ARF Newsletter 1994 v2-1

Berkeley Archaeology

The Archaeological Research Facility Newsletter
Fall 1994 - Vol 2-1



Archaeology of Rock Art: Recent Research in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Justin Hyland

The arid peninsula of Baja California is, archaeologically, one of the most poorly understood regions remaining in North America. The peninsula's historical remoteness and harsh climate and terrain, along with an eclipsing interest on the part of archaeologists in the traditional culture areas of the greater Southwest and Mesoamerica, have discouraged investigation. This is unfortunate in that the isolation of the peninsula resulted in several unique cultural developments among the prehistoric groups who lived there.

One of the most intriguing of these developments occurred in the Sierra de San Francisco located in the midriff region of the peninsula. Here, and in the Sierra de Guadeloupe to the south, there appeared a monumental painted mural tradition among the prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups in the region bearing little relation to the predominately abstract traditions further north and south. The representational imagery, in terms of scale among the world's largest prehistoric painted rock art, is found in literally hundreds of canyon rock shelters and principally depicts human and animal figures painted in red, black, white, and yellow. In recognition of this tremendous cultural legacy, in December 1993 the Sierra de San Francisco was named to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In the fall of 1992 Justin Hyland of the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley and his colleague, María de la Luz Gutiérrez of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, commenced fieldwork in the Sierra de San Francisco. Their project, named the Proyecto Arte Rupestre Baja California Sur, is a major two-year program of investigation and conservation and is one of twelve special archaeological projects inaugurated by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. It is the largest archaeological project ever to take place in Baja California and the largest ever in Mexico to deal specifically with hunter-gatherer archaeology.

Using regional ethnohistory as one source of models, one of the primary objectives is to determine the temporal and functional position of mural sites in the overall prehistoric settlement pattern. Of particular interest is the relationship between the production of imagery and gatherer-hunter social complexity, including the intensification of shamanic institutions and the transformation of gendered relations.

The following are some of the project's major fieldwork accomplishments and areas of continuing analysis:

  • Primary fieldwork activities involved surface survey and site excavation. Systematic survey was carried out in four zones, essentially providing an east-west transect from the Gulf of California over the Sierra to the Vizcaino Desert. Over 700 archaeological manifestations were recorded, ranging from ephemeral lithic scatters to large village sites with circular stone structures. Examples of each site type were excavated including the three major mural sites of Cueva Pintada, Cueva Soledad, and Cuesta Blanca 27. In these latter the extremely dry deposits yielded well-preserved textiles and groundstone and flaked stone artifacts with pigment and paint residues.
  • In November 1992 a major new obsidian source, named Valle del Azufre, was discovered in the Tres Virgines volcanic field to the east of the Sierra de San Francisco. M. Steven Shackley of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, an expert in obsidian studies in the Southwest and northwest Mexico, was invited to carry out the chemical characterization of the new source. X-ray fluorescence analysis of the obsidian artifacts collected during fieldwork (supported in part by a Stahl grant) has overwhelmingly confirmed that Valle del Azufre was the source for the archaeological obsidian in the area. This is clearly the largest source in Baja California and, with numerous large extraction pits, one of the most intensively utilized obsidian sources outside of Mesoamerica.

Among the obsidian artifacts traced to the Valle del Azufre source is a fluted Clovis-type point from Rancho San Joaquin that the Project identified within a local collection. While a fluted point was reported in the 1940s, also from Rancho San Juan, this is the first Clovis-type point found in Baja California and suggests the presence of a locally focused Paleoindian population.

Given the quantity of archaeological obsidian found in the area, a hydration chronology could be very useful in dating archaeological manifestations at both an inter- and intrasite level. We are investigating the potential for developing a regional obsidian hydration chronology.

  • In addition to conventional dating means, we have initiated a major program of direct radiocarbon dating and composition analysis of prehistoric paint samples from the mural sites. This research is being carried out in collaboration with Erle Nelson of Simon Fraser University in Canada and the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • Sampling was conducted at three mural sites in Arroyo San Pablo and at four sites in Arroyo San Gregorio. In addition to taking samples from the murals themselves, more than a dozen metates and numerous basalt flakes with pigment and paint residues were discovered on the surface and from excavated levels at the tested mural sites. Apart from providing a source of pigment and paint samples that reduces the need for destructive sampling of the murals, these finds are providing important information regarding the techniques involved in paint preparation and application. Composition analyses being carried out in preparation for eventual dating indicate that the pigments are iron and manganese oxides and that there is sufficient carbon in the samples for AMS dating.
  • An integral part of the analysis of regional mobility and settlement in the Sierra involves the integration of field data into a Geographic Information System (GIS). As tourism to the Sierra is expected to increase substantially with the UNESCO designation, the system is being designed so that it can subsequently form the basis for monitoring tourist and other impacts as part of an overall site management plan for the Sierra.

