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ARCHAEOLOGIST'S BUSINESS IS BONES 05/22/99 INTERMOUNTAIN WEEKEND BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ State archaeologist Robert Yohe's business is bones. Skulls, femurs and scapulas fill his room at the old U.S. Assay Office. "A little of the old and a little of the new," he says. Yohe has helped the Idaho Department of Law Enforcement in developing evidence for murder investigations and usually receives a half-dozen calls every year from people who have found bones out in a field. Last year, the remains of three unidentified Civil War-era bodies unearthed at a flood-control basin project in the Boise Foothills were re-interred in the nearby Military Reserve cemetery after Yohe took a look at them. Examining the bones of one man, Yohe determined he was a soldier 40-50 years old, and fairly wealthy because of the gold fillings in his teeth. "It seems as though gold fillings would have been expensive even then," Yohe said. "The average foot soldier wouldn't have access to that type of luxury." The man also suffered from a disease such as syphilis or a bone infection since one thigh bone was thicker than the other. "It may not have killed him, but it was a debilitating condition, a long-term disease," he said. Yohe pulls out the bullet-pocked skull of Joe Brown, a miner found dead years ago in the Seven Devils Mountains of western Idaho. He doubts Brown was a suicide, since the alignment of the entrance and exit wounds showed he would have had to hold the handgun at an awkward angle. The calls Yohe gets every year from strangers, starting as soon as the snow melts, typically do not amount to much. More often than not the bones are from deer or, occasionally, bears.
ARCHAEOLOGIST HELPS PROVE CASE AGAINST FOURSOME IN MOUNTAIN KILLING 05/22/99 INTERMOUNTAIN WEEKEND PADDY FLAT, Idaho (AP) On Memorial Day weekend in 1995, four young men tied Jeffrey Towers' hands and led him into a dark forest where he was mocked, beaten and shot in the head with a 9-millimeter pistol. Towers' body was burned in a shallow pit and then buried, the foursome convinced they could hide their victim forever. But 5 1/2 months later, state archaeologist Robert Yohe _ employing the painstaking methods of his profession _ was able to find convincing traces of Towers from 1,200 bits of charred bone. "For forensic criminalists, the crime scene was cold in that so much time had passed since the act," Yohe said. "But by using the archaeological gridding and mapping, you can turn up the fire on a cold scene." It was one time that Yohe's skill as an archaeologist helped a modern investigation. Most of his work centers on much older human remains. "Dr. Yohe was able to make a statement on the sex and the age of the individual _ even though the bones were burned _ and to establish there was one body," said Ann Bradley, criminalist with the state Department of Law Enforcement's Bureau of Forensic Services. The four assailants and 19-year-old Towers were partying that weekend about 10 miles northeast of Cascade and set out to burglarize some neighboring cabins in the remote area. But the midnight walk turned into an execution-style killing. "Mr. Towers was visiting from California," Yohe said. "There was some infraction they took umbrage with and were going to teach him a lesson, and it got a little out of control." Towers was forced to drink from a mud puddle and then was beaten before Ryan Robertson shot him in the head. Michael Olivera, Chad Christopher Toney and Ean Vinton Barnett then took turns firing into the body. "They lined the bottom of the pit with wood, put the body on top of it, poured Coleman fuel on top of the body and added more wood," Yohe said. Although the fire simmered for several days, it did not completely incinerate the bones. Barnett later notified police about the crime, saying he, Robertson and Olivera were members of a gang called The Crips before Christ. A cadaver-sniffing dog led officers to a wood slash pile. They dug down enough to glimpse some bones and decided to call in an expert to determine if they were human, Bradley said. Yohe had excavated some prehistoric human cremations and agreed to take part. There were six inches of snow on the ground, which was frozen solid. Instead of immediately digging up the remains, Yohe established a grid over the pit and started to lift off the soil in layers of less than an inch. He found bits of bone, part of a shoe, a sock. He sketched out a map of the dig and a diagram of a skeleton, filling in the blanks as he identified the bones. Human bones finally harden completely in late adolescence. By examining a scapula, clavicle and the end of a rib bone, Yohe was able to establish the victim was male and in his late teens or early 20s. "There hadn't been much stirring or stomping," he said. "They could have made my job much more difficult if after the thing had cooled, they had jumped in and started pulverizing the bones." Using a metal detector, Yohe found more evidence. There was a belt buckle and metal buttons from the Levi jacket and pants Towers was wearing when he disappeared. There also was the copper jacket from a 9-millimeter slug. While the fire had melted away the lead bullets, the copper remained intact. Yohe testified as an expert witness in preliminary hearings and then at the trial for Barnett, the only one who did not plead guilty in the case. "I was able to show fairly definitively the information was consistent with the burning of a male body. That corroborated the testimony of several other people and dovetailed into what they said," he said. Robertson is serving at least 25 years in prison for second-degree murder, Barnett 10 years for involuntary manslaughter and Toney five years for being an accessory to murder. Olivera was sentenced to 15 to 25 years for second-degree kidnapping. Yohe is quick to say the police work in the Towers case was essential in convicting the four, but he believes forensic archaeology is a useful tool for detectives. "This isn't something that works on all crime scenes," Yohe said. "But there are some instances where a body has been dumped somewhere, or the person was taken somewhere and murdered, you can extract some valuable information."
