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"They say they don't go there because the old ones do not want anybody there. They will take your manhood if you go back once they've told you to stay away."
"'Take your manhood'? What is that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know, and I don't want to find out."
I like to be called Tina although my real name is Katherine Tatyana Johnson.
And something else before we even get started, I don't like the label 'Feminist Archeology' or 'Gyno-centric Anthropology' or anything like that.
I am an Archeologist-In-Training who specializes in the mundane aspects of life in prehistoric times. And that's it. Where others on a dig just see a pit of ash and partially burnt charcoal, I notice the impression in the middle of it where a cooking stone had been laid. To me, that speaks volumes of how the people lived. Especially when we find that very stone off to one side of the fire with burn marks on it. And I didn't want to be one of those 'classroom archeologists', I wanted to be in the field, working, digging, and while I knew I would probably have to write articles or teach classes to enable me to do the fieldwork, I was hoping that I could be on a team somewhere where there would be somebody else designated to do that part of it.
Throughout my school years I've always been fascinated by the past. In grade school I couldn't get enough of the stories of the Pilgrims. And then when I found out that the Vikings had been here before them, and that the oldest natives had been here while the glaciers were melting away. Like the ancient peoples around my home town, the idea that people had been using what was called the Traverse Corridor for thousands and thousands of years just amazed me. Even then, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I've still got a scrapbook of those articles that I collected in High School in Michigan. And I still look through them. Mostly to see just how wrong some of those theories were, no matter how widely accepted they were just before being disproven.
The further I went in college, the further back my interest went. Until finally I was standing with Doctor Reginald Smith in a hole in the ground in South Carolina looking at remnants of a settlement that might confirm that beings that we could easily call homo-sapiens lived there before the height of the last maximum glacial advance. Possibly a long time before.
The visiting scholar in charge of this phase of the project at the new dig, just downstream of the original Topper site, said the dates here were concurrent with those from the other site.
"And maybe, just maybe, a touch younger," Professor Charles said with his broad European accent.
"So there is no doubt that this is pre-Clovis," Reggie asked him.
"No. No doubt at all. This is even pre-pre-Clovis."
I crouched down in the pit and looked at the tiny fragments that they had left around their camp along the coastline. There were clear evidence of seashells and fish bones.
"They were following the retreating ocean down as the ice advanced north of here?" I asked him.
"Possibly," Professor Charles said, then he nodded to Reggie. "Your girl is quite sharp."
Reggie put a steadying hand on my shoulder to keep me from getting up too quickly, otherwise, the good Professor might have become an artifact in his own dig. "Yes, she is very sharp."
Then he realized what he had said, "I didn't mean to imply that a woman can't be a fully qualified archeologist. We have several in my own department that...." he never finished taking his foot out of his mouth and just walked over to another test trench. "Over here, we have the boundary layer between the chert and the sterile underlayment with a possible hearth excavation from the period through the boundary."
We were doing a continent-wide survey that had the potential to become a hemisphere-wide survey of similarities and differences between a large number of sites that claimed to be pre-Clovis. Our final paper would be a significant part of my doctoral thesis.
First, we'd gone to several well known and almost universally recognized locations where the so called "Clovis Point making culture" flourished. We saw their ubiquitous spear points and several other of their relics. We had measurements and photographs and even samples enough to write yet another book about the people who had for many years been assumed to be the first settlers of North America.
We were hoping our survey would be a major work that did the same thing, one way or the other, for the pre-Clovis culture. Our working premise had been decided on as that while there were several bands of humans throughout the region, they were independent and for the most part unconnected, not an actual culture as the Clovis groups were with regular contact and trade between them. When the later culture arose, it totally displaced the less sophisticated groups, and probably did so in short order. At least on the archeological timescale.
Reggie, that is Doctor Reginald Smith, was an expert on hunting tips, knives and scrapers. If it was used by ancient peoples to hunt and butcher animals, or even each other, he knew more than almost anybody else ever had about them. What stones they used, how they chipped away what they didn't want and then how it was finally put into service as a spear tip or as a hunting knife. That, and he was pretty handy at making them with stone-age implements as well. Good enough to where he had to engrave his name into the sides of the points and blades he made for demonstrations or accuracy tests so they couldn't be passed off to a museum as the real thing. Some of his work had even been used on TV to prove that you could kill a large animal with such a thing either being held and thrust at the target or thrown with an atlatl, and do so quite effectively as well.
I was there to look at everything else the people used. How they lived and what they did when they weren't making stone weapons, and how they died. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that I had been in more graves than any other twenty four year old woman in the country.
"But no burials," I said as we looked at the line in the dirt.
"No. We haven't found any period burials or actual human coprolites," Professor Charles answered. "This area isn't conducive to organic preservation."
"From what we've seen, that is typical almost everywhere."
Reggie took another photograph and nodded to the Professor, "Well, let us know if you find anything else."
"We'll let the world know if we find anything else," he said and shook our hands.
As we walked back to the rental car Reggie asked me the usual question, "Well? Is it or isn't it?"
"I think it is, but I'd like to see more datable material."
"And a body."
"Always," I nodded and got into the driver's seat.
"Where to now?" Reggie asked me as he got in.
"The hotel, then the airport," I said. I didn't have to see him to know he was glaring at me. "Then to Missouri."
"Oh, yeah. Big Ed."
We'd started at one of the best known Pre-Clovis sites in North America, the Meadowcroft Rock Shelter near Pittsburgh. It was there when I was in school that I watched one of my teachers become red-faced with anger when the tour guide mentioned that the twenty thousand years ago date made the site the oldest known evidence of human occupation on the continent, and was several thousand years before the Clovis culture spread.
"The Clovis people were the first humans to arrive over the Bering Land Bridge," my teacher said with an edge to her voice, "your dates are wrong and this site is just an aberration of a splinter group of that group." Mrs. Krendel was standing like she was scolding a misbehaving child in her classroom. "We have taught for years and years that it was the Clovis people who were the original Native Americans."
"The evidence from this and other sites like it indicate that those beliefs were wrong." The tour guide said.
From there, an argument ensued that ended with Mrs. Krendel walking out of the display area still saying something about speaking to somebody in charge about misleading the children.
The other students were upset that the guide had upset our teacher.
The others were. Me? I wanted to know more about the paleoindians they'd been arguing about. "What's different between the regular Clovis point and the non-fluted laciniate points you found here?" I asked.
And then several years later I was back as part of a research team speaking to one of the lead researchers and a couple of high school student assistants instead of a tour guide, about the very same thing.
"Just speaking from what I've done myself is that it is a different manufacturing technique," Reggie said. "Yes, you're still hitting one rock with another, but the striking angle and force is different."
We watched as Reggie demonstrated with one of the natural stones he bought in bulk from a quarry for just such a purpose. The impact sent a good sized chip flying.
The researcher picked up the chip, "we've seen a lot of these in the lower strata."
"If I did the whole piece like that it'd look like the pre-Clovis laciniate spear heads."
"The ones that look like a tree leaf," one of the students said as Reggie changed his hammer stone for a long piece of deer antler.
"And this," he aimed for an already partially worked side and hit the large spall of flint once, then again. The second time a very small chip went flying. "That's how the Clovis, and then the Gainey, finished their points. They'd start flintnapping it with the big whacks, then once they had the rough shape, they'd do it this way." He hit it again and produced another small flake.
"I'd never seen that done before," the other student said, then he looked at the researcher. "Not like somebody was actually trying to make an arrowhead."
"These were used for thousands of years before Native Americans had the bow. All true Clovis points are for spears to either be held and used like the pike was in the Roman army or to be thrown like a lance, although some have been found that were used as knives and scrapers as well."
The student looked at me like I had just told him there was no Santa.