With fieldwork completed, the project is engaged now with data analysis and dissemination of results. Papers were given at the 1994 Society for American Archaeology meetings and at the 1994 International Rock Art Conference in Flagstaff, AZ. In addition to journal publications in Spanish and English, a final project monograph will be published by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

The project has been supported by Fondo Nacional Arqueológico, the Fulbright-García Robles Program, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. We also wish to acknowledge the indispensable and full participation, both practical and theoretical, of the local Californios in the Sierra without whose help and knowledge this work could not have been carried out. In addition, we were enthusiastically assisted in the field, often in far less than ideal conditions, by students from the Mexican Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain, the University of California, Berkeley, and California State University Chico.

From the Director

Margaret Conkey

The past six months have been a time of considerable transition for the Archaeological Research Facility. Most importantly, we witnessed the move of our Administrator, Sherry Parrish, out of the ARF office and into the position of manager for the Anthropology Department. While this is a wonderful career move for Sherry and a real bonus for those of us who also reside in Anthropology, there is no doubt that the administration of ARF had flourished as never before under Sherry's direction. We all look forward to working with our new Administrator, Hillari Allen, who joined us in early September. Welcome, Hillari!

As well, there has been a change in the faculty leadership of the ARF. As of August 1994, Pat Kirch resigned as ARF Director, after an excellent term of office for the past several years. Pat has simultaneously been awarded The Class of 1954 Endowed Chair in Anthropology and taken over as the Chair of the Anthropology Department. In anticipation of this, I was appointed Acting Director of the ARF until a Search Committee could be composed and a new Director selected. As of this writing, the selection has not been finalized, but this is expected after the first of the year.
As Acting Director, I have been pleased to work with acclimating Hillari, to planning the ARF lectures, to convening an Advisory Committee, and working closely with Thérèse Babineau, our new Intern in Photography, who has completely renovated the darkroom, among other projects. In anticipation of a more fully electronic working environment, we have convened a working committee to develop plans for the future computer infrastructure for ARF, probably in collaboration with one or more campus units. While the possibilities for archaeology and computers appear endless-from GIS to CD-Rom-we anticipate active fund-raising and grant applications!

We have again operationalized the Archaeology Outreach Program, which is being coordinated by myself and graduate student Robin Sewell. Although the program is still in its nascent stages, we plan to bring it more formally under the auspices of the ARF. At present, the archaeology students in Anthropology are expected to present at least one lecture or talk for students in an elementary or high school in the Bay Area; these arrangements are facilitated through the ARF. In November, we participated in Cal's Open Lab Day, with some half-dozen Richmond and El Cerrito high school students visiting one of our labs for a four-person laboratory demonstration on the Archaeology of Diet: faunal analysis, plant analysis, shellfish studies, and stone tool research.
We continue to be able to fund some faculty and especially graduate student research through the Stahl Endowment for Archaeology. When we see how much of a difference such an endowment can make for so many of our students, we are encouraged to extend our fund-raising energies. In addition to Stahl-funded research, I am pleased to report that during 1993-94, the ARF administered more than $500,000 worth of external grants, and as well, our publications income increased by 42%.

While the Acting Director is not expected to "rock the boat," the very nature of the internal changes and the necessary anticipation of things to come has meant that there has been plenty to do. Many of our regular ARF affiliates are on deserved sabbatical and research leave for this year (e.g., Professors Gruen, Miller, Stewart, and Tringham), but we are in the process of hiring another archaeologist in the Anthropology Department, while welcoming Rosemary Joyce to the campus this fall (see the story elsewhere in the Newsletter). We all look forward to the announcement of the new Director for an anticipated 5-year term, and toward the solidification of various projects to continue and to expand the activities, funding, and research of the Archaeological Research Facility.

ARF's Intern in Photography

Thérèse Babineau

Since August 1994 I have worked as an intern in photography on several photographic projects at the Archaeological Research Facility (ARF) and at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. One of the first projects I took on was to make the ARF darkroom fully operational. Now with all the essential supplies and pieces of equipment in place, the darkroom has become a valuable resource for ARF associates and graduate students. During the months of October and November I offered photographic print orientations to archaeology graduate students. I will again offer these orientations in the coming spring semester.

I am pleased to announce that there is a key check-out program for archaeology graduate students interested in using the ARF darkroom. If you are already familiar with black-and-white photographic print darkroom techniques or have taken the print orientation, you can obtain a key to the darkroom from myself or Hillari Allen, the ARF administrator (510) 642-2212. Access in the evening and over the weekend is also possible. If I am not in my office (room 110), call me at (510) 643-1457 to arrange to pick up a key.

At the Hearst Museum I have been working on two photography exhibits and on the photographic component to a third exhibit. The first exhibit will portray UC Berkeley archaeologists and anthropologists in the field. Printing negatives from the museum's photo archives, I will cover chronologically the evolution of field techniques over the course of the twentieth century. The second exhibit will be on Hawaiian archaeology, illustrating selected sites from all of the islands. This exhibit has evolved out of the book on Hawaiian archaeological sites that my husband, Patrick Kirch, and I have jointly written and illustrated, to be published in 1996 by the University of Hawaii Press. Professor Kirch's exhibit on Lapita culture will be showing concurrently with the Hawaiian archaeology photographic exhibit. My work on the photographic component of the Lapita exhibit involves detailed black-and-white photos of the decorated pottery and shell artifacts. These photos will also be reproduced in Professor Kirch's forthcoming book, The Lapita People, to be published by Basil Blackwell's.

