Ground Penetrating Radar at the Molalla Encampment Site

During our six week stay in Grand Ronde for the FMIA field school, we each had to pick something that interested us for our leadership project. Students focused on the magnetometer, GPS, keeping the public informed of the project through the FMIA Facebook page, and more.  When I first started thinking about what my leadership project would be, I couldn’t decide because there were just too many topics I was interested in.  Then one of the FMIA TAs Ian suggested I focus on ground penetrating radar (GPR) for my leadership project and it seemed like the perfect topic.

First, I started to learn what the does and how it is used in archaeological survey.  The GPR consists of a radio antenna that, while it is dragged across the ground surface, sends radio waves into the ground.  The GPR’s data logger records the time it takes for a signal to be reflected back to the ground surface, measuring the depth and location of each reflected signal (Conyers 2012:28-31). The data logger shows this data in real time on the screen and also records the data to be downloaded and processed later. The Grand Ronde Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) owns a GSSI data logger and carriage with a 400 MHz antenna, which FMIA used as part of our low-impact archaeological methodology.  We were interested in using it to get an idea of what might be underground at the Molalla Encampment, one of the initial settlements on the Grand Ronde Reservation.

GPR grids molalla

FMIA 2016 Molalla Encampment site GPR grids

The Molalla Encampment site filmed from the north looking south. (Video Credit: Katy Leonard-Doll)

In order to do this, we split the Molalla Encampment site into 12 grids and operated the GPR over about five days.  We started by operating the GPR over 20 x 20 m grids but had to modify the dimensions of each grid based on the unique shape of the Molalla Encampment site.  Within each grid we ran the GPR in 0.5 m transects in order to get overlap of the antenna readings.  We also operated the GPR in a zig zag fashion moving north for one transect and then south for another.  When operating the GPR we needed a team of at least three people, one person as the operator and two people moving the tapes every 0.5 meters.  Our team rotated through these positions as we collected data for the 12 grids.  In the data logger we set the GPR to take readings one meter below the ground surface and set the scan unit (the number of reads per meter) to 50 so it would take a reading every two centimeters.  Each team member recorded information such as the file numbers, dimensions, and operational pattern for each grid in our notebooks to make sure we had that data backed up in case any was lost on the data logger.

FMIA 2016 student Katy Leonard-Doll operates the GPR at the Molalla Encampment site.(Video credit: Tiuana Cabillan)

Operating the GPR wasn’t too difficult but when it came to processing the data I had no idea where to begin. Briece Edwards, Senior Archaeologist for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, walked me through it.  He told me that when viewing the data it was a good idea to come with an idea of what you’re looking for but at the same time not making your eyes see something that isn’t there.  We started by looking at the raw (unprocessed data). Briece said he likes to look at the raw data because you get a picture of all the data before anything useful gets filtered out. With the unprocessed data we played around with different gains which shifts where the zero is up the scale, and the color transforms which change the colors of the grids to make certain data stand out. Also when viewing the raw data, we created a Super 3-D file which makes it possible to view multiple grids next to each other.  For example we created a Super 3-D file which included grids 02-06 and could see them all lined up on top of each other.  To see these grids transitions from the ground surface to one meter down we hit the animation button which slowly moves down the one meter depth centimeter by centimeter.  The bright colored data are referred to as anomalies which indicate where the radio waves hit something in the ground that had a different reading than the radio waves right before it.

Here is an example of an animated super 3-D file of GPR grids 2-13:

In the video, the cursor highlights some interesting anomalies.  In grid 5 (NW corner of grids) there is a straight line running east to west which Briece identified as a drain pipe. (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

Next, Briece showed me how to do the basic GPR data processing called “easy processing.”  The first step is to move the zero point of the data up and get rid of the surface grass area (which was about the top 18 cm of the data we collected) under the tab “time zero.”  The second step was under the “background removal” tab which filtered out data that wasn’t relevant to what we were looking for.  The next step was under the tab “test and apply filters” but we left the automatic settings alone because they worked for our purposes.  The fourth step or type of processing we used was called “migration” which allowed us to narrow a target in the data.  Once we did these “easy processing” steps we went back and looked at the grids in their 3-D mode again.  Once in this mode, we went to the properties menu and changed the transparency of the grids. This allows you to choose between showing all the depths stacked on top of one another or not which can make certain pieces of data stand out.  In this menu we also changed the background color of the grids from white to black to see if that made the data stand out more on the grids (Conyers 2012:40-43).  What I gathered from doing these easy processing steps is that it is mostly about making certain parts of the data stand out in their 3-D mode to better pinpoint interesting anomalies in the data to investigate further.

