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Lovell Chronicle
Lovell , Wyoming
July 30, 2009     Lovell Chronicle
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July 30, 2009

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Website © 2019. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal. July 30, 2009 I The Lovell Chronicle I 9 'Best job on the forest" A day in the life of an archaeologist BY DAVID PECK For national forest ar- chaeologist Bill Matthews, it's truly a labor of love. Matthews, a seven-year veteran of the Bighorn Na- tional Forest, is a man who has fallen in love with his career, his community and the place he works. Every now and then, as he's surveying a site for ar- tifacts, he gets one of those "Yes!" moments where he almost has to slap himself to believe that he gets paid to do something he loves in a place as beautiful as the Bighorn National Forest. Such was the case on July 16, when Matthews took a Lovell Chronicle reporter with him to ob- serve a day in the life of an archaeologist. The day's work took the pair along a creek to a place just south of the Cloud Peak Wilder- ness and north of Meadow- lark Lake. Archaeologists spend much of their time looking at the ground, but on that beautiful, sunny day, Mat- thews found himself some- times taking time to lift his head and gaze at the beau- tiful crags of the Big Horns and at the green mead- ow with a stream snaking through. And he was in awe. "I'm getting paid to do something I dearly love and I feel very fortunate," said Matthews, who cov- ers the west side of the Bighorn National Forest from north to south. "I get to walk around in the field and watch the moose and the elk and protect Indian sites. I've got the best job on the forest. "Maybe it's primeval, the thrill of the hunt. I've had a lot of jobs, but this is the best job I've ever had. The Forest Service people strongly care ahNt the for- est, trying to protect it, not exploit it, We're a team. We help each other, what- ever the job is." Matthews described his job as "preserving the cultural resources of the Bighorn National Forest - either prehistoric or his- toric, "It's all part of the puzzle of the Big Horns," he said, "from pre-10,000- year-old paleo-peoples to early settlements in the area. A lot of times wel find historic sites on top of prehistoric sites." Matthews said he works in support of vari- ous forest management divisions, and his work is project driven. During his time in the Ten Sleep area, for instance, he has been working for range special- ists, performing survey work for the Ten Sleep Range Improvement Proj- ect. Other times he works in concert with fire, recre- ation or timber managers. His job on July 16 and in the weeks prior was to evaluate sites grazed by cattle and sheep and how cultural resources are im- pacted by the grazing. The end result could be, in some instances, a monitor- ing plan to protect the cul- and measuring devices. tural sites and reduce and alleviate impacts done by livestock. Matthews said he works closely with permit- tees during the process and corresponds with the lo- cal ranchers who know the mountain so well. A plan could include fencing off a cultural resource or modi- fying the amount of tune an area is grazed or the number of cattle allowed Forest archaeologist Bill Matthews examines an artifact during his survey trip to the Ten Sleep/Meadowlark area on July 16. A keen set of eyes and a handful of orange marking flags are his tools of the trade, along with various weighing camping or staying at the Tyrrell Ranger Station until returning home on Thursday evening. He follows the federal Section 106 law to evalu- ate cultural resources in light of ground-disturbing activities, part of a process every 10 years to evaluate range allotments in the ar- eas of soil, biology, range condition and hydrology. To begin, he checks a Archaeologist Bill Matthews found and recorded this chert uniface scraper, which had been heavily utilized in its day, while on his July 16 survey. map of the area and for- mulates a plan of attack, evaluating the possibilities of finding an archaeologi- cal site based on a model of where Indians might have camped. Sometimes there are already known sites, but in this case, Mat- thews had to find the sites and perform a cultural sur- vey, walking a grid pattern back and forth and looking for surface artifacts, usu- ally flakes from flint knap- on the range, he said. "I work with the per- mittees and the range of- ricers hand in hand," he said. "We work for a de- sired condition of the land. It takes a while. We can't do it overnight." Matthews works hard during the summer - field season - trying to get all of his cultural field work done. In this case, he was driving to the area ear- ly Monday morning and DAVID PECK PHOTOS Bill Matthews sketches a uniface scraper to record its characteristics during his Bighorn National Forest survey trip on July 16. He also photographs the artifacts. ping or, if he is fortunate, a tool or two. Unfortunately, some- times