Monday, July 1, 2013

A not-so-typical day in the life......

So, I thought it would be hilarious to regale you with the tale of a typical day in the life of an archaeologist doing Class III Inventories in The Middle of Nowhere, Montana.  Even going into such depth as to describe my thoughts on being female and needing to pee on the prairie.  Unfortunately for you and your delicate sensibilities, today ended up being anything but typical.  

We normally meet up at work at 6:30am and drive out to the site.  This entails driving 70mph (thank you, Montana!) down a 2 lane highway, playing leap-frog with semi-trucks for an hour.  There is a lot to see down this stretch of road, mostly cattle and some horses.  I really love cattle!  Their funny faces make me want to walk up to them and grab them on either side of their face and mush it together...I don't think this will go over well, so I probably won't ever try it.

After that first hour, it is another 5 minutes of dirt road awesomeness, before finally making our way to legit off road.  I have become infinitely grateful to my brother for taking me out off-roading in the California deserts and trying to see how many times he could get me to bang my head on the roof of the truck.  I am officially a pro at NOT hitting my head!  

So, that is the typical stuff.  And it normally goes along with us going through 8-9 barbed-wire gates and making our way to our survey areas.  However!  Today was special.  As we entered a particular pasture we came across this:  

Which escalated very quickly into this:

Too close!

I'm petting and pushing his face away...and he tried to eat my phone.

And then they realized we didn't have any food on us, so then they did this:

They were licking and attempting to bite the truck.
They seemed a tad baffled as to why we didn't have food.
At various points, several of them stuck their heads IN the truck
...we probably should have closed the doors.
It took a bit of work on my part, but I got them away from the
front of the truck so we could be on our way.

Thanks to my new horsey friends, I was extra happy and started my work day like this---->

Unfortunately, this extra happiness would quickly fade as my day returned to a pretty typical day of archaeological inventory.  Starting with our 20 minute hike from right to left (or technically east to northwest) in this next picture.

These photos continue to fail to illustrate the harshness of the environment.
Oh, well.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  :)

A mere two hours later, the temperature had skyrocketed to the high 80s.  "Haha!  That's not so bad!" is what you might want to say, and it is EXACTLY what I have said...until today.  There was absolutely no cloud cover for shade, or even much of a breeze.  So, after those 2 hours of walking east to west, north to south, up and down coulees, this was me:

More sexy archaeology.  It was so hot, it became a floppy hat day.
You can totally just make out the results of my turning in circles....

So, when we start to look and feel like that, we generally call it break time.  On this particular day it turned out to be the perfect time for lunch!  Lunch on the prairie is something special, and normally involves me indulging my "wild side."  I am quite fond of turning in a circle numerous times to create a nice little space in the prairie grass for me to sit in!  This also makes sure there aren't any snakes.  No snakes equals a good day!  Another fantastic thing about the "wild?"  No shame in leaving organic trash, as it will feed the ants, birds, rabbits, among other animals!  So, it turns out like this  --->

By this point you may be asking yourself, "Annette, are you even an archaeologist?  You haven't done anything related to dinosaurs!"  I'm kidding.  Sort of.  There is a misconception that archaeologists and dinosaurs are related.  Unfortunately, this is 1,000% sort of untrue.  I say "sort of" because normally we don't do diddly-squat with the dinos, but on this specific job we are expected to keep a look-out for paleo stuff.  And I really hope we don't find any, because if it isn't a fossilized T-Rex skull I may not think it is anything at all.  Heck, I don't even recognized petrified wood.  It is sad.  Anyways.  We didn't find much today; a mere 3 cairns.  Are you ready?  Prepare yourself for the exciting world of archaeology in Montana!!  We find these:

It is literally that grouping of rocks around the arrow.  

Oh, watch out now!  Here's another one:

This one is even less noticeable.

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are what connect us to people from upwards of 2,000+ years ago.  I find it amazing!  Someone purposefully put those there, and though their meaning is mostly lost on us today, it served an important purpose to the people who put them there.  Now, we do know that these were placed over graves, or along the edges of hilltops as look-out points, or even used to demarcate the drive line area for bison hunting.  So, numerous purposes.  Without excavating it (which we very, very rarely do), we won't know if it was a grave or something else.  

And though I was miserable, I do realize that archaeology is an important job, regardless of what those stupid articles online say about anthropology and archaeology being one of the worst degrees to get.  I still love it.  Even when it leads me to looking like this:

And this...

It was closer to 92 degrees by this point of the day.
Which was the end of the day!!!!

So, after we recorded everything it was time to leave.  It was hot, I was running out of water, and the bugs were coming out to play.  Some bugs I don't mind; like the ones who want to give me a nice hug without biting!
Grasshopper friend!!!

And then on the drive out, my horsey friends were there to say good-bye!  So, my day ended the way it began, with horses and happiness.  :)

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