When looking at the GPR data, we were looking for right angles in the anomalies that could indicate a possible structure, and we were looking for anomalies that formed a circular feature that probably doesn’t form naturally.  Here are a few anomalies from the Molalla Encampment that Briece found interesting:

This data set is made up of grids 3 and 4.  In this video clip, the cursor highlights interesting anomalies in the NW corner of the grids as well as on the west side of the grids between the 50 and 80 meter markers.  (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

This second data set is of Molalla Encampment grids 9-11.  The cursor highlights an interesting curved line anomaly in the east side of grids 9 and 10.  The striping seen in grid 9 is probably from plowing or recent mowing of the area. (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

In the clips above there are some striping areas that upon first glance, I thought were an indication of strong anomalies but Briece told me that these are actually operator error probably from switching operators in the middle of a grid. Everyone operates the machine slightly differently and this can manifest in the data.

In addition to locating anomalies in the GPR data that are of interest, we used the GPR data in conjunction with other methodologies as part FMIA’s low impact archaeological approach, which emphasizes doing the least amount of harm while still gaining the most amount of knowledge.  By using other intensive geophysical survey methods such as gradiometry along with archival research and mapping we can narrow points of archaeological interest before disturbing the ground surface.  We can then find specific places of interest to eventually do surface collection or set up an excavation unit.  For instance, Briece and I noticed an interesting rectangular anomaly in the southwest corner of grid 4 and then looked to other data sets (e.g., gradiometry data, surface collection data, surface topography) to see if they too showed a possible point of interest as well.  We looked at the gradiometer data and saw that there was a large dipole in the same location as the GPR anomaly.  We also looked at an aerial photograph of the area from 1955 and zoomed in on the Molalla Encampment. We saw a few structures located on the site that are not present today.  We noticed that one of the structures is in the same vicinity as a rectangular anomaly in the GPR and dipole in the gradiometer data.

This GPR data set is from grids 2-4.  The first anomaly the cursor highlights in the SW corner of grid 4 and NW corner of grid 3 is the anomaly that corresponds with the gradiometer data as the aerial photograph.  (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

This is a zoomed-in video of the GPR data set grids 3 and 4 which better highlights the anomaly discussed above. (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)


This picture is of the gradiometer data set in the same location as the anomaly discussed above which can be seen here located along the west wall of the data set as a highlighted red anomaly.  (Photo Credit: Dr. Sara Gonzalez)


This is a zoomed-in aerial photograph of the Grand Ronde area from 1955. You can see the location of the previous Molalla Encampment site circled in red.  (Photo Credit: Briece Edwards and the Grand Ronde THPO archives)


Zooming in further, the red circle is the area of the anomaly we are interested in. A possible structure the GPR and gradiometer are picking up on is shown in blue.  (Photo Credit: Briece Edwards and Grand Ronde THPO archives).

There is no way to know for sure if the geophysical survey data points to the anomaly and dipole as this structure but this demonstrates how using different methodologies can help to locate points of interest before breaking the ground.  Now Briece, Dr. Gonzalez, University of Washington (UW) graduate student Ian Kretzler, and the tribe can decide whether this anomaly warrants further archaeological investigation.  Using this approach of comparing data from different methodologies while in the FMIA field school in Grand Ronde emphasized to me the value of using intensive geophysical survey methods along with other complementary methods to find specific points of interest not only to archaeologists but to the community who can then decide if excavation is desired or necessary.  Working with Dr. Gonzalez, Briece Edwards, and Ian Kretzler showed me how minimizing harm while maximizing the amount of information gained can be accomplished in a respectful and beneficial way and that something as technology-based as GPR can fit right in to that approach and its accompanying methodology.

