Sketchup for archaeology

For my leadership project I worked with another field school student, Ellie, to create a 3-D model of Grand Ronde Agency School, one of the sites we investigated during field work. Sketchup ( is a free software developed by Trimble Navigation that can be downloaded on the internet and used for professional or personal projects. The program is catered towards industries like architecture, engineering, interior design, construction, urban planning, and gaming; however, we found it to be useful for archaeology as well for the ability to create renditions of archaeological sites and places.

After I downloaded the basic Sketchup software, there were a bunch of different add-ons that were available to download, some of which were free and some were a little pricey. We were able to get the job done using the free add-ons; however, we could have achieved greater detail with the more expensive add-ons. To recreate the schoolhouse the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Tribal Historic Preservation Office gave us access to historic photos of the Grand Ronde Agency School and an in depth report describing its architectural characteristics and history. Given the amount of information we had to work with, there was only a small amount of artistic interpretation in our re- creation.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 12.49.28 PM (Screenshot of our schoolhouse re- creation)

In the report I found that the Schoolhouse site was 800ft north off the intersection of Grand Ronde road and Highway 22. I was able to use Google Earth to find the actual aerial image of the schoolhouse site, which was very helpful! In the report I found documentation of the dimensions of the schoolhouses foundation. The schoolhouse actually consisted of four buildings: the schoolhouse, the kitchen, the gym, and the stage, the latter three which were additions to the original structure. I was able to compare the dimensions of the schoolhouses foundation from the report with the aerial photo from Google Earth, which was pretty awesome because it allowed me to build on top of the original foundation, which was photographed by Google Earth. From there Ellie and I began to build the school from foundations to the rooflines. We were unable to find the height of the building in the reports, but we were able to estimate the buildings height based on photos. There were a few photos with people standing in front of the building, so we used these people as a scale.

Our 3D re- creation was not perfect, but it definitely gave me a better understanding of the site of the schoolhouse as the building was demolished this past spring. The ability to view a 3 dimensional recreation of a site from different angles and perspectives helps us to get a deeper understanding of the site, and also facilitates the documentation, education, outreach, discussions, and preservation of this significant site for the Grand Ronde community.

Many technologies are created for other purposes, but prove to be extremely useful for archaeology. During our fieldwork at Grand Ronde we used a lot of technology that was not necessarily made specifically for archaeology. For example, we used a drone, compasses, maps, a GNSS receiver, a Total Station and Ground Penetrating Radar to survey the site; all of these tools have multi- purposes and were not created specifically for archaeology, but are extremely useful for archaeological purposes. This project helped me realize the importance of new technologies and how they might contribute to the documentation, conservation, education, outreach and understanding of future sites.



Just Scratching the Surface

When one imagines archaeology, many people think of deep pits filled with all kinds of whole or partially whole artifacts. I must admit that before this field school I had similar ideas about excavation, but after spending weeks in the field my view has changed for the better. Much of the work we have done involves what is called surface collection. This method of archaeology is known as a low impact form. This method of excavation has been of much greater importance as more researchers and communities focus on the preservation of sites not only through the artifacts, but also the land itself. This method involves the usual 1-meter by 1-meter units but with a slight twist. Due to dense ground cover at the schoolhouse site, it was not possible to identify artifacts at the surface. So this is where surface collection came into play. We do this by lifting the sod cover to the roots using shovels. When explaining this process to my friends, they questioned whether any artifacts would be there and if they would even be of much use if they were there. But in fact we have been finding much in the way of interesting artifacts. Due to natural forces of the shifting soils, there tends to be a fair amount of artifacts just on the surface, but not all artifacts are which is due to various factors such as deposition, human activity, etc. Through this method, we recovered materials from the recent building demolition such as fragments of wood, cement, and glass, as well as older objects, including bits of chalk, porcelain from a saucer, and even a small button. These artifacts could range in age from very young to possibly a century. All of this knowledge through material remains was collected by simply peeling back the grass. The other aspect of surface collection that I really enjoy is that it is a low impact method of excavation. Each surface collection unit requires removing only a few centimeters of sod, and when finished is backfilled to make sure that the impact upon the land is as minimal as we can make it. After using this method I have acquired a better understanding of ways in which researchers practice archaeology without large impact as well as the wealth of information that the surface can provide.

