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The outdoors and archeology

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POSTED January 26, 2014 9:59 p.m.

I first became addicted to archeology in the summer of 1948. I was a youngster camping along the headwaters of the Mokelumne River with my parents. One morning I knelt down to clear away some rocks on the ground so that I could play marbles, when one of the rocks caught my eye. Upon closer examination, I discovered that my “rock” was really an Indian arrowhead made of shiny black obsidian! I was hooked on archeology from that point on. Collecting arrowheads became a family obsession. We eventually assembled a pretty significant collection of artifacts in our Indian Room.

Wanting to explore my new interest further, I enrolled in a youth archeology program sponsored by the Hagin Museum in Stockton. Under the museum’s tutelage, we learned how to properly excavate & record archeology sites within about a 50 mile radius of Stockton. We excavated sites along creeks near Stockton, like Little John Creek, Turner Station, Mossdale, Byron Hot Springs, and Brovelli Woods north of Lodi. It gave me a wonderful appreciation of the ingenuity of our Native American predessors.

When I got to college I studied under the legendary Professor R. Coke Wood at both San Joaquin Delta College and University of the Pacific. Eventually, with Woods’ guidance, I was able to gain employment as an instructor in Field Archeology at Delta College. It had to be the world’s best job. Getting to study the amazing world of the outdoors and share it with others. Although I later moved on to other endeavors, I stayed in touch with Woods and actually managed to see him and have him autograph a copy of his last book. Ironically he died the next day. I will ever be grateful to Woods for sharing his love of both history and the outdoors with me.

Almost everywhere I have gone in our great land, from California’s Central Valley, to the Sierra Nevada, the vast Great Basin, the Rocky Mountains,  and even into the woods and creeks of the Eastern Seaboard, I am always on the lookout for archeological treasures. I have found woven duck decoys from caves along the now vanished Lake Lahontan in Nevada that dated almost 20,000 years old! I have found atlatls, which were spear throwing devices that preceded the invention of the bow and arrow. I have discovered mortars and pestles in California and metates & manos in the deserts of the Great Basin. Once I even discovered an incredibly rare dagger made from a human fibula bone.

So what has all of the above got to do with you? It means that you too can find such amazing artifacts. Almost everywhere you might go in the outdoors is a possible archeological site. If you spend any time at all outdoors, you have probably stepped right over arrowheads, beads, or other archeological finds. All you have to do is train yourself to look down at the ground every few steps. It really isn’t hard to do, you simply watch where walk. Another great idea is to learn more about our amazing archeological heritage. Visit your community museums, check out some books or periodicals from your local library and read them on a rainy winter evening. Better yet, enroll in a beginning course at your local college or university. Then, the next time you’re hiking down that trail to your secret fishing hole, or gathering wood for a campfire, you might just spot an arrowhead or a stone  pestle. A little archeological awareness can add a whole new dimension to your outdoor adventures!

Until Next Week,

Tight lines

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