"I'd never heard that before," the other one said.
Reggie fished in his rock bag, "this is one I did last year. It took me a couple of afternoons at a conference to finish it off from a rough chunk of agate that I'd fooled around with like this for awhile." He unwrapped a paper towel from around a couple of spear tips and handed one to them.
The finished point was beautiful, and sharp. "Wow," the student said.
"That's straight up Clovis style, this one isn't," he handed the student the other.
"See the difference?"
"That's why we look for things like those instead of things that may or may not have been worked by humans," the researcher said.
"But there's figurines and stuff in other places that are just as old as the things we have here," the other student said. "I was reading about the carved birds and animal head figure stones in Ohio, they're a lot older than anything we've found here."
Reggie looked at me, "This one's yours."
I sighed, then took a breath. "I know that Day's Knob in Ohio and a similar site in central Tennessee, and one or two elsewhere have produced a lot of interesting rocks. But most, if not all looked like what we call a geofact, something produced by nature herself, and possibly moved, such as a manuport, but not an artifact of human workmanship. Such as the famous Makapansgat pebble from Africa that was found..." I stopped in mid-thought. "I was making a speech again wasn't I?"
"It's OK," Reggie said.
The students looked at each other, "so those figures aren't real?" One of them asked me.
"Real, how?" I asked them, they shrugged and one of them shook their head. "If you mean that they might be a deliberate hoax, carved by somebody in the last twenty years and then buried out in a field only to be 'found' later," I even made the air quotes as I said it. "No, I don't think they've been faked like that, that's too easy to prove. But I do think they're a good example of pareidolia." I paused when I saw that the word was lost on them. "That's the phenomenon where people see a face in clouds or tree bark."
One of the other students was smiling at me. "Yes?" I said to him.
"You really do know all of this stuff. I just thought you were his girlfriend or something."
Reggie laughed out loud, "She's got a lot better taste than that."
The student's unthinking remark pointed out the one problem we had as a co-ed research team. One or the other of us wouldn't be taken seriously. Usually it was me. No matter what, unless whoever we were going to interview had been told ahead of time, they would assume that one of us was there to keep the other company. And it really didn't matter if the party we were going to see was a man or a woman. I proposed doing a side paper on it after the fact, but Reggie suggested that all it would do would be to ruffle even more feathers unnecessarily.
Instead, we just went with it until it came up, and sometimes, it never came up.
From what I got to see of Springfield, Missouri it looked like a nice town. But then Reggie was turning north and we were on our way to Stockton to go find another hole in a riverbank.
"North to Bolivar, then turn left on...," he said to me.
"Thirty. Two. West."
"Got it," he said, then he turned on the rental car's GPS and in a few minutes, it confirmed everything except where the hole in the riverbank was. For that, we were pretty much on our own with a faxed copy of directions and a hand drawn map that had been promised would make sense once we were on a county road north of Stockton.
Unlike our time in South Carolina when I was driving, I got to actually see the countryside of Missouri. I'd gotten to see Virginia too when we went to the new Cactus Hill dig not far from the original, but I missed most of Pennsylvania because when we were there, it was my turn to sign out the car and do most of the driving. Today, I was enjoying the scenery. "Look at the size of that farm, and all the cows," I said.
"They have cows in Missouri? Who would'a thunk it?"
It was still early enough that we went ahead out to the site and tried to find our contact.
We found the site, but no contact. Instead, there was a note taped to the gate post about how they weren't there and to call a number.
We turned around and headed back toward town, and once I had cell phone signal I called our contact and we made arrangements to meet there tomorrow.
"Well, now what?" Reggie asked me.
"Dinner then find the hotel?"
"Motel, and it's in Bolivar, back where we turned off the highway."
"OK. We're on our way."
That was Reggie. If it didn't involve a ten thousand year old stone knife, he really didn't care about it one way or the other.
Like with our clothes after spending a day slogging around in a muddy dig. He had been known to put that mess in his carry-on and take it back to the university where he was as liable as not to throw it away and start over. On this trip, on our last night wherever we were, I found a laundromat and washed everything except what we had on while he went through our notes and photos and cataloged them.
It was part of our division of labor, and sexist or not, it worked. Reggie was pretty good at translating our scribbled notes from the field and text messages and even audio clips into meaningful notes that went with the photographs, videos and other graphics; such as hand drawn or even topographical maps. I'd run a load or two of clothes caked with dried mud, usually after pulling thorns and other stuff off of them because, face it, most of the sites we went to weren't downtown next to a bus stop, and Reggie would do his thing with our information. And he'd ask me questions about stuff that he didn't understand. Like the photo of the blank wall of a survey trench when we were in Virginia.
I looked at it and I thought I remembered taking it, "I think that was the area where they said they'd seen the decomposition line of what used to be a wood floor."
"I don't see anything." He clicked a couple of pictures back, "that's the trench. But this," he clicked back to the picture, "is... what?"
"I don't know, just back it up and we'll look at it later."
We had a lot of stuff backed up on DVD and a multitude of flash drives. Whenever we stayed someplace that had a good internet connection, we took all three laptops, got them online, and sent everything back to campus.
Yes, we had three laptops, each with everything on it, and even then I'd spend a night once in awhile and burn it all to a disc and put it in my tote.
Some people may think we were obsessive with it, but we had a reason for it. When we were just getting our proposal for our trip together, we had everything on my laptop, and it had an accident.
We were in the grad student lounge trying to decide on a final presentation, whether we wanted it as a slide show or to go one step further and animate it to play with our narration when all of the sudden the alarm sounded and the sprinklers in the room went off scaring us half to death.
Somebody had put some popcorn in the microwave, and left it in way too long. As soon as it happened I grabbed my computer and we both ran out of the building coughing up popcorn smoke. But the damage was done. I turned my machine up on one end and water ran out of it. The department's computer guys were able to recover some of our files, and we were able to throw together a presentation for a day or two later. But from then on, we didn't rely on one machine that could fail and cost us days, or now, even months and many miles of work.
We each had our own laptop. Reggie's was a couple of years old, but was well worn and proven. Mine was brand new and still under warranty, the replacement for the machine the popcorn disaster had ruined. Our backup belonged to the department. It was a huge laptop with a number pad on the right hand side, but it was what they gave us, so we used it.
Going through the airport with two laptops in one laptop case caused security to have kittens almost every time we did it. But since they all worked, and we could prove that they were all in use, after they'd call for a supervisor and we explained what we were doing, they let us go. For some reason, they seemed to think that having one more computer than person was an unnatural act. But usually we didn't have to run like maniacs down the concourse, carrying our shoes and all of our other stuff, to catch our plane at the last minute. Not usually.
The only place to eat we found that we both agreed on was the bowling alley in Bolivar, we both thought their special sounded good, and it was someplace different after an endless string of fast food dinners and hotel breakfasts. But neither of us had gained any weight. The only thing I could figure was that we'd missed enough lunches being out in the field, or on airplanes, that we offset the rest of it and were holding our own that way.
As for the other travails of travel, I've lost more sunglasses than I want to think about and I've taken to buying two or three pairs of slip-on shoes at discount stores and just abandoning them when they get too dirty to revive in the shower. Reggie had lost a belt at an airport security screening when they didn't like his buckle, and his watch was now missing and he had no idea when he'd had it last.
The most important thing was our data, and we had mountains of data. And in the morning, after either yet another motel lobby or fast food place breakfast, we'd go out to the bank of the Sac River and find the visiting scholar who was working this season of the dig, Doctor Sondra Kee.
"Which one do you want to see first? The old site or the new site?" Doctor Kee asked us at the gate after we got out of the car and introduced ourselves to the woman in coveralls.
Before either of us could answer she held up her hands and smiled, "They're both old sites, if you know what I mean, but the one over on the creek is the newer excavation."
"We can start there if you want," Reggie answered.
"Well, we could, but I'd like to show you something we just found on the old site."
"OK, that's fine," I said.
"But if you want to see the new site, that's OK with me, too."
I exchanged a very meaningful glance with Reggie and we just stood there.
"Do you have everything you need?" She asked us. I held up a camera and Reggie had his notepad. "Well then, let's go see if they've got it out of the ground. Follow me."
Doctor Kee was a good bad example of somebody who knew their subject end to end, but lacked social skills.
According to Doctor Kee, they'd only recently expanded the dig into the lowest strata of the site, some twelve to fifteen feet below the current surface. "And no sooner than we get down into it than we found that."
'That' appeared to be another large anvil stone.
In case you aren't familiar with ancient work spaces, an anvil stone is exactly what it sounds like. A large stone, sometimes ranging up to what could easily be termed a boulder, that is either naturally formed or has been modified to serve as a work surface to do everything from brace a smaller stone that was being worked up to serving as a butchering table to hold slabs of meat that were being cut up, or to hold a bone that was then crushed with a large stone to allow the butcher to get to the marrow inside it. Many anvil stones showed evidence of hard use in their day, and this one was no exception. Somebody had hit it hard enough to leave marks in its upper surface that were still visible today, and on one side, that mark included a crack that ran down the side of the stone.
"That doesn't look like a natural event," I said as I got close and took a photo of the indentation and the crack.
"Not when that stone isn't from around here to begin with. We think that type of limestone came from about thirty miles from here. It's not local, that's for sure." The man doing the excavating around the stone said.
"Get a good shot of all of those flakes," Reggie said pointing at a small pile of flint chips next to the larger stone.
We checked out the other finds at the old site, all the way up to evidence of a possible early white settler doings near the surface along the bank. Then we went over to the new site just upstream.
"This site wasn't used nearly as much, possibly a side camp to the main gathering over there." One of the volunteers said to us.
"So what have you found?"
"Show them, Joe."
"We found some things we can't explain," the volunteer said and reached down to pull back a plastic sheet.
"I believe they are symbolic work, possibly an apprentice proving he has developed the skills he needs to make hunting points and scrapers," Doctor Kee said.
Joe pulled back the plastic and showed us the stones in question.
"Squares?" I asked.
"Yes, five of them, all of novaculite from just south of here." Doctor Kee said.
"I'm familiar with novaculite, it shows up all over the country in later sites. Have you dated this?"
"It's in the pre-Clovis strata, but we don't have a firm date on this context yet."
"I'd need a protractor to tell, but those look like ninety degree corners."
Joe the volunteer excavator nodded, "They are. Not all are squares, a couple of them are rectangles, but all the corners are ninety degrees."
"I'd believe one, but five?" Reggie looked at Doctor Kee. "And all of them right here."
"I can't explain it. Perhaps this was some sort of ritual site, but I can't explain it."
I looked at the small stone squares and took another picture. Then I noticed something in the flash that caught my eye. "May I?" I asked Joe and the Doctor.
I used his small trowel to make a line in the soil where I had seen the flash glint off something just beneath the surface. "There's something there." I drew another line a centimeter or so to one side of where I'd felt the tool touch, whatever it was. Then I ever so gently cleared the area until I could see it. "It's another flint."
"Let me see in situ," the excavator said and leaned over with a brush. He raked it across the area a couple of times and then I took another picture after about every other brushing of the object.
"That was it," I said as the flash reflected off the freshly exposed stone that was about a dozen centimeters on the top edge from corner to corner, which would make it larger than most of its cousins that had already been uncovered.
"I think it's another one."
"That's extraordinary," Doctor Kee said as we both worked to reveal the top edge of the ancient object.
"This one's in deep, standing on edge like it'd been thrown down into the ground," Joe said.
"Can I get some copies of your photos?" Doctor Kee asked us as we measured it a couple of different ways.
"Then after it's recorded go ahead and pull it out and mark the spot."
"I'll get a flag," Joe said, "you found it, you can do it." He said to me.
I used a hand towel to protect the ancient artifact from my hand, then I reached down and tried to pull the object straight up. It didn't budge.
We did some more digging, finally the new object came loose from its home for the last twelve thousand years or so, and I got a close up picture of it laying on a plastic grid marked out in centimeters. It was a rectangular hand axe or 'chopper' that was thicker on the bottom end that had been deeper in the ground than the top edge that had been partially sharpened. It was almost perfectly twice as long as it was tall, and one of the corners had been broken off at some point in its history.
There was no indication that it had been shaped to be attached to a handle so it was indeed a 'hand axe'.
"Well, Ms. Tina, you have added another chapter to our dig," Doctor Kee said, "thank you."
Joe looked up at Dr. Kee, "Now maybe we should get the crew back out here with the ground penetrating radar."
She scowled and said, "I'll see if they're free," then she walked away.
"She doesn't like using that sort of technology, she says it's not pure archeology." Joe said to us.
"It's just another tool. Like a trowel," Reggie said as he helped me up.
"That's what I've told her, but she's old school."
"Do you think she'll call them?"
"I'll make sure she does," Joe said and stuck his hand out to me, "thanks again. It was nice to meet you." Then he turned to Reggie, "Both of you." Joe looked back up the hill toward where Dr. Kee had gone. "I guess I'll walk you back up to HQ and buy you a cup of coffee."
In spite of her obvious displeasure with the technology, when we walked into the pavilion they'd set up to protect them from the sun and the occasional rain shower Doctor Kee was on a two-way radio with somebody somewhere, talking about bringing out a crew with the ground penetrating radar unit.
"Yes, I'd like them to run it at the new location," she said into the microphone.
In a moment there was an answer, "give me a minute to call them."
"Denny's monitoring?" Joe asked her.
"Yes, it's his turn."
"The students that can't come out for some reason do desk duty when we're here. As you noticed, these things are almost useless out here," he held up his cell phone and looked at it, "Ahh, one bar of signal."
"The wind's from the south," a man said from the other side of the tent.
"It makes a difference," Joe said and introduced us to the others in the tent.
Then there was an answer from the radio, "They can be up there in a couple of hours."
"Excellent," she answered.
"We'll run out and get lunch before they get here," Joe said, "what do you guys want?"
While they made the trip to town to get the food, we sat and watched a rough cut of the video that one of the students from the university was producing about the discovery and opening of the new site for an undergrad senior thesis.
When it was over Doctor Kee closed the video window and looked at us, "So, as the first outsiders to see it, what did you think?"
I glanced at Reggie and he at me.
"He was very careful to state that the idea that there were people here hunting and gathering before the Clovis culture began hadn't been totally confirmed yet," I said.
"And they haven't." Dr. Kee said. "That is all supposition. Some of the sites back east may have been contaminated."
"I see," Reggie said. "So who shot the video? Another student?"
By this time I knew Reggie well enough to know that he didn't care any more than I did about who did the camera work, but just wanted to change the subject.
The entire point of our work was to prove that the Pre-Clovis societies, and right now it seemed to be several different groups, were well established and had been in North America for a very long time before the Clovis era.
Something we both knew better than to mention to somebody like Doctor Kee who was still practicing the old orthodox beliefs.
We spent the next half hour or so looking at photos of other finds, most of which were from the Woodland period.
"Did you show them the Rebel stuff?" Joe asked when he walked in with a couple of large bags of sandwiches.
"Rebel stuff? You mean Confederate?"
"Yes, we found quite the camp right here where we set up our compound."
Doctor Kee nodded and opened a folder on the laptop and began showing us images of war artifacts. "One of the units of the Missouri State Guard that was involved in the Battle of Springfield stayed here for some time. We haven't been able to tell if it was before or after that campaign. Or indeed, even identify the unit, not yet."
The images showed a large collection of objects that indicated camp life in the 1860's. Buttons of various sorts, musket balls, some tin items, and so on. The primary indication that it was a Confederate outfit was that several of the US buttons that had been found had been intentionally defaced before being lost or cast off.
"What's odd is that depending on when they were here, the Southern unit might have been behind Union lines." Joe said.
"It is a fascinating bit of history that I intend to look into more thoroughly when we finish with the other."
"I agree," Reggie said looking at the image of a broken knife blade and almost drooling.
The underground survey crew arrived not long after lunch and we got to watch them slowly and methodically run the machine over the area where the chert squares had been.
As they sat up their equipment Reggie and I assisted the excavation team on documenting exactly where which item had been and then carefully removing it. Some of them hadn't been touched by human hands in tens of thousands of years, so no matter how careful we were, some of them began to flake away as we moved them and the inch or so of dirt that they were laying on, intact.
"Let's see what we can see."
They used the highest resolution setting the machine had, which gave us excellent images, but it took longer. But as they slowly moved it back and forth across the area, a three dimensional picture emerged on the monitors. One was looking down from the surface, the other was a cross section, when combined you could see what was down there.
"There's, what? Three more shapes there, and another over here," Joe said. "But that big one doesn't look square."
"It's round," the radar man said.
A little further over there were some that appeared to be random shapes, and then they came across a large hunting point just under the surface that when we dug it out was unfinished.
"This is clearly the same context as the main site, it appears to be the same major flood deposit the breaking stone is in, the layer is almost exactly the same thickness and consistency," one of the researchers said out of the blue as he measured and weighed the point.
I looked over at Doctor Kee. Her lips were compressed into a thin line as she stared at the ground where several students were sweeping away the dirt covering the other stones.
"So, you guys are all about the pre-Clovis era, what do you think?" Joe asked us.
Reggie had been helping uncover the round objects, "It looks like somebody was tired of making spear points."
Joe laughed at him. Then he stopped as he thought about it, "That might not be far from the truth."
It was late in the day when we helped them pack up and cover some of the active excavations.
"What are your conclusions of our sites?" Dr. Kee asked us.
I looked at Reggie, and Reggie looked at me, then he gestured for me to answer.
I did so, carefully, "I think these shapes represent a learning of how to better manipulate the stock to make their points. Maybe a transition phase to perfecting the Clovis style from earlier forms."
Reggie nodded, "yeah, that's what I was going to say. What do you think of it?"
"I think it may be a very early Clovis presence, before the style was fully developed," Dr. Kee said.
We spent the night back at the motel and then left for the airport in the morning.
Reggie drove for awhile in silence. Then he asked me what was bothering me.
I sighed, then answered. "How many like Doctor Kee are there? Ones who will deny the obvious even while they're looking at it. That breaking stone and the other things are a couple of thousand years before anything like Clovis was around." I said. "I mean, she is the lead investigator for this season and she won't even consider that there was a thriving society there before the Clovis people."
"She reminded you of that teacher again."
3. The Feed Lot?
We spent a couple of weeks back on campus, then we were off again.
"Where are we going again?" Reggie asked me as we got into the airport van.
"Isn't that in... Idaho?" he guessed.
"Oh, yeah, the Cougar Cave."
"Something like that, of all the sites on our list, this one has the thinnest basis for a claim. But I thought it'd be good to judge the others from."
"OK." Reggie answered.
As we walked out of the concourse we saw a student holding a sign over her head with our names on it standing next to a very well dressed elderly gentleman.
"Welcome to Montana," the man said shaking our hands, "I'm Saul Patterson, Professor of Archeology and Anthropology, Retired. And this is Mona, department intern and your assistant while you are here."
"It's good to meet you, I've heard a lot about your project."
"Nice to meet you, too," we answered.
"Baggage claim is this way," Mona said.
"We're sorry you traveled all this way for nothing," Mister Patterson said to us while we sat and waited for our luggage to arrive, "they closed the site again this morning."
"Who closed it? Why?"
"It's an ongoing stink between us and the First Peoples Protection League."
"The Indians?" Reggie asked him.
"No, the Crow consider the area sacred and they monitor what we're doing with their own archeologists, but they understand the importance and know that we respect both them and their ancestors. Their leadership is as curious about the ancients as we are."
"Then who is the First Peoples...."
"Activists. Most of them are from California, and most of them aren't even Native Americans."
"We've heard that kind of thing before."
Mister Patterson nodded, "But we do have some things to show you, and there's a small site that's not on either park or tribal land that we can still go to."
"OK, sounds good," Reggie answered.
It was my turn to drive, but they wouldn't let me drive. Mona's assignment as an intern was to haul us around in a van and do whatever odd jobs we needed done. While we were collecting our baggage I just happened to mention that my little travel bottle of hand cream was empty and she insisted on stopping by a store and going in with me to get it and anything else I needed.
In the store, Mona filled me in on everything that Mr. Patterson hadn't mentioned about the anti-research group's activities in the area. "They're just trying to get the government to abandon the national forest and give it back to the Indians and about half the politicians are in bed with them because they've got a lot of money to give to them for their campaigns."
"You don't sound like an archeology major." I said while we waited in line.
Mona smiled and laughed, "I'm not, I'm majoring in political science, but I needed the internship so, here I am."
The first thing Mister Patterson did was to take us to the campus and introduce us to everybody in the building. I'm usually pretty good with names, but I think we met everybody there that day, and it was all a blur.
We had dinner with Mister Patterson, who even though he had multiple doctoral degrees said that since he was retired, he was 'mister', and several of the other faculty from the department. But even though he had been officially retired for two years, he was still working in the department and was active in the research that was ongoing at the False Cougar and a couple of the other caves that had been inhabited in the far past.
"If you get to go out there, watch out for the bats," Doctor Williams the department chair cautioned us.
"Bats?" Reggie said looking at me with a grin.
"Bats. This area has some of the highest concentrations of bats in the country."
"Terrific," I said with all the sarcasm I could muster.
After dinner Mona took us to the guest rooms in one of the dorms and helped us get settled in like we were going to be here for a month instead of a couple of days. But after spending most of our time on the road having to fend for ourselves in a strange town, making due with what we could find in a convenience market in the middle of the night or even sharing a small rented RV for a couple of weeks, it was nice.
Our third trip out was to several sites in Nebraska and Kansas. So our department booking agent decided to rent us an RV to save money and make us more 'portable'.
Except she knew nothing about motor homes, and neither did either of us. We arrived at the airport in Omaha without any idea of what we were in for.
We decided to trade off sleeping on either the bunk over the front seats or on the dinette, or in the bed in the back. All in all, it wasn't bad once we got used to it. Although it looked like a billboard for the rental company and drove like a covered wagon. By the third night Reggie said he actually slept better in the overhead with its firmer mattress pad than he did in the bed, so he stayed up there. And we traveled all over western Nebraska and down into Kansas for three weeks.
It was nice not having to either change hotels or to drive an hour back to town, and at a couple of sites we were able to camp right there. We even learned how to take really, really quick showers so we didn't either run out of holding tank water or fill up the sewer tank.
In the end, I don't know if we actually saved anybody any money, but it was a great learning experience, and the one thing I learned was to really appreciate a full service hotel.
And a student assistant that knew everything about the town we were in, including where to get the best Thai food I'd had in ages. And considering we were in the middle of cowboy country, it was exceptional.
The food and the company were much better than the evidence from the False Cougar cave.
I had warned Reggie that what they had from that site was perhaps the weakest of all of the pre-Clovis sites that had been submitted to us to include in the study. And compared to what had been found at the Topper site in South Carolina or the ancient human feces from Oregon, they didn't have anything at all. But we looked at their stone chips, and listened to the account of other findings, and were polite.