INDIANS TELLING THE "OTHER SIDE"' OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK STORY 05/18/99 LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ The explorers paddled gift-laden boats up the Missouri River, past an island where an abandoned earth-lodge village signaled a once-mighty nation. The weakened survivors had moved on, leaving behind gardens ripe with Indian corn and squash. On Oct. 4, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark made note of the empty Arikara homes. Between the 1780s and early 1800s, disease had decimated the tribe from about 30,000 to 2,000. Five days later, Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery, as it was called, met Arikara survivors along the Grand River near present-day Mobridge, S.D. It was the beginning of numerous exchanges in which white explorers sought to establish a cordial relationship with native people who had occupied the vast American West for centuries. The impact of this Homeric 8,000-mile, 800-day journey was profound. For most Americans it is an indelible history page, the stuff of legend: A small group of determined, gritty patriots responding to a president who had merely asked they chart half an uncharted continent, find a water route to the Pacific, collect scores of previously unknown plant and animal species, soil and landforms, note the variety of native tribes, then return home alive. It was, say some historians, the equivalent of a moon landing. And it was something else, too. It is the often-untold story of those whose generosity and knowledge were instrumental to the journey's success. The people who fed, guided, wintered, traded, befriended, danced, cooked, hunted, mapped and helped clothe men who often were hungry and lost, numb from cold and fatigue. With the 200th anniversary of the epic journey fast approaching, many historians suggest it is an ideal time for Americans to understand and appreciate the stories on both sides of the Missouri. "This is an amazing opportunity to let America know Indians haven't vanished," said Darrell Kipp, a Blackfeet and member of Montana's Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission. "Native Americans are still very much present in those areas that Lewis and Clark visited." Said Jim Fuglie, an event organizer helping North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux: "This is the second most important bicentennial America has celebrated, after the bicentennial of America's independence. I can't think of anything that had a much bigger impact than the Lewis and Clark expedition had on America." From the American Indian perspective, the historic journey's bicentennial engages a number of vital issues. Among them: It was a historic expedition that marked the beginning of the American West and changes that would dramatically alter tribal life for scores of sovereign Indian nations. It is a valuable educational opportunity, one that can inform a global audience of the important role American Indians played in the monumental journey. It is a valuable economic opportunity, a vehicle to capitalize on money generated by millions of tourists expected to embark on the Lewis and Clark trail during the 2004-2006 bicentennial. It also is a cultural opportunity, a chance to highlight an expedition that was based on developing a healthy give and take between diverse groups. With the new millennium approaching, native leaders say, it's an ideal time to respect, celebrate and embrace diversity. "It's not a matter of whether the Lewis and Clark buffs will show up," observed Allen Pinkham, a Nez Perce tribal liaison for the Forest Service. "They're already showing up." On May 14, 1804, Lewis, 28, and Clark, 31, began their journey from Wood River, Ill., near St. Louis. Soon, they would travel through lands unknown to whites, but inhabited by scores of tribes for centuries. From the beginning, they hoped to establish good relations with tribes that would make or break the expedition. Tribes along the Northern Plains, intermountain and coastal regions helped the Corps of Discovery along the way. They provided food, directions and horses because