Kent Lightfoot, Professor

Closed (1) The Historical Ecology of San Francisco Bay Area Shellmounds

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Over a century ago, pioneering archaeologist Nels Nelson of the University of California Berkeley (UCB) began systematically recording and excavating shellmounds throughout the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA). Most of these sites are now destroyed—a result of urban development. One site excavated in the 1950s and located in West Berkeley provides evidence of indigenous lifeways in the SFBA for over three millennia. Researchers at the California archaeology laboratory, UCB, San Francisco State University, and cultural resource management archaeologists are interested in reanalyzing pre-existing archaeological shellmound collections to understand shellmound construction and the role these sites played in the history of the SFBA. Reanalyzing the West Berkeley assemblage will contribute to this larger research project.



As part of this URAP, students will learn to identify, catalog, and analyze archaeological materials in a laboratory setting. Given the nature of the assemblage, this will include working with primarily animal remains from the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology collections. Additionally, students will work to sort, identify, and catalog previously unprocessed soil samples. At the end of the URAP, experienced students will understand the complexities of conducting museum based archaeological research and analyzing archaeological datasets. The goal of the URAP position is to prepare students for careers as museum, lab, and field archaeologists.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Gabriel Sanchez, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Applicants should be self-motivated, pay close attention to detail, and able to work in collaboration with others. Background in anthropological archaeology, California archaeology, biology, osteology, and artifact analysis is encouraged but not necessary for the position.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Closed (2) The Historical Ecology of the Northern Great Basin: Insights from Connley Caves (35LK50), Oregon

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Archaeological research of Oregon’s Fort Rock Basin has contributed insights into terminal Pleistocene and trans-Holocene occupations by small-scale societies. Connley Caves (Caves 1-6) were eroded by pluvial Fort Rock Lake and archaeological excavations have demonstrated the presence of nearly 4 m of well-stratified sediments, which contain tools characteristic of the Western Stemmed Tradition. Multiple researchers have investigated Connley Caves since the late 1960s. Initially excavated by Bedwell in 1967 and 1968 the site produced 14C dates that range from 10,600 ± 190 14C yr BP and 11,200 ± 200 14C yr BP. However, the 14C dates have been viewed with skepticism due to the expedient and coarse-grained excavation strategies employed by Bedwell, which included screening sediments over ¼ in mesh sieves.

In 2014 researchers revisited Connley Caves cave 4 and 5 to investigate the possibility of terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene human occupations using standard recovery methods including 1/8 in mesh sieves and fine-grained recovery methods through the collection of bulk sediment samples for flotation. In addition, human and non-human coprolites have been recovered for macro, micro, and genetic analyses.

As part of this URAP project, students will work with PhD candidate Gabriel Sanchez to analyze bulk sediment samples derived from cave 5. These samples are drawn from arbitrary and stratigraphic levels and features such as hearths. The sediments were found in association with Western Stemmed Tradition artifacts as well as locally extirpated fauna including Bison (Bison bison). Sanchez’s historical ecology research is focused on paleoenvironmental reconstructions derived from animal remains deposited in cave 4 and 5 by humans and non-humans through the analysis of screened excavation materials, flotation samples, and constituent analysis of human coprolites. Sanchez will contextualize the results of faunal analyses in relation to paleoecology, geoarchaeology, genetic, and paleoethnobotany datasets.


Participating students will learn to analyze an archaeological dataset using fine-grained recovery methods. This will include training in the flotation of bulk sediment samples to separate light fraction and heavy fraction samples. Students will work with Sanchez to sort and analyze the archaeological materials including animal remains, lithic, charred and uncharred botanical remains, among other materials. Students interested in zooarchaeology will have an opportunity to be introduced to the analysis of archaeological animal remains. The skills learned through this URAP will be applicable to archaeological analyses in any context.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Gabriel Sanchez, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Applicants should be self-motivated, pay close attention to detail, and able to work in collaboration with others. Background in anthropological archaeology, biology, osteology, and artifact analysis is encouraged but not necessary for the position.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://munch-greatbasinfieldschool.uoregon.edu/
Related website: http://pages.uoregon.edu/ftrock/connley_caves_description.html

Closed (3) Archaeological Laboratory Analysis of Native Californian Materials from the Central California Coast

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Researchers in the California Archaeology Laboratory are continuing a long-term study investigating land stewardship practices of Native Californian peoples. The study involves collecting samples of archaeological biological materials (shell, animal, and plant remains) from a number of sites up to 6000 years old on the Central California Coast and analyzing these to understand how Native people used natural resources from several thousand years ago into the recent past. This semester, we will be working on sorting flotation materials from these sites that contain shell, lithics, bone, and other artifact types. We seek URAP students looking to learn about identification of these materials to assist in the lab work.

The minimum time commitment for this project is six hours per week.

Students will assist graduate students in the California Archaeology Laboratory in sorting archaeological materials into specific categories (e.g., identifying different types of shellfish) and recording data on these materials onto standardized forms.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Mike Grone, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Students who participate should be interested in the archaeology / ecology of California. The work involves concentrating on a single task for two to three hours at a time, and so this work is not suitable for students who have trouble focusing on a task for extended periods. No specific prerequisite skills are required.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Closed (4) Investigating Native American Persistence at Mission San Jose during the Colonial-Period, San Francisco Bay Area.

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

This project will specifically ask the following questions: What is the relationship between wild and domesticated foods at this site? What does food and material choices tell us about Native Americans living in mission landscapes? And how can the study of soil samples be used to identify the dynamics of cultural knowledge within the mission system?

Recent scholarship has revisited our understanding of Native American lifeways during the colonial-era in Alta California. Early work painted a picture of wholesale culture loss and abandonment of traditional lifeways, but new insights have revealed interesting patterns of cultural persistence evident from the use and reuse of familiar foods and materials, and retained connections to ancestral landscapes.

This URAP will provide students with hands-on training in soil flotation, laboratory sorting, identification, cataloging, and analysis of the recovered archaeological materials. Students will be working with light fraction and heavy fraction materials which may include charred plant food remains, animal bone, shell and glass beads, flaked stone, and other artifact categories that are commonly found in Native American living areas in the mission system.

Students will also learn to use data from soil samples to discuss broad intellectual themes such as foodways, paleoethnobotany, landscapes, trade, culture change and persistence. The goal of the URAP position is to prepare students for careers as lab and field archaeologists, with an emphasis on flotation and soil sampling techniques.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Alec Apodaca, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Applicants should be self-motivated, detail-oriented, and well organized. Background in California archaeology, colonial-period history, botany, and artifact analysis is encouraged but not necessary for the position.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs