Terraced Garden Project
The University of Montana (UM) offered an official Archaeological Field School at the terraces site under direction of Dr. Kelly J. Dixon, during the dates May 29th through June 15th, 2007. In conjunction with the field school, the United States Forest Service (USFS) offered a two-week Passport in Time (PIT) project. Field School Students included Katie Baumler, an undergraduate in Anthropology from UM, Brent Rowley, a graduate student in Cultural Heritage from UM, and Joshua Norgaard, an undergraduate in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. There were a total of six PIT volunteers split over the course of the three-week project, and included Kassy Marjerrison, who is from Plains, MT and recently graduated from UM with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Other PIT volunteers came from Missoula, Florida, South Dakota, and Washington.
Final Report on 2007 Poacher Excavations (PDF)
In order to establish base camp, one-half mile from the trailhead, all camp equipment, food, and water was hauled in by the USFS’s Ninemile Pack String under direction of Bob Holverson. The project hired Juanita Allen, of Boise, Idaho, as the full-time camp cook, and she maintained camp and catered to everyone’s diverse dietary needs while preparing delicious meals in her hand-built rock oven. Lack of water within one-half mile of the camp site offered a logistical challenge, so crews hauled gallons of water to and from a staging point everyday to supplement supplies in camp.
During the first week of the project, students and volunteers conducted archaeological survey of the drainage where the site is situated in order to find the originally recorded mine adits, stacked rock, and attempt to find any other cultural remnants in the area. Using a total station, crews mapped the terraces and cabin feature to within five centimeters of accuracy. Much higher than that of hand sketch maps, and these maps can be tied in to a Geographical Information System (GIS) database for future work. Additional work during the first week included a metal detector survey of the project location to identify areas for potential excavation. Pedestrian surveys of the drainage helped to rediscover the mine adit discussed in the original 1979 USFS report, but crews located a second mine adit with a claim marker dating to 1967 nearby. Unfortunately, surveyors could not relocate the stacked rock found in 1979, and these might have been washed away down the creek during an unusually high runoff event since that year.
The second and third weeks of the project focused on the excavation of several test units on the terraces and the cabin. Excavations at the terraces focused on figuring out the function of the small pit feature, a large platform, a recessed area in a wall segment, and investigation of the potential dumps along the creek bank. The small pit feature fought hard to retain its secrets, but eventually crews discovered dozens of artifacts including a nearly intact liquor bottle that was smashed into place during a collapse, three fragments of an amethyst-colored eye wash cup, and a complete Vaseline jar dating to the early 1900s. Other excavations on the terraces discovered a large pile of stacked lumber, more remnants of building material, and information on how these terraces were constructed.
On the third week the project came into full swing, with the addition of four PIT volunteers to help the field school students with the work. During this week, crews excavated four additional units at the terraces, bringing the total excavated there to seven. Excavation units included two one-by-one meter units, four one-by-two meter units, and a single two-by-two meter unit. The two excavations on the slope heading to the creek, were identified for testing by the metal detector survey during the first week. These units discovered the first faunal (animal) remains located on the site, and may be a mix of domestic animals (pig, cow, chicken) and wild game (elk and porcupine). One of the most interesting finds during this week was a ten-foot segment of rubber hose that has iron supports running along the outside. This hose was probably used for high-pressure water movement, either to irrigate the terraces, or to hydraulically mine.
The last unit was placed in the middle of the cabin pad, to see if the artifacts date to the same period as the terraces, and hopefully prove that the feature is associated. A two-by-two meter unit was placed in the middle of the floor of the cabin, in hopes of discovering remains of the original occupants’ daily lives. The most interesting discovery of this excavation, were several fragments of artifacts that appear to be a record, or some device to play music that predates records.
Information recovered from these three weeks of archaeological investigation, help the researchers pin down some important facts regarding the terraces. Almost all of the artifacts from the site date to the period between 1900 and 1918, which fits with some of the mining records associated with this drainage. Artifacts suggest that the small pit structure was some sort of storage building, especially with the large number of canning jar and lid fragments, Vaseline, liquor, and wire. The low density of artifacts recovered, suggest that those who occupied the site stayed there a relatively short period of time. It also appears that the residents of the terraces procured their main source of meat from both domestic animals and wild game.
The next phase of the project is to take all the artifacts back to the Historical Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Montana. During the fall of 2007, students from UM will begin the painstaking process of cleaning, cataloging, and analyzing the artifacts to learn even more information about this site. Updates will continue to appear on this website, so check back often!