Whew! Things got a little busy…

Yes, I had intended to post updates every day, during the project. However, the last several days have proven to be a bit hectic and, now, the field work for this season has wrapped up. We’ve all packed up and gone our separate ways: I’m sitting in an air-conditioned hotel room, in Sorrento. Tomorrow, I’ll take the ferry up to Napoli to pick Lyn up at the airport! Then, vacation begins!!

Our last days on the project were busy with moving a LOT of dirt, discovering three unexpected walls, finding that the burial urns from the small tomb had been removed before the 79 eruption, and bagging 1000’s of ceramic sherds and bone fragments. While the “goal” of this season was to excavate and locate any burials associated with Marcus Vernerius’ tomb, or the small Niche tomb, not finding any was actually very informative. The low walls we found were unusual, and were set down quite a while before Marcus had his tomb built.

In the last week of excavation, we found a second coin (bronze) and some Attic pottery fragments. We found what seemed like an entire mouthful of human teeth, and a few jaw fragments, non of which had been cremated. I was the first person to EVER brush those teeth. Toothbrushes hadn’t been invented in the late Republican period, and based on the 2mm of plaque build-up, you can tell! This guy — I named him Phil, because we found him in the fill-layer — must’ve had serious bad breath.

I also got to work at the ceramics cleaning/sorting table, and spent a day working in the bone lab. Identifying human bones, based on burnt, shattered fragments is a special skill that I never developed. Llorenc Alapont, however, is a wizard. The man can identify a bone fragment based on it’s feel, with his eyes closed. It was something to behold.

I felt much more at home working with the ceramics, having spent a lot of time with potsherds on the Colorado Plateau. Cleaning, sorting, mending, all while working in the shade. We were also set up outside of the Porta Nola Necropolis, so we had quick access to the old city. We were a five minute walk down to the Villa With the Garden, and it’s controversial (to some) charcoal inscription. The House of Orion, just across the street, is also spectacular. I think it might be the best preserved example of Pompeii 1st Style decoration I’ve seen, and the mosaic floor is perfect.

We spent our last day back-filling the excavated area, covering it with gardening cloth and what had to be several thousands of pounds of dirt. It will be safe and protected until the team returns next season, to see what the hell those walls mean…

After one last dinner together at Pizza Oscar, we said our goodbyes and that was that. Now, I’m feeling sleep deprived, and worn out — all in a good way. I’ll post photos of the last week, tomorrow.

Photo Dump!

Again with the buckets!

We spent the first five hours of the day, hauling buckets of lapilli up the hill. At least we aren’t having to screen it. Actually, someone will buy it, haul it off and turn it into road surfacing material, water filter components and other useful things! As far as we’re concerned, it’s just this loose, dusty stuff we try to walk on without breaking our tailbones.

So, the hotel/resort that we have to cross to access out site is offering their guests “drive-by tours” of our site. Eight person golf carts have begun to stop by, and the tourists/guests gawk at us like we’re zoo animals. “And here we have a pod of wild archaeologists, in their native environment. Don’t make any sudden noises or move to quickly, you may startle them. They have been known to throw buckets of dirt on people, some have even been known to bite.”

A few of us broke away for lunch at a real restaurant. Pasta, fresh vegetables, profiterole, and Limoncello shots (the owner insisted). I don’t think I’ve ever hauled buckets after two shots of anything before…

Late this afternoon, we began clearing/cleaning off the road surface. We located a tiny potsherd, with a female figure depicted on it. That got everyone excited. We’re getting closer to the tombs, so things will probably start to pick up here! If only the temps would drop a few degrees. I knew how hot and sweaty working here can be, but nothing can prepare you for it. We’re all struggling to keep hydrated and salted. Don’t want anyone developing hyponatremia.

I’m back…

It’s been a long few years of quarantines, furloughs, booster shots and hours spent searching for the perfect face-mask. I’ve basically gone feral. Well, after all that I am finally going to venture out of my cave, hop a plane, and journey back to “The Continent.” Yep, I’m going to get into a metal tube full of strangers (masked or not) and fly, for 15 hours, to Italy! It has been 12 long years since I’ve been to my beloved city of Pompeii — far too long. Like others in the past, this will be a “working” vacation: I’m volunteering for three weeks, with ArchaeoSpain on their Archaeology of Death project. For more information on their work with this, here is a great write-up of the research from their last season: https://dornsife.usc.edu/news/stories/3550/students-discover-preserved-pompeii-skeleton/.

Mixed in with the workdays will be time for fun (the work itself is thrilling), making new friends, exploring and, of course, eating. I’ll keep a running inventory here of what I see, do and eat.

Feel free to follow along.

Archaeologists uneasy as Trump shrinks Bears Ears monument lands

PDF version A US government plan to slash protections for one of North America’s richest and best-preserved archaeological landscapes has prompted a wave of concern among researchers. On 4 December, US President Donald Trump announced that he had cut the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah from 547,000 hectares to 82,000. That removes protections for thousands of Native American cultural sites, some as many as 13,000 years old. The president’s action leaves the national monument, created last year by h

Source: Archaeologists uneasy as Trump shrinks Bears Ears monument lands

6 Things President Trump Got Wrong When Decimating America’s National Monuments – Center for American Progress

6 Things President Trump Got Wrong When Decimating America’s National Monuments By Jenny Rowland and Kate Kelly Posted on December 5, 2017, 1:20 pm President Trump signs the hat of Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission, after signing a proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Salt Lake City, December 4, 2017. AP/Rick BowmerPresident Trump signs the hat of Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission, after signing a procla

Source: 6 Things President Trump Got Wrong When Decimating America’s National Monuments – Center for American Progress

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s curious case for shrinking monuments

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump made a curious case for stripping federal protections from vast stretches of two of America’s national monument lands. For one, he said his decision will give Native Americans back their “rightful voice over the sacred land.” But they already have specified rights on the land, thanks to the national monument designation under the Antiquities Act, and fear losing those rights under his decision. That’s why they’re fighting his action in court.

