I’m the archaeology intern here at Point Reyes. This summer I’ve probably done over 50 condition assessments of different prehistoric and historic sites in the park.
Mainly the park’s mission is preserving the sites. A lot of times we’re monitoring to see how well the site is stabilized. We would like them all to be covered with plants so that they’re protected and no one’s going to disturb them.
I think people want to know about our collective past and how we got here and what kind of technologies we were using. I think it’s important to the Native American community. Because colonialism has wiped a lot of traditional ways off of current practice, and it’s really important to get back in touch with that. Archeology’s changing in a way that can facilitate a more positive cultural revitalization. Ideally the information gets documented and shared with the communities that would like access to it.
I’ve been gaining a lot of cool skills. Learning GIS is fascinating. You can stack the layers of satellite imagery, LIDAR, ground penetrating radar, and site map data, and understand things more vertically.
I also learned to use the Trimble a lot better this summer. The Trimble is like this $10,000-plus GPS. It’s very accurate, down to a few centimeters of where you’re taking a point. If I find a new feature at an archeology site, I can provenience it, it’s called, and put it into the GPS, and that updates the site records for the national park. Then if you wanted to go back you could find it.
I have found some cool things, including a very small, round ball. It looks like it’s been cut to form different facets. Maybe it was a game dice—we’re not really sure. When I found it I put in the GPS where it was. Because everyone at the museum here was very interested in it, I went back and collected it, and people are looking at it to see what it could be.
We made another interesting discovery this summer at an area called the McMullin property. Paul [Engel, the park archaeologist] and I went out to look for remnants of a structure that is now all obscured by poison oak and eucalyptus. Underneath all that we did actually find some window glass, and some nails, and some charcoal, because we believe it was burned down.
I remember reading about this duck pond that was constructed by one of the residents that used to live on the property, the Cronin family. Timothy Cronin was known as being a drunk, he was angry and violent towards a lot of people. When his wife went missing, the neighbors started to become suspicious.
According to these old newspapers of 1866 and ’67, he murdered his wife Julia and buried her body on the property in a recently constructed duck pond. When we were out there we found this line of stone and it looked like a feature of a house foundation. Apparently it was not that, because we noticed there were three built up berms and a big depression in the center. We discovered probably most likely the duck pond.
I went to UC Berkeley, and before that Santa Barbara City College where I got to focus on osteology. I did a thesis on bone, and there’s a lot of bone out here. Another skill I brought is having worked with prehistoric material in California for awhile. You get a feel for what you’re looking at and what it probably means and the context.
I’ve learned a ton about national parks and Point Reyes archeology. This one area has so much to say. I would definitely consider working with the National Park Service. I like the idea of the park system and preserving culture and nature for people.
Diana Tataru, UC Santa Cruz
range management/vegetation ecology
Michael Spaeth, UC Merced
dune restoration and rare plants
Stella Yuan, UC San Diego