Field Survey

Our field survey methods are rather simple. We line up in skirmish lines at a regular interval – for this survey the transect interval is 15 meters. Then we walk systematically over the area to be surveyed and look for artifacts and features on the ground surface, in this case all 7400 acres of it. With the lack of vegetation here the ground visibility is excellent.

Once a crew member sees something he lets the rest of the line know and marks the artifact location with a pin flag. The rest of the crew then comes over and walks over the area looking for more artifacts. They also mark artifacts with pin flags to define the site area. In this picture you can see a small lithic scatter defined by the spread of pin flags. The crew then records the site, filling out a site form, making a site map, taking photographs and recording the area location with a GPS unit.

The picture above shows an excellent example of a fairly common site type in our project area – a lithic reduction location. Do to the contrasting color of the stone, you can easily see where a prehistoric Native American sat on the right side of the photograph and chipped out tools using the orange chert. A single core at a single moment in time.


  1. Reid

    Thanks for posting this.

    I am curious, and have a question about lithic scatters. I the past I have found, while chukar hunting or exploring in the Great Basin, significant piles of small handworked chip from pressure flaking obsidian tools.

    Is it possible to make deductions about the culture associated with such deposits – based on the nature of the chips alone? Some of these piles are at valley overlooks and are 18″ or more deep and composed entirely of nearly identical small obsidian flakes.

  2. What you are describing are waste flakes (also known as debitage) left over from the manufacture of stone tools.

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “deductions about the culture”. You can make some interpretations about the lithic industry of whoever made the flakes, but as far as identifying a particular culture using debitage – that is nearly impossible.

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