Source: AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s curious case for shrinking monuments

Take Action and sign up for updates | Protect Bears Ears

Take Action! Click here to Tweet and #StandWithBearsEars: @realDonaldTrump’s illegal attack on Bears Ears National Monument is a slap in the face to Tribal Nations and leaves tens of thousands of cultural sites at risk. #MonumentsForAll Make a Contribution! Your generous contribution today will help the Native American Rights Fund keep fighting for justice against the outrageous attack on Bears Ears National Monument. Click here to donate.

Source: Take Action and sign up for updates | Protect Bears Ears

Recent Events…

It wasn’t a government “land grab.” It wasn’t Washington DC waltzing in and taking the land, forcing people from their homes.  The lands in question, Bears Ears National Monument (Ceder Mesa and the surrounding area) and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument were already Federal Land. No state land was taken/stolen.  In the case of the GSENM, several SITLA (school trust lands owned by the state) parcels were traded to the Federal Government, by the State of Utah, in exchange for large blocks of valuable, resource-rich land outside the monument boundaries.  Again, NOTHING was stolen/taken/absconded with.

The establishment of the Monuments was done with the intention to protect and preserve areas possessing unique natural, and cultural qualities. What the monument status did was add layers of protection to sensitive, irreplaceable paleontological, and archaeological sites – fossil beds, dinosaur tracks, rock art, prehistoric burials, villages, ceremonial features and sacred landscapes.  Monument status would help in preserving pristine wildlife habitat, riparian areas, delicate desert vegetation systems and unbroken, spectacular viewscapes – if managed/funded adequately enough to do so.

I’ve spent years working and recreating in these places – hiking, camping, climbing, wandering, conducting archaeological survey and site documentation. I spent a season working as a BLM backcountry ranger at Kane Gulch.  I’ve seen what unrestricted development, unrestricted grazing, mining, drilling, ORV traffic and, yes, even unrestricted recreation (mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing route development, even foot travel) can do to these surprisingly delicate places.  They all leave a lasting footprint, some bigger than others.

Yes, National Monument status means more visitors. Kane Gulch Ranger Station, now in the middle of Bears Ears National Monument, saw a HUGE increase in visitors this year – over 13k just this spring alone.  The rangers speculate this was due not only to the new Monument designation but to the controversy brought on by Zinke’s recent visit and the rumors of eliminating or significantly downsizing the Monument.  They actually had visitors express a need to see it “before it was gone.”  Cedar Mesa had been seeing an increase in visitors every year beginning in 2006 when the BLM opened a new, brick and mortar visitor center/ranger station at the Kane Gulch trailhead. Prior to that, the “Ranger Station” consisted of an old, 20′ camp trailer.  The refrigerator served as the filing cabinet for backcountry permits and extra maps, and the oven housed the backstock of stickers and flyers.  Now, with unlimited virtual access to places like Moon House, Perfect Kiva and The Procession Panel, more and more people are physically seeking out these locations to post selfies and, well, I digress…

What is potentially at stake with Trump’s recent “downsizing/rescinding” of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments isn’t just the shrinking of Monument boundaries.  This action could open up archaeologically and paleontologically rich/sensitive areas to surface mining, oil and gas drilling, unrestricted vehicle impacts, real estate development, increased looting/pothunting.  The “new” Bears Ears National Monument would NOT include Dark Canyon, Grand Gulch or Fish & Owl Canyons.  Originally they were protected from development by their Primitive Area or Wilderness Study Area status. What their status would be after Trump’s “downsizing” is uncertain.  These places were included in the 2016 Monument boundary because of their sacredness to several Native American tribes. They were included for protection because of the irreplaceable archaeological treasures found therein. They were included to protect pristine wildlife habitat and riparian areas, ie. their “wilderness quality.”  That will all be in question, if Trump has his way.

I find hope in the fact that what Trump is trying to do is illegal. There are several organizations planning to file or have filed lawsuits to stop this, including a coalition of the Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni and the Hopi, Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes, suing on behalf of the Bears Ears, and the Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.   Yvon Chouinard, owner of gear/apparel company Patagonia is planning a lawsuit on behalf of Bears Ears.

Right now, I’m in “wait and see” mode.  I’m hoping that someone with the power to do so will say that rescinding the Monuments is, indeed, illegal and can’t be done. Or, barring that, the lawsuits will tie the action up for years, until a new, stable administration that truly values our national heritage and Public Lands takes over.

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird…” Theodore Roosevelt.

Trump aims attack at national monuments: 20 at risk | Wilderness.org

Trump aims attack at national monuments: 20 at risk President Trump is ordering a “review” of about half of all national monuments designated since the beginning of 1996, a sweeping action that is intended to shrink boundaries and reduce protections. The executive order will put more than 20 national monuments in the crosshairs, ranging from rare wildlife habitat to Native American archaeological ruins, stretching from Maine to California to Pacific islands. Photo: California Coastal National Monument. C

Source: Trump aims attack at national monuments: 20 at risk | Wilderness.org