National Register Evaluation of Critical Wilderness Archeological Sites
This project would conduct archeological research and develop National Register evaluations for a sample of archeological sites in Yosemite Wilderness. The project would be conducted in collaboration with the park's tribal partners and University of California, Merced (UC Merced). The initial work would include outreach with the park's tribal partners to identify issues, concerns and opportunities for collaboration and ways in which traditional perspectives can be incorporated into the analysis. The highest priority archeological sites would be identified for consideration, using criteria such as uniqueness of materials, threats from climate change, visitor use, intensity of ongoing uses and impacts, tribal considerations, need for information to support wilderness management decisions, and opportunities to involve students or other volunteers. Second, the project would develop an archeological research design identifying the historic (or prehistoric) contexts of the resources, the National Register criteria potentially applicable to the resources, requirements for both materials and site integrity, and research methods necessary to conduct the evaluation. Third, the project would implement a phased field and laboratory work plan, addressing the minimum requirements of work within wilderness and other logistical considerations and constraints. Finally, the results of the research would be formulated into a professional archeological report, National Register nomination(s), educational materials for the tribes, and interpretive material for park programs. All resultant documents and collections would be cataloged and accessioned into the Yosemite Museum. All work would be overseen by principal investigators meeting the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Standards.
Given the anticipated funding at present, the project would be conducted over a span of three years. Fieldwork would be limited to the summer of 2017. Two or three sites will be selected for test excavations. If funding becomes available after Fiscal Year 2017, additional sites may be considered for fieldwork. The specific methodology for fieldwork will be detailed in the research design. Such work typically entails limited excavation at sites, amounting to a sample of less than 5% of a site's total volume. Initial excavation would employ the use augers or shovel probes, measuring less than 50 cm in diameter, to identify horizontal extent, depth of deposit, and distribution of cultural material. Contingent on the findings, few formal excavation units (1 x 1meter or smaller) would be placed to retrieve samples in a controlled manner. No modern materials, such as tree tags or other markers, would remain in Wilderness upon completion of the work. If vegetation is present within excavation areas, plugs would be saved replanting and the area would be restored.
A small field crew (8 or fewer) of National Park Service and UC Merced archeologists, tribal representatives, interns, and volunteers would conduct the work. Stock support would be necessary for transport of excavation equipment and gear, but the field crew would hike to the sites. Campsites near the selected sites would use previously established camping locations. Team leaders would ensure that all regulations for Wilderness travel and camping would be followed. A project-specific safety plan would be developed to address Wilderness travel, camping, and the archeological work.