But as far as supporting their claim that humans had lived there over fourteen thousand years ago, they didn't have much at all. But it was nice to see something in Montana besides the 'Anzick cathedral of Clovisism' as I'd heard it described.
Then Mister Patterson took us out to another site that he had been working off and on over the course of the last five years.
"It's not pre-Clovis, or even Clovis for that matter, but it's worth it, if nothing else, the restaurant up there is outstanding," he said as Mona drove up over some of the roughest but most scenic terrain in the country.
"What is it?" I asked him.
"The Feedlot or the site?"
"It's a place some friends of mine own. They found it when they were putting in a foundation and instead of just stripping it they moved their cabin. I've been working on it ever since," he paused and laughed at whatever memory that statement had triggered. Then he continued. "It's an Indian campground that was later used by settlers. And upstream is a mine that was dug back into the hill by somebody who had no idea what they were doing."
"How do you know he didn't?" Reggie asked.
"Because we found him."
After we stopped and Mister Patterson got out and unlocked a cattle gate, Mona drove up a road, then down a trail, across a creek, and then up what Mister Patterson called a 'wash'.
"And here we are."
Where we were was in the middle of nowhere, along the side of a hill next to a bend in the small creek. But we all knew that such locations were often more than they seemed. This one had shelter from the north wind next to the hill, while the water offered a chance to take game animals.
"That's the mine right there," he said and pointed to a metal gate from a fence secured to the hill with a chain and lock. "Give me a hand Reg and we'll take a look."
We had to crawl in on our hands and knees, but both Mister Patterson and Mona assured us that it was safe. I was relieved to see that they had installed new wood and steel bracing alongside the nearly hundred and fifty year old wooden beams.
Besides the unfortunate miner they'd recovered his tools, some mail that was with him that identified him as Preston Marks with a date of June 1873, and a lot of his other possessions that were a snapshot in time of one prospector in what was then the Montana Territory.
"That was between the gold rush and the big copper strikes. He probably thought he was going to hit it big and..." Mister Patterson's voice trailed off.
"It hit him." Reggie said softly as we looked at the outline of where they'd found his body.
"What was he digging for?"
"There's a little of everything around here. But just a little. And there's no ore vein here. Why he chose this place to put in his mine, I have no idea. There's no claim to this spot on record, he was wildcatting and it, backfired."
"What happened to his body?" I asked.
"After we did our examination we buried him in the county cemetery."
The other site wasn't as exciting to get in and out of, but it had the advantage that we could stand up and there wasn't the threat of a sudden cave-in. Every couple of years the stream had flooded and buried the spot in a fresh layer of almost sterile sand and clay, preserving everything that wasn't washed away right where it had been at the time.
"I've been able to locate the sources for most of the arrow and spear heads we've found. Most of them aren't local, that's for sure. The oldest layer even had an atlatl but it was with Folsom points so it wasn't one of yours. As for the white settlers, it seems like they'd move in, stay for awhile then move out. There's three different homesteads here from the middle 1860's through about 1930."
"All right here?" I asked.
"Well, in this immediate area. The newest spot is right over there." He pointed to the other side of the creek where we could see a grid laid out with stakes. "They're good sites for students to work to get the hang of an actual dig."
Lunch; however, was as good as promised, even though the name of the place was a little off putting to somebody from Michigan.
"Where are you going from here?" Mona asked us as we finished up.
"Wisconsin, to see some mammoth bones with butchering damage from over 13,000 years ago."
"Cool," she answered.
Mister Patterson nodded, "I've heard of that. Was it the one found at Mud Lake?"
"Mud? Lake?" Reggie said with his eyebrows raised as I nodded.
"Don't worry, what we want to see is in a museum," I told him.
On our way back to town we got a message from one of the officials with the Crow Nation that a couple of their Akbaalia wanted to see us.
"They said the man and the woman from the state of the lakes where we were from in the time before time," Mister Patterson said when he relayed the message, "we didn't tell the Crow where the visiting scholars were from or who they were." Then he laughed, "you get used to that when you deal with some of their traditional medicine people."
"You said they said the state of the lakes, I thought the Crow were a western tribe," I said.
"They started out back east years ago. A long time ago."
"But not That long ago," I said softly.
Reggie nodded, "the Plains Indians had arrowheads when they migrated back west."
"So what do the Crow want with us?"
Mister Patterson spoke to Mona, "Let's go find out, head down to Crow Agency."
If nothing else happened I was grateful for the chance to see more of the countryside. The endless rolling hills that gave way to mountains that seems to always be on the horizon. After having gotten used to being on the East Coast where there was always a house or a building of some type in view no matter where you were, I think we went for ten miles or more without seeing anything besides the landscape.
Finally Mona pulled off the highway and into the town that was the center of the Crow Nation.
We were met outside a community building by a man whose face looked like an Indian Warrior from a TV movie, except he was wearing a shirt and tie and a shiny watch.
After all the introductions Mister Cold Wind said that as far as he knew, nobody from the university had talked to the elders about us or why we were there. But out of the blue they had asked him to call Mister Patterson, who they did know, and ask him to bring his guests to see them.
"Our word for what they are and do is Akbaalia, it means healer, and medicine people, spirit talkers, and a few other things," Mister Cold Wind said. "His name is John Threshing Elk."
"What should we call him?" Reggie asked.
"The old woman who probably won't speak to you is Lady Owns A Horse. She is said to be a hundred years old, but we don't know for sure."
"Is it OK if Mona records what they say?" Mister Patterson said.
"Of course, just please, they do not like having a photo taken. Lady Owns A Horse says photos always make her look old."
We all looked at each other, then went in.
The two elders were sitting at a table. The man was dressed in a Western style cowboy shirt that looked at least as old as he was while the woman was wearing traditional robes with a blanket over her lap.
There was a brief round of more introductions, then the old man, John Threshing Elk, began to speak in sentences that sounded like he was singing, and Mister Cold Wind would translate them for us.
"Bassaassaa, bassaa biilapxuu biilapxuu Alaxchiia Ahu. Bassaa baashchiili..."
"A long, long ago, before the fathers of the fathers of Chief Plenty Coups. Before the White People came." He waited until the Elder said some more then he continued. "It is said our people lived in the time of the Great Freezing, with the animals of the thick fur. These were the old, old ones, the original Indians of the lands."
We sat and listened. It was a story of the beginning of human existence on this continent as handed down from the people who had lived it.
"Some of the Bilapiluutche, that's a lost band of the Crow called the Drying Beaver, moved north, away from the center of the tribe. Others went south, the Northern Beaver people left you a message with the Anihsinape Cree. In Canada."
Then he stopped.
"John Threshing Elk wants to know if you wish to ask him a question."
"Yes," I said and asked him what I'd been thinking about since we'd started this research. "Where did the ancient ones come from?"
The old man answered in English with a very heavy accent, "Even they did not know. They were just here."
Later, as we were getting ready to go, we thanked them and wished them well, then Lady Owns A Horse spoke to me in very soft but clear English.
"Your people do not dance around the fire in the circle any more. You should."
"I agree with you," I said not knowing what else to say.
"Beware of the Mannegishi and the Trickster," she said with rumbling in her voice. "But you should go North. Seek the vision of the old, old ones with the Nehilawe, the Cree. They will talk to you."
Outside Mister Cold Wind looked at me with tight eyes, "You do have Indian in you."
"My grandparents have always said so, but I don't know how much."
"She could see it."
Reggie nodded, "that old woman could probably see right through both of us."
"Yes, she could."
4. Go North Young Woman.
I couldn't get Lady Owns A Horse's words out of my head.