Matthews finds a site that has already been looted, with artifacts re- moved from the surface or even sometimes dug up. "It's against feder- al law and it hinders my ability to date the site," he said. "When that hap- pens, a major piece of the archaeological puzzle has been removed." The ultimate goal, he said, is to strike a balance among the various inter- ests on the forest and pro- tect cultural resources at the same time. It's a big job for a lone archaeologist covering half of the forest. "My staff is me and me," he said. "I'm the pro- gram manager and the field worker." After a busy summer and fall, Matthews spends the winter and spring working on reports, draw- ing maps and evaluating the information gathered during the field season, submitting his findings to the State Historic Preser- vation Office for concur- rence. AT WORK The Big Horns were the land of the Crow, the Sho- shones and the Arapaho, who came to the mountains to hunt, collect plants and quarry chert and quartzite for tools. There is no obsid- ian on the Big Horns, but tools made of the material can be found, brought in from afar. He said he once found an obsidian scraper that came from the south- west corner of Utah. To survey a site, Mat- thews walks the site in a grid pattern, dozens of small flags in hand, mark- ing even the tiniest flakes as he goes and double- flagging the best tools. Af- ter the walking survey is complete, he measures and plats the area on a site map, photographs the site, records the site with a GPS device and photographs, weighs and draws the best artifacts - then puts them back on the ground where he found them. "I have a no-collect pol- icy," he said. "It would be hypocritical of me to collect it when I tell others not to. I take only photos and treat the site with respect. "I also give thanks to the ones who came before and hope they had a happy life here." If a particularly inter- esting artifact were to be collected, it would be sent to the University of Wyo- ming for curation. Some- times, he said, he digs a test pit - a 50- by 50-centi- meter square -- to look for buried cultural material. On that July day, the site was rich with flakes and a few excellent tools. Matthews found a uni- face scraper that he could tell had been heavily used, due to its wear pattern; a crude quartzite bi-face tool that he called an expedi- ent or quick-use tool; and a quartzite tool showing both scraper and knife uti- lization - "the Swiss Army Knife of its day," he said. He then moved on to a historic site where an old mountain lodge had been located, and he measured and mapped the lodge tim- bers and also walked the area to examine a tin can dump, an outhouse and other sites. The lodge had apparently burned several decades ago. ALWAYS A THRILL Matthews did a lot of different things as a young man: carpentry, ranch work and pulling chain in a sawmill. He even worked for the Holly Sugar Co. in Delta, Colo. He eventually decided that he would like to go into fish and wildlife work, so he enrolled at Flathead Community College in Ka- lispell, Mont., as a 27-year- old freshman. One day, while taking an introduction to anthro- pology course, Matthews saw a flier seeking volun- teers to dig up a mastodon site near Sequim, Wash., through Washington State University. He attended the field school the follow- ing summer and helped ex- cavate the 6,000-year-old campsite. "I knew from then on that this is what I wanted to do," he said. "The peo- ple who mentored me were such good folks. Their in- terests morphed to me and became contagious. I knew what I wanted to do." Matthews changed his major to anthropology and went on to earn his bach- elor's degree at Montana State University in Boze- man, doing archaeological field work during the sum- mer and fall. His career took him to jobs through the Univer- sity of Vermont, the Uni- versity of Maine, Arizona State University, Mesa Verde National Park and the Sequoia National For- est. He met and married his wife, Mary, and the couple has two children, Andy and Mesa Rose. Matthews moved to Lovell in 2002, but his ca- reer has continued to take him to distant locations for details. He has worked in upstate New York, Mis- sissippi, the Badlands of North Dakota, North Car- olina and the mouth of the Columbia River. "I have a very under- standing wife," he said of Mary, who works for the Bank of Lovell. "I'm away from home a lot on special details or fighting fires. She's been very supportive of me." Mary and the kids even get to volunteer and travel with Bill to sites from time to time. That way they can share in his labor of love. :ii!i!i:i iiii iii'i iiiii iiiiiiiiii I m This quartzite scraper was the Swiss Army Knife of its day, archaeologist Bill Matthews says, with both scraper and knife utilization. Bighorn National Forest archaeologist Bill Matthews fords a stream, orange marking flags in hand, to reach a site of Indian artifacts during a July 16 survey. The arrow in his pack is used for photography to point to the north in photos.