and other state parks. Details are available at

Jacksonville will mark Oregon's sesquicentennial with a parade and other heritage activities June 13-14.

A parade at 10 a.m. June 13 will be built around the theme of "150 Years Living In and Loving Oregon" and feature covered wagons; an oxen-pulled wagon; mounted posse; historic cars, fire trucks and tractors, and draft horse teams. Other weekend activities include a Civil War encampment, covered wagon camp, historical displays, antiques, old time cars, old West re-enactments, shootouts, outhouse race, calliope, beard-growing contest, horse-shoeing, and snake-oil salesmen. People can have an old-time photo taken, hear cowboy poetry, take horse-drawn wagon rides, go on trail walks, and tour the cemetery.

For more information, contact Sharon Wesner Becker at 541- 326-6832 or the City of Jacksonville at 541-899-1231.

Monday, June 01, 2009
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Bits of pottery discovered in a cave in southern China may be evidence of the earliest development of ceramics by ancient people.

The find in Yuchanyan Cave dates to as much as 18,000 years ago, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The find "supports the proposal made in the past that pottery making by foragers began in south China," according to the researchers, led by Elisabetta Boaretto of Bar Ilan University in Israel...

Read the whole story at:,2933,524041,00.html?sPage=fnc/scitech/archaeology

(Thanks to Oregon Heritage News, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, and Fox News for some of the info in this message).