The entire time we were in Wisconsin I was hearing her words in my head.
Finally I had to call our sponsor and talk him into letting us go, finally he relented, possibly just in an effort to make me shut up and to get rid of me for awhile.
"Where are we going?" Reggie asked as we packed for what had a good chance of being a wild goose chase.
"Saskatchewan," I said.
"That's in Canada right?"
"You've got your passport don't you?"
"We both do, remember, we had to get it last year for that field trip to Gros Morne?"
"Oh, yeah." He nodded. "I'll go get it. So what are we doing there?"
"Going to Cyprus Hills Park."
"Oh, sounds nice. I'll be back, I've got to run over and get my.... Do you have...." He stopped in mid sentence when I showed him the envelope that had 'passport' written on it in red marker.
Like I've said before, unless it involves a stone knife, it's lost on Reggie.
Given that the department administrative assistant was on vacation her temporary replacement simply booked us another RV rental to pick up in Canada. Since very few of the parks roads were paved, she said she got us something that would handle it. Which seemed like a reasonable option considering that motel accommodations anywhere near our target area were very limited. The only problem was that she'd booked us a pickup truck with a slide in camper which had an even smaller living area than the tiny motor home we had last time. We decided that one of us would either sleep in the truck seat or we'd stop and buy a pup tent at the first store we saw.
Reggie wanted to drive from Regina to the park, so I let him. The one thing that struck me with the scenery was how different it was compared to the area around Billings which wasn't all that far south of here. This was glacial prairie and no mistake. And then after we turned off the Trans Canada Highway I saw the Cypress Hills and I almost started crying.
"What's wrong? Do you want me to stop up here?" Reggie asked me and started slowing down.
"No, no, I just feel like I've been here before," I stammered not knowing how to say it. Something that never happened to me. "It's like, deja vue. But different."
"OK, I'll keep going."
We drove through part of the park just looking around, then stopped at a visitor's center that promised to have an historical exhibit with a guided tour.
"Let's check it out," I said suddenly.
As was the way of these things, the guide was playing to the group that we had joined in mid tour. According to their name tags they were all from a community club from some town I'd never heard of in Alberta. We sort of blended in and smiled and nodded until they came to an exhibit of early First Nations material that had been found during the widening of a road and then at another nearby washout.
"What's the oldest in situ context for the objects?" I asked the tour guide.
She blinked at me, then one of the people off to one side in park staff shirts answered the question, "We've found artifacts at habitation levels dated to eight to nine thousand years before present. Why?"
"Professional interest," Reggie said.
"Oh? You're not with them are you?"
We let the tour through the visitor's center museum go on without us and spent the next hour in their conservation lab discussing the very oldest relics they'd found at both the Stampede site and a couple of other smaller digs both inside the park and on private land just outside of it.
Jacob Dawson was the assistant investigator working the latest excavation inside the park, and he was happy to show us what they'd found, "If you'd like to see where we found them we can meet you out there tomorrow morning," he said.
"Sure," we both answered immediately.
"Here, let me mark it on the map, it's not hard to find, you can camp in the staff area, it's not any quieter than the public areas, but its...." He trailed off trying to think of an advantage.
"The hot water is actually hot in the bathhouse," his partner finished for him.
We had a rather meager dinner from the supplies we had picked up in Regina after the rental guy told us that there wasn't anything but water and propane in the camper.
All in all, it wasn't that bad of a night once we got used to one or the other of us having to sit in the dinette whenever the other wanted to get something. Reggie slept in the overhead bunk and I slept on the dinette and we were both grateful to see the morning.
Breakfast was more of an idea than an actual meal, but it got us going and before long we were driving down another all but unmarked gravel road looking for the small sign they said indicated where we should pull off and park to walk down to the latest dig along the stream.
Jake, as he insisted we call him, was waiting for us there sitting on the tailgate of a park truck.
"Goodday, eh!" He said in Canadian-speak with a laugh. "I always feel like I have to say that at least once to everybody."
"Good day," we answered.
"I didn't know if you'd had breakfast so I picked these up on my way in. They're not a proper Tim Horton's 'bagel-belt', but they'll do in a pinch." He handed us wrapped sandwiches that were still warm and cups of coffee. "And I didn't know what you take in it, so there's stuff over there in the bag."
"You just became my favorite person in Canada," Reggie said.
He laughed and told us that his helper, Bobby, was already down at the site uncovering everything. We ate quickly, then carried our coffee down the trail to the dig.
"This site appears to be one of the first occupied areas in this part of Canada as the last ice sheet retreated and the glacial lakes drained," Jake said. "We're about at the western edge of the Wisconsin ice sheet, and southeast of the Cordilleran. So when the ice retreated, everything south of here moved this way to the freshly exposed land."
"When was that?"
"There's some discussion about that, but it was probably between seven and nine thousand years ago although there's some that claim that other sites have artifacts from between periods of glacial advance."
"So the oldest you have here is younger than what's been found down south." I surmised.
"Yeah, there's no doubt."
"What about the ice free corridor?" Reggie said.
"Personally, and if you repeat this I'll deny every word of it...." He stopped walking and looked at us.
"OK," We agreed.
"I think that's a crock. If it was free of ice most of it would have been under fifty meters of freezing water or mud up to your eyes."
We could hear the music from Bobby's radio before we could see anything of the dig. Then we stepped through a thicket of bushes and there it was next to an outcrop of the bluffs above us.
Most of the other archeological sites we'd been to had been under excavation by teams for some time. Even the smallest had been worked repeatedly by organized groups over the course of several years. Here, the site had been excavated by Jake and Bobby, and Bobby's girlfriend, and a couple of others 'once in awhile' for the last three weeks or so.
"So, you here to talk or to dig?" Jake asked us as Bobby unlocked a small metal shed.
"Both?" I said with a grin.
"Good. We were working over there."
If there had been any question that me and Reggie were working archeologists we should have settled that question that day.
We replaced their string grid and cleared layer after layer of 'modern' silt layers until we got to the strata that had been put down about five thousand years ago, then we slowed down and took our time.
"There it is," Reggie said as he scraped away another centimeter of dirt. "We have charcoal."
Then it got interesting.
Just after noon Bobby's girlfriend, Cynthia, showed up with lunch and some basic supplies for us because Bobby had told her we were ill prepared, so we took a break and Reggie tried to give her the last of our Canadian money.
"They've gotten more done this morning than you have in the last month," she said after refusing the money.
"They know what they're doing," Bobby said, "when I started doing this, I thought you just dug a hole to see what was down there."
"When did you start?" I asked him.
"About a month ago, right over there," he pointed.
By the end of the day we'd cleared two new grid squares down to the level where they'd found the artifacts along the creek and we found a good selection of artifacts from the time. But they all appeared to be Clovis-era or thereabouts with the style of flint-napping and one we found with the trademark fluting.
"Our stuff would be down another meter or so."
"What are you doing tomorrow?" Jake asked us. "I'm game if you are. We'll get out here early again and take those two squares down as far as you want to go."
I looked at Reggie and he nodded. But then he grinned and looked at Jake with a sly look in his eye, "You got a backhoe?"
With Cynthia's supplies tonight's dinner was a lot better than last night's, and the dinette bunk was a lot more comfortable than it had been the previous night. Either that or we were just really hungry and tired.
And we really enjoyed the hot water in the campground the staff used, which I found out was also open to the public, but was the one most of them used because it was the one most central to the rest of the park, and the one furthest from the entrance roads so it was the least busy.
Morning wasn't fun, but we got up and packed what we had to so we could drive back to the dig.
"Did you unplug the electric?" I asked Reggie as we got into the cab because we almost forgot to do that yesterday.
He put the cord on the seat, "Yes, dear."