I hope to end my two-year internship in spring semester 1996 with a practicum for archaeology graduate students covering artifact set-up shots, film development, and printing.

Welcome Rosemary Joyce

We are pleased to welcome archaeologist Rosemary Joyce, who has joined the Berkeley faculty in a double capacity: Rosemary has taken over as the new Director of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology for a five-year term, and she has also been appointed as an Associate Professor of Anthropology. First, the basics: Rosemary received her BA from Cornell, majoring in anthropology and archaeology. From there she went on to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where she received the PhD in 1985. Much of her dissertation has been published in her book, Cerro Palenque: Power and Identity on the Maya Periphery (1991). Rosemary comes to us after having been on the faculty at Harvard; when we were fortunate enough to lure her westward, she was both an Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department and an Assistant Curator in the Peabody Museum, where she had also served as the Assistant Director.

Rosemary has carried out extensive fieldwork in Honduras, and she plans to continue co-directing an archaeological field school there. In summer of 1995, this will be under the co-sponsorship of the Berkeley Summer Archaeology Field Program. Among the many aspects of prehistoric life in what some archaeologists mis-label as the "Maya periphery" region that Rosemary has addressed through fieldwork are settlement patterns, ballcourts, and residential compounds; she has carried out extensive ceramic analyses as well and has pioneered numerous survey methods for the region, including how to survey in banana plantations!

The publications and research that have resulted from Rosemary's careful scrutiny of Mesoamerican archaeology are far too numerous to be listed. Among her most recent papers is a 1993 article in Current Anthropology, "Women's Work: Images of Production and Reproduction in Pre-Hispanic Southern Central America." From just this title, one can glean some of her many special interests: art and iconography, gender, belief systems, social theory, household archaeology, and the study of 'complex societies'. Many of these interests are provocatively complementary to those of other archaeologists here at Berkeley, and numerous team-taught courses are being planned and scheduled.

While there is little doubt that Rosemary has brought an enthusiasm and a vision for the future of the Hearst Museum, she will simultaneously make significant contributions to archaeology at Berkeley. The ARF has already begun to work with the Hearst on a variety of projects of mutual concern, thanks to Rosemary's presence. Welcome Rosemary!

Archaeology and the Museum

Rosemary Joyce

Museums and archaeology seem to be a natural pairing to me. But then, they would; I have wanted to be an archaeologist since I was seven years old, and I spent a good part of my time weekends and summers involved in programs at the Buffalo Museum of Science before I went away to college. I did my first archaeological field work through a Museum of Science program, and spent months after our dig processing excavated materials. At the same time, however, most of what went on around the museum was not archaeological, or even anthropological; still, there was something fundamental that linked the two kinds of settings and activities for me.

One kind of link clearly lies in the relative muteness of objects in both settings. For me, archaeology is an intensively interpretive process; decisions to recognize some variation as indicative of past conditions are implicit parts of field practice, and decisions to examine museum objects from one perspective or another are made either consciously or unconsciously in all museum practice. The objects simply don't speak for themselves. Instead, both in field archaeology and in museum work in general, we are engaged in a wealth of strategies to create understandings of objects in their settings.

Museums provide a space in which the general public expects to find reliable information. A museum like the Hearst, set as it is within the University of California, has immense authority. Most discussions recognizing the existence of such authority conclude pessimistically that museums can only enforce a single point of view on a public seen as passive. Certainly, if we take our task to be providing simple objective statements of the real facts about other cultures and other times, museums are almost certainly doomed to foster passivity. But if we take as one of our tasks exposing the actual processes through which different interpretations are arrived at; if we take as one part of this task the challenge to acknowledge that multiple interpretations are possible; if we make the exploration of how we know as important as the exploration of what we know, museums can change the way people think about knowing cultures.

Here, I think, is the greatest opportunity in linking the museum and the archaeological community here at Berkeley. It is the undeniable physical existence of certain kinds of objects and settings made and used by people in the past that grounds archaeological interpretation. Museums are distinguished from other kinds of cultural institutions by holding and using physical collections. As an anthropology museum, the Hearst can create a distinctive identity by taking as a central concern the ways that human manipulations of material experience work. Anthropology museums have had an uneasy identity never quite certain whether they were second-rate art museums or historical societies of the distant past. The historical roots of anthropology museums in natural history, with the inherited storyline of evolutionary progress, has been uncomfortable. We are different from these other models, and have an extraordinary opportunity to redefine what a museum can be about.

By making the anthropology of specific aspects of everyday experience -cloth, food, and medicine- the focus of our traditional exhibitions, we will begin to address the central issues of how interpretations are grounded in material things. By moving into less traditional modes of dissemination made possible through technology, we can break down the barriers between research and exhibition, making multiple interpretations and the data they rest on available on CD ROMs with hypertext links. And I hope we will continue to do what museums have always done for archaeologists: provide them the opportunity to exercise their creativity by interrogating the wealth of previously excavated materials with new questions, using new techniques, framing new theoretical perspectives that gain much of their reality from the objects that anchor them.