Backyard Geology Adventures: Special Archaeology Edition Part 3

April 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

Life has been pretty crazy lately and new things are coming up constantly, but it’s about time I finished this thing off, so… enjoy!

If you missed my two original posts on this topic you can go here:

Part 1

Part 2

All right, now that we’re all caught up, let’s continue.  Where was I? Ahh, yes, I had just finished talking about growing agave and later remembered I had not mentioned what the prehistoric people actually used the agave for.

Well, they used it for a couple things.  What they did was take something (like a stick) and use it as a lever-type device to pry the agave plant out at its root.  The bottom of an agave is sort of like an artichoke, and the prehistoric people would cook it in a roasting pit.  Evidence of a prehistoric roasting pit is something called slag.  In geology, slag means the stuff that comes out of an iron furnace.  In archaeology, as I found out, it also means burnt soil from a roasting pit.  It looks like this:


Which reminds me, there’s other burnt old stuff, that provides evidence for an archaeological site.  This is burnt daub.


It’s adobe from a stone structure that burned down and collapsed.  Cool, huh?

Anyway, back to the agave.  The leaves were also useful.  Their insides are made of fibers that could be used for making cloth and baskets and other stuff you use fibers for.  That’s about it for the agave.  I have one more thing to talk about.


Prehistoric trade became very complexto the point where products were being manufactured and traded by specialists. Trade products included:


Pottery appears to be coming from several different areas as part of a sophisticated trade economy.  The many different types of pottery are seen most commonly today as “sherds” or little pieces of broken pottery.  Here’s some of the coolest ones I found.



This one is sitting on top of a piece of tuff, which often indicates a doorway in a prehistoric structure.  Like a doorstep.

This one is sitting on top of a piece of tuff, which often indicates a doorway in a prehistoric structure. Like a doorstep.

The best ceramics were made in the earliest times and became more simple and coarse as time went on.  This concept can be compared to similar changes in modern manufacturing with changes in the economy.

Luxury Items

Shells from the Pacific Coast of California, near LA, were easy to manipulate into jewelry and transport to make a large profit.

Turquoise, another luxury item, was rare and transported long distances.

Other Products

Other products brought to trade were heavy rock baskets made out of igneous rock; axes made of green diorite (mass produced); products made of obsidian, hematite, chert and quartz; baskets; finished clothing; etc.

Oh, and one more thing…

Pretty much all these artifacts can be found not only at the living sites themselves, but also in prehistoric garbage dumps called trash mounds. Yep, the prehistoric people had landfills too!


That’s about all I’ve got.  Hope you enjoyed it.  I ruined a perfectly good pair of jeans trying to get all this information.


But I had a lot of fun and saw some really cool stuff.  I went to the art museum,



picnicked in the park,



and stayed at a pretty amazing hotel.

Fun times.  Just another day in the life of a soil scientist.


Stay tuned for my next adventure in the wilderness!


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§ 2 Responses to Backyard Geology Adventures: Special Archaeology Edition Part 3

  • chloe86 says:

    In fact, Chloe is not my real name. My real name is too rare… But there are many people who call me or know me as Chloe. So I decided to use this nickname for my blog 🙂
    But if you’re curious, my real name is Inma (or Inmaculada).

  • chloe86 says:

    Oh, I’m stupid!! Of course you know my real name!!
    I’ve got you on facebook!! 😦
    Please, just kill me now!

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