Reggie had another set of sandwiches for us, and more coffee. "So what do you think of our cafe?" He asked us as we ate.
"Not bad at all."
"Before you guys leave I want to take you out for a proper dinner at the Inn."
"You're on," Reggie said.
Once we were sure we were through the strata with the human artifacts, we got serious about digging deeper. But we still screened every shovelful of dirt and checked the area for anything of interest before and after every scoop.
We didn't find anything for at least another meter of depth, but then the strata changed from a clay-ish silt to sand.
"That's what we want to see," Jake said, "let's take it easy and see what we've got."
We dug through a lot of sterile sand and then Bobby yelled and whistled.
"Bingo," I said when I saw what he saw. "That's better than finding gold."
"Gold pays better, but I'll take it." Jake said while I took a picture of what was a good handful of chert flakes around several spall sized rocks.
"We are one point three meters below the Clovis layer. Give or take," Reggie said doing the measurements.
"I'd love to have a date on that charcoal you found yesterday, but we won't get that back for awhile yet. But if I had to guess...."
"And you do," I said to him to prompt him to say something.
"Well, I will." He sat back and looked at the flakes that Bobby continued to expose with his brush, then he looked at the cut in the side of the trench we'd been working. "Nine, nine five."
"During the ice melt."
"Yeah. They weren't supposed to be here."
Me and Reggie nodded at each other, "We've heard that a lot."
5. The Spirit Wind Canyon Vision
At the end of the day we followed Jake's truck back to the campground where we met Bobby and Cynthia who had left early on a dinner run.
We were all filthy, but the food was good and the company was excellent and we celebrated our success with a buffet of carry out food that included something that Jake said he'd forced the cafe to have on the menu just for him.
"This almost forced Quebec to become a separate country," he said.
"What is it?" Reggie said looking at the large container suspiciously.
"Poutine," I said, "You've had it before. I know I did when we were in New Brunswick."
"Poutine," he repeated and shook his head.
"It's the French word for 'mess'," Bobby said, "or it should be. But it's a good hot mess." He put a large pile of the cheese and gravy covered fries on his plate next to a piece of chicken.
"It's the least healthy thing on any menu since it's mostly salt and grease, but I like them." Cynthia added. "I got two large orders." She patted another container still closed up in a bag.
Reggie finally tried them, and it was a good thing she'd bought two large orders.
After dinner they left to go home and me and Reggie took quick showers and put on the last of our clean clothes to relax a little before turning in.
For some reason I wanted to go for a walk and just see a bit more of the park.
Fate. That's all it could have been.
As we were walking I looked up at the ridge above the trail I heard Lady Owns A Horse's voice again.
"Stay here, I want to go look at that," I said to Reggie looking up at a cleft in the line of the hill. "That might be the Spirit Wind Canyon."
I don't know how far I walked off the trail.
I don't know how I found the narrow fault line in the rocks.
And I don't know how I got into it or how far back I walked following whatever I was following.
But all of the sudden it was dark, and I was down in some steep and narrow crack in the rock and I didn't even have a flashlight with me.
There was a small trickle of water coming down the face of the rock so while I could still see, I refilled the bottle of water I had been carrying with it. Then I tried to keep calm and find someplace to sit and wait out the night.
I don't remember falling asleep, in fact, I don't think I did. But nevertheless, I had the most vivid dream of my life.
I heard a woman's voice that reminded me of Lady Owns A Horse, but older, if that were possible, even deeper, and absolutely full of wisdom.
"We keep the others out. We use the fear to unman them. But you are of us," the old woman said. "We will show you, us."
Then I saw a village that looked like a living history museum, but I knew it was real. Except it couldn't have been.
There was a small stream running along a hill with a couple of styles of small low buildings made of branches and animal hides clustered around a central fire. The people were doing all the chores that needed to be done, segregated by sex and age.
I could see their secret societies where the oldest men asked the spirits for success and safety for the younger men in the hunt while the women sought ease and health in childbirth and to cure illnesses and injuries in the tribe.
"The women were deeply involved in the mystery of life, and death, and the men were about the mystery of living," I heard the voice say. "They each had their own magic way."
I watched two men carry a young man that had died out of one of the huts and into the forest. I followed them without moving, then they were joined by a group of women. The men left the young man that I could see had been bitten by a snake in a clearing and returned to the village.
And I understood more than the voice said. The old women dealt with the dead because they were no longer part of the mystery of life, they'd take a young girl who hadn't started menstruating yet because she's not part of the mystery of life yet. Together they would prepare the dead to join the spirit world.
"That is why we haven't found a burial, they left them in the elements," my conscious mind said to me and the voice.
"They returned their dead to the physical world and the spirit to the other world," the voice said in answer.
I watched them hunt a herd of deer that looked like a cross between a pronghorn and an elk.
Two of the hunters were concealed in the thick grass as several others drove the herd toward them. Then at just the right time the two jumped up using their spears with both hands to stab the closest animals from underneath and then continuing to lift and thrust with their shoulder muscles to knock the deer off its feet. Then they'd fall on the wounded animal and finish it off.
"Reggie will love to hear that," my academic mind said to the vision.
I blinked and looked around, it was almost daybreak. I could see just well enough to walk down the way I had come and find my way out.
But then I stopped and looked back at the dream world that I could still almost see.
"Thank you," I said to them.
I don't know if I saw it or not, but somewhere a very old woman bowed her head to me.
I walked out of the canyon and followed the tiny stream down until it went into a culvert under a trail, then I followed that until I saw a couple of rangers on horseback.
"You Tina?" One of them asked me.
He got on his radio and told somebody that they'd found me and that I was OK.
6. Reggie meets Shepherdia Argentea.
It took me some time to piece together everything that happened that night out in the park.
Reggie had spent some time looking for me, then he ran back to the campsite, and not knowing what else to do, he drove until he found a ranger. The ranger listened to his story, then called a native guide to find out where the Spirit Wind Canyon was.
Reggie said the ranger listened to the answer for a long time, then he hung up and looked at Reggie with a frown. "They say they don't go there because the old ones do not want anybody there. They will take your manhood if you go back once they've told you to stay away."
"'Take your manhood'? What is that supposed to mean? She's a woman."
"I don't know, and I don't want to find out."
Reggie was beside himself, "What are we going to do?"
"We'll wait until morning and then we'll go find her. Or, most likely, she'll find us."
Reggie didn't like that answer, so he spent the night driving around, and walking up and down trials near where I'd gone off into the hills, looking and shouting and getting lost a couple of times.
At first light the rangers started out by finding the camper truck, then they found Reggie wandering down a trail exhausted and looking like he'd spent the night lost in a canyon. So one rescue party took him and the pickup to the first aid office at the ranger station while the others deployed in various directions, including Jake and Bobby who climbed to the top of the ridge, all looking for me.
Compared to Reggie, I was fine.
"I gave up about midnight and slept for about two hours in the front seat, then I went out looking again," he said while the nurse pulled thorns out of his shoulder where he'd gotten too close to a bush that didn't like him.
"You're going to need a tetanus shot when you get home, and watch these for infection," she said and put another bandage on him.
All I could say was, "I was fine."
"I don't know," I looked at him and felt like I saw him for the first time in my life. "But I think I understand the old ones a little more than I did before.
Reggie didn't even pretend to understand, "You can tell me about it when we get out of here."
"You're done," the nurse said to him, then she looked at me. "And you're sure you're OK?"
"I need a bath and some breakfast, but I'm OK."
"I can't help you with either of those, but make sure your friend sees his doctor when he gets home."
"Yes, ma'am. I'll take him to the campus clinic as soon as we get back."
Jake and Bobby and Cynthia were waiting outside for us.
