Researchers at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center are receiving help from an unusual source in answering ques- tions related to the remnants of a Basketmaker III community located a few miles from the campus.
The local education center has partnered with the PBS television series Time Team America to dig a little deeper into the questions presented by the Dillard site, located in Indian Camp Ranch.
On Sunday, 18 members of Time Team America arrived at Crow Canyon armed with television and archaeological equipment, and an eagerness for the three-day research project. Filming was scheduled to run Tuesday, June 5 through today.
Time Team America is a one-hour adventure show that features a team of archaeologists racing against time to solve mysteries related to historic sites around the United States. After taking a hiatus following the series' first season in 2009, Oregon Public Broadcasting received funding for a second season from the National Science Foundation and found its way to Montezuma County and Crow Canyon.
The local site was selected to be featured on the show from more than 25 submissions from across the country, all varying in age and historical relevance. Crow Canyon's project at the Dillard site was chosen because of the universal themes of community and adaptation that play out in the site's story.
“We looked at what would be the most interesting (sites) in terms of archaeology and for the TV show and we felt that Crow Canyon is just a fabulous site in that it reflects an incredible moment in time,” said show producer Bruce Barrow, at the Dillard site on Tuesday. “These people were making radical changes in how they lived their lives and that is a theme that resonates throughout history.”
Basketmaker III is part of the Pueblo sequence, A.D. 500-700. The time period marked the first development of true communities in the Four Corners, according to Dillard site supervisory archaeologist Shanna Diederichs. Though it is accepted that there were groups of people on the landscape before this time period, there was no real connectivity.
Through the cooperation with Time Team America, Crow Canyon hopes to determine how large the aggregate community at the Dillard site was, and how many people lived at the site at one time.
“The big question is how big is the settlement and are there other structures,” Diederichs said, squinting into the sun, wind and dust at the dig Tuesday. “We are wondering if this was simply a hamlet or if it is possibly an early Pueblo village.”
The answers, normally found through traditional archaeological methods of slow excavation, are uncovered more quickly thanks to the technologically advanced methods provided by Time Team America.
With only three days to solve a question as per the guidelines of their mission, and the time frame of a one-hour television show, Time Team America employs a number of advanced sensoring techniques to outline underground features and explore, in a noninvasive manner, hidden sites.
At the Dillard site, the team has utilized magnetometry, resistivity, ground penetrating radar and LiDAR (optical remote sensing technology) to determine the spread of the site, the number of rooms and any other anomalies that may exist underground.
Each method employs a different type of science to “see” underground. Magnetometry measures and maps patterns of magnetism in the soil. Activities such as burning leave magnetic traces in the soil and leave behind an outline for researchers. Resistivity studies utilize electrical currents passed through the ground to measure resistance, which usually indicates underground structures. Ground penetrating radar uses radar pulses to produce images of the subsurface.
The most advanced technique used at Crow Canyon has been LiDar, light detection and ranging, which maps features utilizing light waves bounced off the ground from a high altitude, in this case, an airplane. The Time Team America crew completed a LiDar study of 300 acres surrounding the Dillard site last month, creating a three-dimensional map of the area.
Diederichs said the results of the study were phenomenal and the significance cannot be minimized.
“It was the coolest thing,” she said. “The map pulls out structures and all the drainages and features on the landscape. You see the travel paths that were used and even the smallest features. It is amazing.”
The advanced mapping techniques are invaluable to the Crow Canyon team, Diederichs said, and provides a level of research and understanding that otherwise would not be accessible to the researchers at Crow Canyon.
“All of these studies wouldn't have happened without this partnership,” Diederichs said. “It gives us a body of research we otherwise would not have and allows us to proceed.”
As a working laboratory and experiential education center, Crow Canyon often utilizes youths as research fellows in the field. Last year along, roughly 530 students helped excavate at the Dillard site. Diederichs said the amount of information gained in four days with Time Team America nearly exceeds the amount of work done in 2011.
“With 15 archaeologists on the site, we are accomplishing so much,” she said. “There has been geophysics work and excavating soil and probing, all in one week. It has been so impressive.”
Though the amount of information gained from the experience is valuable, both Diederichs and Crow Canyon Research Fellow Scott Ortman said the significance of the partnership lies in the opportunity to expand Crow Canyon's circle of influence.
“What we are doing here is exploring a time when these people's lives changed,” Diederichs said. “They went from hunting and gathering and solitary life to farming and community. We are looking at something that has implications on a world-wide level. We are looking at it on a Southwest level but it is informing a dialogue that is happening globally. How do people adapt and change? We are part of that conversation.”
Ortman said the exposure the center will receive with the millions of viewers who will tune in to Time Team America is exciting but also fits the center's expressed mission.
“One aspect of our mission is to communicate the value of archaeology for society,” Ortman said, in a phone interview Wednesday. “This will be viewed by several million people on public broadcasting and we could never produce or share the work that we do with such a large audience on our own. But sharing and educating is important to us. This is what we do.”
When the Time Team America crew left the Dillard site, many questions were answered but mysteries linger. Diedrichs and the Crow Canyon team will continue the work at the site, hoping to continue to find the words to tell the story of the Pueblo people in Montezuma County.
The Crow Canyon episode of Time Team America will air in 2013.
On the Net: Time Team America, www.pbs/obs/timeteam/; Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, www.crowcanyon.org.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]