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Situated Description: West Coast Archaeological Sites in 19th Century Coast Survey Maps and Fieldnotes

Lecture: ARF Brownbag | September 26 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)


Scott Byram, Archaeological Research Facility, UC Berkeley

Archaeological Research Facility


This presentation previews the forthcoming ARF Contributions Volume 65, Triangulating Archaeological Landscapes: The U.S. Coast Survey in California, 1850-1895.

New findings for several west coast archaeological sites and their settings are drawn from the field notes and plane table maps of the U.S. agency that performed early shoreline surveys from Baja California to Alaska. Previously, field records of the Coast Survey at the National Archives had largely been overlooked as a resource for archaeologists. These detailed topographic maps, descriptions and drawings depict several shell mounds, adobe ruins, ranchos, presidios, Native American villages, Chinese fishing camps, shipwrecks, and linear sites. Many of these are now components of known archaeological sites. Coast Survey cartography and notes often depict detailed site setting, the ethnicity and livelihood of site occupants, surface shell and debitage, and structural features such as earthworks, ship hulls and adobe walls. Survey data is accurately plotted in modern coordinate systems through legacy bench marks. The records are now being used in efforts to relocate key sites such as the cave resided in by the lone woman of San Nicolas Island, Lewis and Clark’s Fort Clatsop on the Columbia River, and the Gold Rush era shipwreck survivor site, Camp Castaway.

Scott Byram has been an ARF researcher since 2007, where he has focused on expanding the use of ground-penetrating radar in California and researching California sites depicted in U.S. Coast Survey records. He also works as a consultant, conducting archaeological GPR surveys in Oregon and California, archival and historical research projects, and CRM archaeological projects.


twyrick@berkeley.edu