National Geographic : 1964 Feb
Sounds move toward us-voices, the crack ling of dead brush underfoot. A line of men comes through the woods. They are about 50 feet apart, their eyes sweeping back and forth, each man to his allotted section. A call comes from the end of the line: "Here are sherds, several of them." "What are they?" "Black on white; others corrugated. Looks like float [sherds exposed by erosion] in this little gully." "Good-we'll move ahead and follow it up. If you lose contact, call me; we'll stop." A moment later: "More sherds, getting thicker as I go uphill." "Fine, hold to the gully." "It's float, all right. Bet there's a site on the ridge above us." "Lots of 'em now." "Here's the site; here it is!" It is a low, formless mound, thick with gray-green sagebrush. To the left was the trash dump-see the broken pottery? Look, there's a metate, a corn-grinding stone; here's a chipped tool, a couple of arrow points. That low mound, with a few building stones sticking up helter-skelter: that was a line of dwelling rooms. That faint depression, easy to overlook but eloquent to practiced eyes, was a kiva-a circular underground religious chamber. A thousand years ago people worked and played and prayed here. Here some of them still sleep. This will be a big job. The whole crew is called in to map, photograph, collect sherds, In a sea of pottery, Dr. Douglas Osborne, chief archeologist of the Wether ill project, studies a classic Mesa Verde black-on white bowl. This array of pots, mugs, bowls, and dippers includes about a third of the pottery found. Stone axheads (lower right), digging sticks (left center), and baskets (above sticks) complete the dis play. Fires blackened pots at the top of the picture. Careful hands of Mrs. Sue Waite glue sherds to gether to reconstruct a cooking pot. Archeologists rebuilt some pots from as many as 200 fragments. number and flag the site. Then the line re forms and moves on. All in a day's work. Before our survey was finished, we had learned not only more about the ancients, but more about our own profession. We per fected a new technique of fixing our position in the dense growth on the mesatop. Arche ologist Carroll A. Burroughs, a boat lover stranded on dry land, proposed using a radio direction finder similar to those carried by small boats in coastal waters. It worked wonderfully. We set up two small battery-powered transmitters on mapped points a good distance apart. Then, when we found a ruin but could see only 50 yards or so through the woods, we plotted our position by taking a fix on each transmitter and draw ing corresponding lines on a map. The lines crossed wherever we were standing. Cal's method saved many a weary day and many an archeological dollar. Diggers Discover a Prehistoric Tragedy In our five years of labor, there were days that stand out in memory. One day, in Room 28 of the cliff village we call Long House, a digger cleared away two feet of dry soil and a fallen roof and wall. He glimpsed a bit of fabric. Dropping his shovel, he gently re vealed more with a trowel. He straightened up. "This is a mummy! Call Art!" In North American archeology, a mummy is the rarest of finds, theft most telling of clues, a scientific treasure. Archeologist Arthur H. Rohn hurried to the room and took charge.