FMIA 2015: An Experience I Will Forever Cherish

I absolutely love camping and archaeology, so it was not a difficult decision for me to sign on to the FMIA trip to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. When I left I was full of excitement about what we would learn and accomplish through this experience, though I was not exactly sure what to expect when I would arrive. As a student of anthropology focusing on archaeology for the last two year501s at the University of Washington (UW), I have learned a lot about ethics, theory, and methodology within    classroom and lab settings, however, I had yet to apply any of what I have learned in the field. I truly believe there is no greater way to obtain knowledge than through application, and what I have taken from my experience living, learning, and working in Grand Ronde went above and beyond my expectations.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am very interested in landscape management past, present, and future. As it turned out, that interest was shared by Dave Harrelson, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, who was so kind as to provide additional related materials for me, such as The Role of Indigenous Burning in Land Man076agement (Kimmerer and Lake, 2001) and Preserving Native American Places (Cook, 2015), in addition to a wide variety of readings related directly to the Grand Ronde Community, including Eirik Thorsgard’s (2010) Digging for My Ancestors’ Things, references which I am continuing to learn from and enjoy now that I am back home in Bremerton, WA. Dave has a deep love for and a wealth of knowledge regarding forests and forestry practices, having spent a large part of his life working in the logging industry and as a US Forest Service Fire Fighter, and I am forever grateful that he was willing to put his time and effort into providing these resources to help further my education.
A great deal of knowledge regarding human perceptions of and connections to landscapes was also bestowed upon me thanks to Briece Edwards, Principle Archae500ologist for the tribe, concepts which he shows a greatly nuanced understanding, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent some time picking his brain about the subject. I feel that I have come away with a heightened awareness of not only the meanings of landscapes, but also how those meanings fluctuate across time, space, and both individual and shared experiences. Briece led many field trips over our five week stay, providing us with additional knowledge about the local area, serving to expand how we conceptualize both past and present associations between the land and the peoples indigenous to the Willamette Valley. The importance of understanding variable world views cannot be understated when practicing an indigenous archaeology and I feel that this was a deeply fundamental part of our education.
When I initially signed onto the FMIA summer trip, I knew that I would be in good hands with Professor Sara Gonzales, who I have been fortunate enough to have learned from while attending classes at UW. She is a wonderful teacher and overall charismatic person, and served us all w502ell through our education and fulfilling so many of our basic needs back at camp. She is very knowledgeable about indigenous archaeology practices and methodology, and cares very much about the communities that she serves, both indigenous and archaeological. Sara and her assistant, UW graduate student Ian Kretzler taught us to utilize a wide variety of associated technologies, more than I could have dreamed of when I signed on. We were very fortunate to have had full access to GPS, GPR, drone imaging, Total Stations, and Tough-books for processing in addition to our shovels, trowels, augers, and screening stations. Ian was also a pleasure to work with and learn from, he proved himself to be incredibly knowledgeable, and was also a blast to have at camp in the after hours where as a group we played a wide variety of games to pass the time. We were also incredibly fortunate to have had such amazing meals prepared for us each day by Alistair, Lloyd, and their amazing kitchen staff, who put a gre434at deal of thought and care into each and every one. Over a five week period, we never had the same dinner twice! In addition to the meals, they were absolutely wonderful folks to visit with when picking food up each day.
I couldn’t have hoped for a better team to be involved with than those who made up the FMIA 2015 field school. Each and every individual maintained a positive attitude and each came with their own unique skill-sets and interests. I feel that I learned something valuable from each person involved, and I am grateful for the friendships resulting from our trip to Grand Ronde. If given another opportunity to relive this experience, I would do it all over without hesitation.


Kimmerer, Robin Wall and Frank Kanawha Lake
2001 The Role of Indigenous Burning in Land Management. In Journal of Forestry. November: Pp. 36-41
Thorsgard, Eirik
2010 Digging for My Ancestors’ Things. In Being and Becoming Indigenous Archaeologists George Nicholas, ed. Walnut Creek, Left Coast Press.
Cook, William J.
2015 Preserving Native American Places: A Guide to Federal Laws and Policies that Help
Protect Cultural Resources and Sacred Sites. National Trust for Historic Preservation


The border between sunlight and shadow—these are important locations for ecosystems.  These borders have high levels of biodiversity, containing plants and animals that thrive in both light and darkness and those which thrive only in the demarcation between forest and meadow.

In the third week of field school, the FMIA team went to Fingerboard Prairie in the Willamette National Forest to investigate an ARPA violation that was a result of a Rainbow Family gathering at the site.  Some of the individual meadows in the Fingerboard Prairie are in rehabilitation, being managed by the Forest Service so they can remain or become meadows again.  Around the perimeter of the meadows, trees had been girdled in order to prevent them from continuing to encroach on the meadow.  These trees are now dead or dying and will fall into the meadow, adding space to the meadow and contributing to the richness of the soil.

