Too much data, not enough time. The story of archaeological research.
I began a mapping project of the bonebed excavations in our Interpretive Center about two-and-a-half years ago. It has been on hold more than it has been an active project. Because it is protected from the weather, it is relatively safe from the elements. However, bad things can happen to fragile deposits including attacks from insects, rodents, temperature swings, and vandals. After some relatively minor animal damage and one case of vandalism, finishing the photo-documentation and illustrated maps became a priority for me. Fortunately, we had virtually all the information necessary to repair the work that was so quickly undone during those incidents but I am still hoping for more. We have illustrations of every bone exposed in the excavation and have begun the photo-mosaic preliminary to making the information available electronically.
It is only a few thousand bones exposed so far but even that much data can become unmanageable in a hurry. As these bonebeds are kept relatively in situ for display, much of the analysis will proceed from the imaging, not the actual bones. Counts, such as NISP, and MNI have been made in the past but more elements are uncovered with every cleaning of the deposit. Also, these studies need to move forward to publication to add the available data of bison kills.
I don’t want to overlook or downplay the importance of excavation but often that part of archaeology is just the beginning. Archaeological sites are not just a collection of individual artifacts to be shaken out of the sediment, then housed in a museum or collection. They are complex conglomerations of clues about human behavior that need to be teased out of the ground like a long-forgotten crime scene.
This work takes time and money. Without these resources data will be lost just as it has been and always will be. In the current political and economic climate we can only trudge along and do what we can while trying to avoid the inevitable distractions of politics, unethical behavior, and lack of public support. Despite not having the resources to keep the Clovis site open daily throughout the year, we have almost daily visitors hoping to have a look at this mecca of American Prehistory and the site that tracks the history of American Archaeology.