they hoped to foster trade relations. They wanted guns, ammunition, kettles, knives and beads. Half of the Lewis and Clark story belongs to native people, said Michelle Bussard, executive director of the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council. Yet the story largely has been told by non-natives. For the most part the general public, she said, is unaware of "what the Native American way of life was, the richness of that life and what their contributions were to the success of that mission," said Bussard. Added Curly Youpee, cultural resource director for Montana's Fort Peck Tribe: "There was very little said about the Native American during the Corps of Discovery. This gives us the opportunity to bring the story forward." In the end, say historians and others, it will provide a richer story. Tribes and a host of federal agencies are working to ensure different viewpoints are woven into the celebration. The National Park Service met with tribal representatives in Great Falls and with Northern Plains tribes in New Town, N.D., earlier this month. Meanwhile, educational groups are creating Lewis and Clark curriculum packets that include native history. It hasn't been easy. "It's hard to include the Indian material when none exists," said Jeannie Eder, a Santee Sioux on the planning committee for the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council. "Out of 100 books, only a handful tell our side of the story," said Allen Pinkham, of the Nez Perce tribe. Some say there also seems to be more acceptance. "I think public attitudes have changed," said Robert Kentta, cultural resource director for Oregon's Confederated Tribes of Siletz. "Maybe the passage of time has softened people's defenses and allowed them to take a more honest look at history and how it's interpreted." Many tribal leaders also say it's an ideal opportunity to educate their own people. "Now that we've got people's attention with the Lewis and Clark story, one of the biggest roles we can have is the education of our youth," suggested Gerard Baker, a Mandan-Hidatsa and superintendent for the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma. "Many times they say this is a white guy's story but you can glean a lot out of that story," he said. "We need to read the journals and combine that with the oral histories." Tourism activities rapidly are evolving as well. Public interest began growing about 1978 when the expedition's route was named a National Historic Trail. The journey offers a little something for everyone, from map reading, bird-watching and hiking to the environment, geology and ethnography. Fascination with the journey exploded after publication of Stephen Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage" and Ken Burns' four-hour Lewis and Clark documentary, said Gary Moulton, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor who has spent the past 20 years editing the Lewis and Clark journals. "We are seeing up to a 1,000 people a day," confirmed Jane Webber, director for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and Interpretive Center in Great Falls. The Great Falls community paid half the $6 million cost for center. In all, at least two dozen Lewis and Clark cultural and interpretive centers have or will be built. As for tribes, some are preparing more actively than others. "The two groups that have taken the lead are the Nez Perce and the Mandan," said Cal Calabrese of the National Park Service in Omaha. Many tribes plan on enhancing cultural events. The Blackfeet plan to beef up its North American Indian Days powwow and get tribal community colleges involved. The Chinook, however, are a little more recalcitrant. The tribe was well documented in the Lewis and Clark journals. Today, many live at the mouth of the Columbia River in Washington, just across the river from where Lewis and Clark wintered at Fort Clatsop in Oregon. "If we do become involved in any major capacity, it will be on our own terms," said Peggy Disney, a Chinook tribal councilwoman. "I get the feeling they want to see a lot of Indians roaming around. But we're just scraping to get by."