"Wait a minute, she was lost and you're the one that needed rescued," Bobby said to us.
"I could show you that bush."
"What did the thorns look like?" Jake asked us.
"I didn't see them, I just felt them."
I laughed and handed Jake one of the ones the nurse had pulled out of his shirt.
"Buffaloberry," Jake said, "they can be nasty."
"Very nasty, but the berries make good jam." Cynthia added.
"Trust me, it wouldn't be worth it," Reggie said honestly.
"Let's go get some breakfast and you can tell us why you went up there to begin with. I've heard stories about Spirit Wind Canyon, and we did some scouting up there, but I've never spent the night."
"Why not?" I asked him.
Jake's lips got tight, then he sighed, "Well, it bothered me being in there, it was like I didn't belong there."
I nodded, "You didn't."
The cafe was crowded so we took our breakfast out and sat at the dinette in the camper and I told them about the vision as much as I could. And it was my idea to record it while it was still fresh in my mind because I was afraid I'd forget some of the nuances of it as time went by.
It already seemed far away while I explained to them that it was the old women of the ancient society that had kept the mystery alive for ages and ages, "but finally it just died out. Little by little, it was forgotten. The work the men did was kept alive because it was active and passed on from hunter to hunter with every changing of the seasons as the animals migrated and what they were looking for changed. But sometimes the women's rituals would go for a year or more without being acted out. And gaps opened up in the story."
"That's a shame," Cynthia said.
"Yes. It is," Jake said. "But do you believe the vision?"
"You should meet Lady Owns A Horse," I said.
"I've met the Cree version of her, that was enough for one lifetime."
"So, now what?" Bobby asked us.
"There's no way I can sleep now," I said, "let's go back down and finish up at your dig."
"You dig, I'll sleep," Reggie said, then he looked at the size of the cup of coffee that he'd just finished his second one of. "On second thought, digging is probably a good idea."
We drove out to the parking area and walked down the trail to the site.
The plan was to close the area up for the season to give them time to catalog all of the new finds and begin work on a proposal to conduct a larger formal excavation of the site.
But I had other ideas, "One armspan from the creek." I said looking at where we'd found the prehistoric bank. I sat down at the exposed edge of it and looked behind me. "About there."
"Where their women would work the leather."
I didn't answer but instead started digging with my bare hands. I didn't find anything immediately, but a couple of feet over from where I started I found a small, woman sized scraper and hammer stone and the shadowy remains of several sticks that I knew had been used to stretch the leather.
"We weren't supposed to be digging this morning," Jake said taking a picture while Reggie marked the map of the site with their locations.
"I'll put them back if you want."
"No, no, it's OK. It just shows that we need to widen the dig."
And so began what I have come to call 'my life after the vision'.
But at least now I didn't hear Lady Owns A Horse in my head all the time.
I'm not sure which was worse.
7. How do you list a vision as a source in a doctoral thesis?
Our last site visit was to a new location in southern Texas where the excavation for a basement for an apartment building exposed several layers of an ancient camp.
Usually when something like this happens the contractor stands over the archeologists and demands they hurry up because time is money and they're paying the work crew to sit around and drink coffee while the scientists gently sweep sand away from a piece of pottery.
In this case, the builder simply moved his crew down the road and said they had all the time they needed to do what needed to be done. It was a good thing they felt that way because the more the crew dug just south of Corpus Christi, the more they found. But the amazing thing about it all was that the newest layers dated to about a thousand years before the oldest known Clovis site.
Doctor Stringfellow was one of the most remarkable personalities we had encountered over the whole process of our research. Most remarkable living person I have to add now. He just made you feel good being around him. And he was a good scientist as well. "The site is huge, this is easily the largest settlement found from around ten thousand BC so far that I've ever heard of," he said.
"BC? Before Christ?" Reggie asked.
"Yeah, I like the traditional way of dating stuff. 'Before Common Era' just sounds silly to me." He pointed to a dark band broken up with sand that marked the ancient shoreline. "Alazan Bay used to be over there, and there was something of a bayou off of it right through here. But since it has all silted up, and they moved out." He handed me a clipboard, "Those are the dates we've gotten with optical luminance, C-14, radiometrics... if you can think of a technique we've missed, let me know and we'll hook it up."
"'K-Ar date of 14.5 - 15.3 before present from level three, two confirmations, awaiting results from Pitt.'" I read from about the middle of the sheet. "You've been really thorough."
"And we've got two working levels below that. I knew going in the can of worms we'd be opening if this really was what it looked like."
"So where do you come down on the whole 'Clovis First' thing?" Reggie asked him while I crouched on the ground of the ancient shoreline and stared at the dirt.
"I was one of its evangelists for years. I wrote chapters for Texas middle school textbooks about how they were the true first Americans with their special spear points. I was wrong. Now I've got to re-write those chapters." He laughed at his own statement, "which means I'll get paid again."
"I need a tarp and a black light." I said to the silence after his comment.
"No problem," Doctor Stringfellow said, then he turned to his ever present student assistant. "There should be at least one in the trunk of my car, and some spare batteries, I haven't used it since we were at Old Cahawba. In the big box."
"Got it," the student said and actually ran toward the parking area.
"Old what?" Reggie asked him.
"Cahawba, the first capitol of Alabama."
"You should get away from rocks more, that's a great site, a lot of forgotten history down there. Once you get passed the mosquitoes," I said remembering all the swatting I did as an undergrad one summer down there.
"I'll take your word for it," Reggie answered, "I like my rocks."
We huddled under the tarp and I waited for their eyes to adjust, then I turned on the two black light flashlights the student had retrieved for us. "There," I pointed to a series of footprints just visible as differentiated areas of the ancient surface under the UV light.
"Looks like two sets of prints. How did you see those?"
"I... ah," I started to say.
Reggie cut me off. "You probably don't want to know," he said to Doctor Stringfellow who was taking video of the glowing marks that showed a well defined arch and several toes.
"No, I do."
"I didn't exactly 'see' them. I, sort of, I don't know, felt them."
"Told you," Reggie snickered.
Doctor Stringfellow had the track way cordoned off and ordered a full excavation 'with kid gloves' as he put it. "Speaking of rocks... Now that you've given us definitive proof that people were here. How would you like to see some?"
This was still Reggie's bailiwick. He evaluated the flakes and the artifacts itself, then he showed them how several smaller pieces and two larger ones could be put back together exactly to make the original stock stone that they ancient workman had started with. "And what is missing," he outlined a good sized section in the air with his finger, "is what they wanted and probably finished working up into whatever they were making."
While he talked to Doctor Stringfellow and one Miss Griffin who was his 'rock hound' as he called her, I sat off to one side in the pole building their headquarters was in and thought about how I knew the tracks were there.
I hadn't seen them. Not with my eyes, but I knew they were there. To say I 'felt it' wasn't using the right term. It wasn't an emotional connection with ten thousand year old muddy footprints, it was deeper than that. And no, I didn't believe for a minute that I was the reincarnation of whoever had walked along the bayou so long ago. But then again, I had known that something that hadn't been seen since the high tide on that bayou that day was there. Just like the scraper and hammer stone in Canada.
"Hey, Miss Mystic Seer," Reggie said, "they said lunch is here."
"Please, join us," Doctor Stringfellow said to me with an extended hand.
I blinked myself back to reality and nodded.
"So, what were you thinking about?" Doctor Stringfellow asked me.
I decided to be honest. "About how to credit an ancient vision as a source on a doctoral thesis."
[NOTE: No Ancient Peoples were harmed in the writing of this story. While all archeological sites really exist or can be reasonably inferred to exist, all characters are FICTIONAL. Overall this Piece Is A FICTIONAL STORY, enjoy it as such.
Thank You the Author. ]
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