Works Cited

Conyers, Lawrence                                                                                                                 2012 Interpreting Ground-penetrating Radar for Archaeology. Walnut Creek: Left Coast       Press.

The Molalla Encampment as a Food Forest

When ethnoecologist Dr. Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook came to visit FMIA at Grand Ronde, she led a wonderful plant walk around the edges of the Molalla Encampment Site and showed us all the edible plants that surround the site. I had no idea that so many edible and medicinal plants were so close to where we had been working for weeks. During the plant walk she mentioned that the Molalla site was a permaculture Food Forest, which are permanent agriculturally managed places where people have access to food. I became really interested in the concept of Food Forests.
According to the Permaculture Institute, Food Forests are designed to meet the needs of the community as well as produce a habitat beneficial for wildlife and increased ecological resilience and diversity. The website discussed how Food Forests are not necessarily “natural” but are specifically designed and managed. One of the goals of permaculture is to regenerate degraded landscapes to their former health. An example of permaculture put into practice is the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle, Washington. Their goals are similar to that of the Permaculture Institute in that they want to rehabilitate the local ecosystem while bringing the community together to grow their own food. The Beacon Hill Food Forest strives to follow permaculture methods while planning to plant for the needs of the diverse community. It also hopes to combine native plants with a mixture of other edible gardening plants.
Nisqually tribal member and Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Billy Frank Jr. also discusses the idea of Food Forests in his article Every Forest Once a Food Forest on Northwest Treaty Tribes. He discusses that for indigenous people, “all of Western Washington was once a food forest.” He also writes about how projects like the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle are important because they are trying to repair the landscape from a condition that doesn’t allow for natural food forests and first foods to thrive. He hopes these projects include plants that have long been used by indigenous communities.
The Molalla Encampment Site is similar to what Billy Frank Jr. describes. While it is a public place that is frequently used by campers attending Grand Ronde powwows, it is in a fairly natural area and produces a large variety of co-existing edible plants that need minimal management. With its meadow-like managed state, the site also provides a productive environment for plants and animals (Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook). Molalla also includes Indigenous plants as well as introduced plants. For example, the site has Indigenous plants like trailing blackberries, service berries, and native crab apples but also has introduced Himalayan blackberries and pear trees. It’s interesting to think about how long these plants have been growing around Molalla and who might have planted and used them in the past.
Working on the topic of edible and medicinal plants at the Molalla encampment showed me that every forest can be a Food Forest if you know what you’re looking for and how to use it. It has made me think even more about how resources are everywhere and occur naturally. I definitely will keep this in mind when looking at landscapes in the future.
Check out some of the edible/medicinal plants at the Molalla Encampment in the video below:

Works Cited
Beacon Food Forest
N.d. Beacon Food Forest Permaculture Project. Beacon Food Forest., accessed July 19, 2016.

Frank, Billy Jr
2016 Every Forest Once a Food Forest. Northwest Treaty Tribes: Protecting Natural Resources for Everyone., accessed July 19, 2016.

Lecompte-Mastenbrook, Joyce
2016 Molalla Encampment Site Plant Walk. Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology Field School.

Permaculture Institute
N.d. Permaculture Resources. Permaculture Institute., accessed July 19, 2016.

Archaeology Connecting to the Landscape


When I was looking around at archaeological field schools, the last thing I expected to find was a field course that included working with a community not only to learn about their stories and history but to do archaeology in a way that benefits them. So far the Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology field school has not only taught me a lot about archaeology, but also about the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde community. We have done site visits at least every week where we drive to tribal cultural landscapes and learn about their significance to Grand Ronde.

One of my favorite trips so far has been to Mount Hebo. We drove to the top and when we got there, the first thing I noticed was the view. Not only could we see the coastline features like Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach, but we could also see as many as six mountain peaks. In addition to the view, I really enjoyed visiting Mount Hebo because I got to learn so much about why people in the area came here in the past and continue to visit this amazing place today. Not only can you see important places on the landscape from this high viewpoint but there are also a lot of resources on Mount Hebo. When we were walking up we found wild strawberries, thimble berries, and mountain huckleberries. We talked about how Mount Hebo would have probably been a more temporary summer settlement as part of the seasonal rounds where people had access to resources such as trees, mountain animals, berries, and other summer mountain plants.