40,000-YEAR-OLD CHEETAH, CAMEL BONES FOUND IN NEVADA CAVE 05/22/99 ELKO, Nev. (AP) _ Cheetah, camel and llama bones sealed in the deep freeze of a Nevada cave for tens of thousands of years are giving scientists a rare glimpse at the Africa-like grassland that covered much of the West before the last Ice Age. The unusually well preserved cache from about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago includes bones from a wide variety of creatures now extinct _ from the giant short-faced bear to huge deer and bison species. "This cave is kind of a Noah's-Ark collection of species," said Tom Stafford, a Boulder, Colo.-based specialist who has been conducting the radiocarbon-dating tests on the bones. "I can't wait to get there," he said. "I'm drooling." At 40 degrees, high humidity and 7,000-feet altitude, the conditions at the back of the dark cave are identical to those of a modern refrigerator. Perhaps most intriguing to the scientists are the intact twigs, leafs, seeds and animal hair from which they believe they'll be able to extract DNA to compare the genetic makeup of past and present species. "We could see how much evolution there has been," said Bryan Hockett, the Bureau of Land Management archaeologist who discovered the find nearly three years ago and is leading the excavation. "I kept saying to myself, `I can't believe we are finding this,"' Hockett recalls. "It was just `Eureka!' in terms of the scientific information." Hockett, 37, and fellow BLM archaeologist Eric Dillingham, 37, have been dragging bones out of the cave for the past two summers and next month plan the largest expedition yet into the 700-foot cavern. They only realized recently how significant the bones were. In January, they spent days comparing dozens of bones to their counterparts at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. They matched the cheetah bone to an Africa cheetah skeleton at the Los Angeles County Museum. "There was no fanfair, no bells or whistles," Hockett said. "I was just sitting in the mammal section with nobody around looking at the skeleton of a cheetah _ just you and the bone." The bones are in the back of a 700-foot deep cave where miners left their mark in the 1860s. Hockett suspects that the cave, in the Sulpher Spring Range about 300 miles east of Reno, was a den for bobcats or other large carnivores that dragged prey back to feed their young. The find is evidence of the wildly diverse ecosystem in the Western United States before the last big Ice Age 18,000 years ago. It was a vast grassland where large predators stalked grazing animals well before man is believed to have arrived on the scene 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. "Some say maybe it would be like the savannas of Africa, equatorial Africa," Hockett said. "That's one place where you've had a lot of big grazers and carnivores. But it would have had to have been a lot cooler and wetter. A lot of different trees," like pine and spruce, he said. "The real answer is, there is nothing left quite like this. There is nothing that is as diverse as this. It is unmatched in the world today." Some of the bones are from animals with funny names, like the "bigheaded llama" and "yesterday's camel." They come from the end of the Pleistocene Age. There are horses, mountain sheep, pronghorn antelope, wolves, weasels, badgers, coyotes, lizards, bats and birds. The giant short-faced bear _ among the rarer bones _ had a short snout and longer legs than a typical bear. It was much larger than bears today and a fast runner. The cheetah remains are only the second discovered in Nevada. Fewer than 10 have been recorded in North America. The cheetah remains may shed light on a question that has bothered scientists for decades: Why are pronghorn antelope so fast? "There was always speculation that there must have been a faster-running predator during the Pleistocene than we know of today because the American pronghorn can run so much faster than anything living here now that might have been a predator," said Robert J. Emry, a paleo-biologist at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in Washington. "With the cheetah, some say it might explain the pronghorn's adaptation for swiftness _ what it was it adapted to escape from, he said. Part of the cave had been surveyed by a team of archeologists from the University of California-Davis in 1975. Researcher Kelly McGuire recorded the findings _ including horse and bigheaded llama _ in an article published in 1980. But they didn't radiocarbon-date the remains and apparently were unaware of four other sections of the cave, including the back section with the oldest bones. "There are a lot of tight places where you have to crawl through on your stomach," Dillingham said. Hockett, who grew up watching National Geographic specials on television, read McGuire's work in college and remembered it when he started working for the BLM in Elko in 1991. "It just stuck in the back of my head. Llamas are pretty rare in Nevada. When I started working at the BLM, I heard a rumor it might be on BLM lands," he said. Hockett used a global positioning satellite unit to locate the cave in the Pine Valley south of Carlin. He found McGuire's original test excavation site in the front of the cave as well as a more recently dug hole that "looked like a looter's pit." He granted an interview on the condition that the exact location of the cave be kept secret to protect it against further damage. But he doubts anyone could find the bones even if they got inside. "The cave is so dark, even with your lighting, that almost anytime I go in there I lose something," Hockett said. The unique combination of creatures may be surpassed only by the unique way in which the bones have been preserved. "It is incredibly rare," said Stafford, who runs Stafford Research Laboratories, one of the nation's preeminent carbon-dating labs. "It is just incredibly well preserved both physically and chemically. It's really bound to have DNA," he said. Stafford is among those headed into the cave the third week of June for a major study of the contents along with experts from the University of Nevada's Desert Research Institute and the Gila River Indian Reservation in Ariz. Hockett said he doesn't know what to expect. "We know quite a bit about the critters from 18,000 to 10,000 years ago because the last glacial surge was 18,000 years ago," he said. "We know a lot less about 20,000 to 40,000 or 50,000 years ago. "At most cave sites, at bedrock you are at 10,000 to 20,000 years ago and that's it. These bones date to 40,000 to 50,000 years and those bones are sitting on the surface. "We've only made a pin prick."