The Connley Caves are very deep caves requiring meticulous excavation, note taking, and field form recording procedures. This process is extremely time consuming and field school students will spend the majority of time conducting data recovery level investigations in block excavation units. Jenkins works closely with all students discussing site formation processes, sampling techniques, local archaeology, and the study of first colonization of the New World. Perishable artifacts and human coprolites were recovered from this site during the 2001 field season. Recovery of coprolites this summer will provide students an absolutely unique opportunity to learn how to collect coprolites for ancient DNA analysis without contaminating them with their own modern DNA.
The field school focuses on archaeological excavation methods. The initial days are spent in intensive field training with attendant lectures on the archaeology, environment, and ethnography of the Northern Great Basin region. Fieldwork sessions occupy approximately 8 hours each day, with some additional commuting time from the field camp to the excavation site or survey area.
The majority of the archaeology course is devoted to excavating at selected sites. Pedestrian surveys are also conducted to locate and record archaeological sites. Activities include instruction in excavation and survey techniques as well as archaeological record keeping and artifact processing in the field laboratory. Survey methods include development of observation skills, map reading, GPS usage, and note taking. The course generally involves about 20 students and 2 or 3 instructors and meets the rigorous field school standards of the national Register of Professional Archaeologists.
The setting in the Northern Great Basin offers a rich environment for studying late Quaternary climatic and hydrologic changes and the effects of these changes on vegetation cover, geomorphic processes, and soil development. In addition, the region has experienced the effects of volcanic eruptions, faulting, and wind action. The effects of these on the archaeology of the region is a major focus of discussions in the field training of our students.