The diversity present in the meadows was spectacular to behold for a student who spends most of her time in the Seattle Metropolitan area.  For me, biodiversity is seeing a different variety of toy dog, balcony gardens, and evergreens growing on the side of I-5 as I ride the bus to campus in the mornings.  Meadows are not simply empty spaces in the forest, nor do they only support grass.  Berry bushes grow in pools of sunshine, flowers draw honeybees into the meadow to pollenate all the flowers (and make Archaeology students nervous), and ferns nestle against tree trunks at the margins.  There were things to be mindful of; we were warned of poison oak, we were careful of our footing around some very large holes made by very small mountain beavers (which are not even beavers), and beneath many fallen logs lay mountains on ants.

Amongst the threats posed to this prairie, the most dangerous was the one which drew us, archaeologically, to the Fingerboard Prairie—Rainbow Family.  One of the first things pointed out to us as a danger were the poorly hidden latrines.  As we surveyed the damage done to the site, we were forced to stop accounting for all the garbage we encountered after approximately an hour due to sheer volume.  Fallen wood which would have enriched the soil was instead burned, either in personal campfires or in the large bonfire in the center of one of the meadows.  According to the Forest Service Archaeologist, Cara, the actions of the Rainbow Family significantly set back the efforts toward restoration of the forest.

For centuries, Native peoples in the region maintained meadows through judicious… judicious use of carefully controlled fire which kept the trees from invading, enriched the soil, and promoted the growth of pyrophilic plants.  The diversity itself was not the goal, but rather the variety of foods they provided, both faunal and floral; foods that were more numerous in a carefully maintained environment such as the meadows.

Meadows are important, both culturally and ecologically.  This applies specifically to Oregon in this situation, but across the Northwest and beyond.   They require maintenance as they are important and, ultimately, fragile spaces today and in the past.

Digging for an Answer

In light of all the new technologies available to archaeologists today, augering may seem to be a fairly dated technology. So why choose the laborious task of augering over the array of other methods and technologies at hand?

There are actually a variety of reasons that augering continues to be useful as an archaeological method. For example, it is particularly useful in low-visibility areas such as forests, where aerial photo and surface survey opportunities may be limited. Augering also gives us the ability to cover a wide area in a short time while revealing what is happening below ground level.

In order to attempt locating a known, though yet unidentified site of an Umpqua encampment dated to the mid-late 1800’s, we have enlisted the use of augering to help verify its location and test the validity of a map created by Lt. WB Hazen of the reservation in 1856. While many land features changed since Hazen created the map, the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) has used a combination of LiDAR and GIS imagery to pinpoint specific landforms where the encampment was likely to have been.

There are many who feel that augering is fairly invasive archaeological method, as it does churn up earth, and thus carries the potential for damage to a site and its artifacts or features. As a field project focused on minimally invasive techniques, why include augering as a methodological choice? This is a question that archaeologists must face in all of our chosen survey strategies and is often one of the most difficult to defend.

While augering does come with a certain set of downfalls, it ultimately helps decrease the need for larger excavations or test-trenches being dug, as augering gives us a quick snapshot of what is happening below the surface and allows us to move on from areas of low interest with as little damage as possible with the technologies currently at hand. Used in conjunction with the images and maps of the Umpqua encampment study area we were able to further narrow the area of our auger survey and use it as an alternative to other more invasive methods of site testing.

The augering method we have chosen for this particular location entails the use of as 20 centimeter (cm) diameter auger used to create test-holes 1 meter (m) deep from the surface. Every 20cm of depth from the surface, the soil picked up in the auger body is visually examined, the sample is contained, and further examination in a lab setting will follow. Lab based examination is done in order to detect inclusions such as small artifacts as well as faunal and floral remains that may not be readily visible to us in the field.

Each test hole is a minimum of 10m apart, covering a total area of about 60m x 100m. Once we have completed creating these test-holes, they will be mapped using Trimble GNSS Receivers in order to preserve the site-survey information. This information will serve to prevent needless augering of the same area in the future if the site remains unidentifiable once our initial survey is complete. If the site is identified through augering as hoped, we will have avoided enlisting the use of more invasive methodologies as previously described.

Last, and most importantly, this work will help to answer a variety of questions posed by the THPO regarding the historic Umpqua encampment site, such as where it is located, what activities took place there, and the ways in which Umpqua peoples relocated to the reservation began to make a new home and community for themselves. Answering the questions posed by the community most affected by archaeological research is the ultimate goal of all Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR), and one that we hope to meet in every aspect of the work that we do.