The Hester site is located in a freshly plowed, modern agricultural field adjacent to a creek in a temperate grassland at an elevation of 60 feet above sea level. The general region is a mix of grassland and temperate deciduous forest. Unfortunately, plowing has disturbed many of the surface artifacts so it is difficult to see patterns initially. However, careful collection methods and subsequent plotting of artifact distributions reveal seven distinct clusters of artifacts generally associated with darker soil containing charcoal and charred bone fragments. These are taken to indicate the remains of separate structures situated around individual hearths, but no direct evidence (postholes, etc.) of structures remains. You have permission from the landowners to excavate at the site, but, due to time constraints, you are not able to excavate during this field season. The site is moderately sized at 580 square meters. Line Creek is located 75 meters north of the site and flows throughout the year as it is fed by many underground springs. The artifact density is remarkably high, soils at the site are extremely dark, and the organic preservation is surprisingly good.
Bone is present in large numbers but is fragmented. Some of the collected specimens have been identified, however, and they include white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, freshwater turtle, and gray fox. Freshwater mussel shells are common at the site, and much of the soil is speckled white with their fragments. You have also identified human remains in the form of a second molar and a distal phalange (toe bone); no other human remains have been identified.
Lithics are the most common artifact and include flakes and finished tools. Flakes are the most abundant, but projectile points and modified flake tools are also common. The projectile points date occupation of the site to roughly 1,200 to 800 YA. Unfortunately, obsidian is not available in this area, and all of the lithics are made of chert. Chert is more difficult to source, but you recognize the bluish gray variety, Swift River chert, which is only found 150 miles to the east. You also determine that five of the seven artifact clusters lack Swift River chert and contain only chert that appears to be local. The other two clusters contain a high percentage of non-local material and are larger so they are considered to be larger houses.
The site contains numerous remains of pottery, all of which are fragmentary. No complete vessels remain. You notice several distinct types of pottery based on the surfaces. The red ware has a smooth, polished surface that has had a red slip applied to change the color of the drab gray body clay. The cord-marked pottery has a roughened outer surface produced by pressing small twined cords or ropes of grass fiber into the wet clay before firing the pot. The complicated ware is marked by intricate incisions and punctuations carved into the wet clay during manufacture of the pottery. Some of the sherds of the complicated ware have this decoration only on the outer surface, some only on the interior lip, and some on both surfaces. The curvature of the rim sherds suggests that the red ware pots represented at the site are a roughly equal mix of vessels with broad and narrow openings. The cord-marked vessels all appear to have had moderate-sized openings, and the complicated ware is dominated by broad openings with only a few having narrow openings. The pottery fragments are clustered tightly around possible hearth features with very few sherds found in what was likely common areas of the site.
The groundstone artifacts are also clustered tightly around hearth features and are made of local sandstone. The most common groundstone artifacts at the site are deeply ground mortars, followed by cylindrical pestle fragments. Additionally, two grooved groundstone ax heads were found along with one grooved sandstone arrow-shaft straightener.
Your survey of the area found several similar sites from the same time period along Line Creek and Shelby Creek a few miles to the south. This site type appears to dominate in the area during this period in time. In forested uplands to the west and north, only two isolated projectile points date to the same time as the Hester Site. All other sites in the uplands appear to be older and composed solely of lithic flakes and projectile points.
The Ricegrass site is located in Crystal Lake Valley. This is a high desert environment that receives little precipitation during the summer. The site is located on the valley floor at an elevation of 4,500 feet above sea level. It is moderately sized at 700 square meters and contains a high concentration of artifacts, indicating either intensive occupation or consistent re-occupation. The site is located 15 meters from a small creek that flows out of the mountains and toward the east. While you were working at the site in late summer, the creek was nearly dry, but it most likely carries much more water during spring and early summer due to snow melt in the mountains.
You have documented five separate rock ring features that appear to be the remains of structures, possibly houses. Additionally, there are some smaller rock rings that likely represent storage features. The soil at the site is darker in color than the matrix off-site.
The relatively few projectile points found date the site to the late prehistorical period about 500 YA. There are numerous obsidian flakes and, fortunately, many are from distinct types of obsidian from the region that you can identify visually. Most of the flakes appear to be from the Dyer source, which is 75 miles to the south, but some are from the local Boonie source. There does not appear to be any differences in distribution of the obsidian sources at the site or between individual rock rings.
Pottery is present, and you have collected a small number of sherds from the surface.
More interesting, however, is a found cache of 12 whole pots. They are all similar in size, holding approximately 6 liters. Each pot flares upward from a fairly narrow base to a wide mouth at the top, generally forming a V-shaped cross-section. The pot walls are fairly thin, appear to be crudely made, and are similar to the pot sherds found. Their exterior surfaces are roughened but not decorated and are darker in color than the interior surfaces. The pots are completely empty aside from sand blown into them by the wind.
Other artifacts found at the site include a few beads made of marine shells from the Pacific coast far to the west and milling stones made from a dark-colored local basalt. The milling stones are relatively large and heavy and are distributed throughout the site with no apparent pattern. There are also several hearth features, some within the rock rings, and there is one large concentration of fire-cracked rock near one of the larger hearth features.
Unfortunately, you did not have a permit to excavate and were not able to investigate the features or collect samples from them.
During your survey of the valley, you found other sites in the uplands and on the valley floor, but few of those sites appear to have been as intensively occupied as the Ricegrass site. The sites in the mountains are somewhat smaller, have fewer features and rock rings, and are almost completely devoid of pottery. Most of the remains found at the sites on the valley floor are lithics—many flakes and a few projectile points. However, you found three sites near creeks that closely resemble the Ricegrass site but are not as large. Previous researchers have speculated about the possibility of prehistoric irrigation canals between some of the larger creeks, but so far, you have not discovered any.