I thought this was very interesting because I had never looked at a landscape this intensely with so many layers. I love looking at and identifying different plants but thinking about them in a larger cultural context really started to bring everything together for me. It connected the landscape to the community and culture. It also prompted me to think about how archaeology can play a role in the landscape and working with communities through the archaeological approach called “Community-Based Participatory Research.” For example, in Sonya Atalay’s book Community-Based Participatory Research she defines community-based participatory research (CBPR) as an approach that involves communities meaningfully as equal partners and that uses multiple knowledge systems to construct knowledge (Atalay 2012:3-5). She also stresses the importance of CBPR for creating research that addresses the questions and needs of both archaeologists and communities. Framed as such, community-based archaeology is not solely focused on what archaeologists are interested in, but also what questions the community want answered (Atalay 2012:7). In Grand Ronde, we have been looking at the wider landscape through multiple knowledge systems to better understand the Grand Ronde community and their cultural traditions to inform our archaeology, allowing us to do better work that benefits everyone.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Mount Hebo as well as the other site visits we’ve done so far. I am excited to learn more as we continue to do site visits this summer. Learning about the landscape in a new and comprehensive way will stay with me long after this field school finishes in August.

Here is the link to Sonya Atalay’s blog at UMass Amherst:

Works Cited
Atalay, Sonya
2012 Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and       Local Communities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

About Me- Katy Leonard-Doll

My name is Katy Leonard-Doll and I am from a small town just about an hour south of Seattle, Washington at the base of Mount Rainier. I attended college at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) where I graduated this past spring and majored in Anthropology and minored in Religion and Global Studies with a concentration in Cultural Diversity and Transnational Movement. While I was at PLU, I not only took a lot of Anthropology classes but also took a lot of classes revolving around Indigenous cultures and religions in the Pacific Northwest and my senior project/capstone was titled “Northwest Coast Spindle Whorl Designs: A Makah and Stó:lō Comparative Analysis.” I hope to work for a NW tribe someday but in the mean time I plan on getting some first hand field work experience by being a part of this field school and then hopefully getting a Field Technician position. In a year or so I plan on attending grad school but want to narrow my interests before applying.

My interest in archaeology began when I was just four years old. I had taken my first plane ride to visit my great uncle and aunt in Colorado Springs and had never been out of the Pacific Northwest. I was fascinated with how dry and hot it was there in the summer and it was my goal to see a rattlesnake. Then one day we went on a “hike” (it was probably more like a short walk but at four it seemed like a big adventure. As I was walking I came across some old dried out deer bones and thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I wanted to take them home but my parents said no. Then later in our trip we went to Manitou Cliff Dwellings in Colorado and explored the in-wall dwellings and watched some of the shows; I was entranced. We then went to their gift shop and my parents told me I could pick one thing and I went straight for the book about fossils. I was hooked. After that I wanted to be a paleontologist and dig up dinosaur bones but when I was told that archaeologists dealt with the human past, I knew that was what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” Throughout middle school I switched between my desired careers multiple times but always came back to archaeology.

Another big interest of mine is traveling and I’ve had some of the best experiences while studying abroad. I got the opportunity to spend January 2014 in Neah Bay on the Makah reservation where I learned a lot about the Ozette wet site, Makah culture, and how those two interacted and still interact today. Dr. Dave Huelsbeck, Dean of Humanities at PLU who excavated at Ozette as a graduate student, headed this study abroad experience. It was interesting to not only learn from his experiences, but to see how he built a strong relationship with the community which allowed him to bring students to Neah Bay for over 20 years.

My most recent study abroad experience was to Trinidad and Tobago that is the southern most Caribbean Islands where I spent just under five months. This was such a great experience because I got to live and go to school in the community at the University of the West Indies. While there I also got the opportunity to learn the history and current cultural practices on these two unique islands who were colonized so many times. I got to participate in Trinidad’s Carnival as well as the East Indian Phagwa celebration. This trip not only broadened by horizons culturally but also helped me develop as a person.