Anthropology Program

Archaeological Field School – Wyoming

Northwest College, Summer 2010


Historical Social Landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
A Joint Archaeological Field School
Northwest College (Powell, Wyoming) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana)
May 19, 2010 - June 30, 2010

Bighorn Canyon 2005 Bighorn Canyon is the dominant geological feature on the project area. The Bighorn River flows throught he canyon betwenn 500' and 1000' below the canyon rim.

Northwest College (NWC) and Indiana University (IU) announce their sixth cooperative program in archaeological field methods scheduled from May 19, 2010 to June 30, 2010. NWC and IU present a holistic, field-based program in the social history and human ecology of the northwestern High Plains and Middle Rocky Mountains with a special emphasis on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This program examines the changing material culture of Crow and Shoshone Indians during the transition from Pre-Contact Period nomadic hunting and gathering societies to a contemporary Reservation-based ranching culture. Fieldwork includes a combined program of remote sensing, total station and global positioning system (GPS) mapping, artifact analysis, and limited test excavations at sites in northwestern Wyoming and southern Montana. Special topics covered include regional geological and paleoenvironmental history, human-animal interactions, and rock art studies. Admission is by application only. Application deadline for Indiana University students is March 6, 2009. Northwest College and other students may apply until May 25, 2009.

Bighorn Canyon 2005 The 2005 field school takes lunch on the edge of the Bighorn Canyon.

Research will be conducted in three 10-day sessions with four days off between each session. Students can spend days off exploring Yellowstone National Park or hiking and camping in the nearby Bighorn, Beartooth, or Absaroka Mountains. Sessions 1 and 2 will be held at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Base camp for this project is at the Ewing-Snell Ranch, a fully restored National Register of Historic Places landmark first established in 1896. Bighorn Canyon and the Ewing-Snell base camp offer easy walking access to field sites from paved or gravel roads. Session 3 will be held at a remote camp in the Shoshone National Forest. The forest base camp may require students to pack their personal gear over several miles, climbing thousands of feet in elevation. This component of the program affords few luxuries in a potentially harsh but stunning environment. All students must carry bear spray at all times. Grizzly bears and potential bear encounters are a fact of camp life. Enrollment will be limited to 12 students. Contact Judson Finley or Laura Scheiber for additional information.


Laura Scheiber (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) and Judson Finley (PhD, Washington State University) direct and teach the archaeological fieldschool. Laura is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Director of the William R. Adams Zooarchaeology Laboratory at Indiana University. Her research interests include Late Prehistoric and Contact Period Plains archaeology, faunal analysis, and cultural identity as realized through social landscapes. Judson is Director of the NWC Summertime Program in Wyoming Archaeology. He is a geoarchaeologist specializing in rockshelter stratigraphy, fluvial geomorphology, and environmental change in the northern High Plains and Middle Rocky Mountains. Laura and Judson have worked together since 1992 and together have 40 years of archaeological experience in Wyoming and the surrounding Plains and Rocky Mountain states.


Layout Creek 2005 NWC/IU students Candy Olberding (left), DeAnza Harrison (center), and Gina Pellouchoud (right) map stone circles on Layout Creek in 2005.

Stone circles are one of the few types of prehistoric architecture that survive on the Northwestern Plains. They represent on-the-ground remnants of family organization, camp activities, and domestic life. Early Plains ethnographers such as George Grinnell, Walter Campbell, and Robert Lowie documented the use of stones as weights around the base of Plains Indian tipis. When the tipis were moved, the stones often stayed in place, preserving to some extent the characteristics of the superstructure. Stone circle studies are important and somewhat unique in archaeological research because they allow researchers to focus on social and economic organization, use of space,ideology, and daily practice.

Archaeologists recognize the potential of stone circles to contribute to larger anthropological research questions. Despite this agreement, many sites are often dismissed because of their apparent lack of artifacts. After examining site forms from 2785 stone circle sites in the state of Wyoming, Scheiber determined that only 1.2% of the sites were securely dated through excavation and/or radiocarbon dates. After a substantial Plains Anthropologist memoir published in 1983, only a handful of articles have appeared in recent years. Based on site data collected during the last 50 years and on our initial 2005 field project at Bighorn Canyon, we believe that stone circle sites here are especially noteworthy in their number, distribution, and high potential for dating signatures. We would like to develop a long-term research program in which Bighorn Canyon can serve as a test case for interpretation of stone circle sites throughout the Plains, particularly for understanding Crow domestic life during a critical period of culture contact and culture change. . This project was recently featured on the cover of The American Surveyor magazine. We welcome visitors. Come see us sometime!

Historic cultures on the western frontier of North America reinvented and redefined their identities in the context of the westward expansion of Euroamericans. By examining the archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence of changes in material culture and technologies in the case of Shoshone campsites in the Absaroka Mountains, we can see the complexities of culture contact and change that challenge the assumption of a unidirectional acculturation. The picture that emerges is that of a people responding strategically to rapidly changing contexts, taking advantage of new items for their material culture repertory while maintaining continuity with past traditions.

Washaskie Wilderness 2006 Students from the 2006 field school in the Washaskie Wilderness: back left to right: Jake Gee, Stephany Juneau, Merly Koby, Kat Seikel, Ashley Howder, Sara Newman, Jake Enk; front left to right: Kaja Anderson, Shelley Block, Gretchen Sneegas.

Over the last fifteen years, the study of culture contact between Native peoples, Euroamericans, and others has moved beyond traditional acculturation studies to incorporate issues of cultural transformation, ethnogenesis, cultural pluralism, resistance, and Native agency. The Plains of North America are well known as the land of Native Americans, mountain men, rendezvous, and military conflicts, yet theoretical contributions from culture contact studies have not been thoroughly applied in this region. We investigate the ways Native peoples of northern Wyoming and southern Montana formed social landscapes and maintained their ethnic identities during significant social and economic disruptions caused by European expansion into the western frontier. In this project, we explore the ways that Native Americans crafted material culture and reworked technologies and how these practices are related to the formation of new cultural identities during the contact period in North America.

Bridger-Teton National Forest 2007 Students from the 2007 field school in Bridger-Tetaon National Forest: Ed Herrmann, Jake Gee, Ted Preator, Maureen Boyle, Ashley Howder, Judson Finley, Rosemary Ginger, Megan Lewis, Zac Muller, Catherine Page, Evan Lewis, Laura Scheiber.

For this project, we are investigating and searching for Mountain Shoshone campsites associated with sheep traps that were occupied in the area of the Absaroka Mountains between A.D. 1600 and 1900. Because the indigenous residents of these sites were pushed into this remote mountainous location by expanding American Indian and Euroamerican populations, virtually nothing is known about them. Indeed, recent research suggests that the myth of the wild man popularized in western medieval literature plays a larger role in defining this small group of nomads than does actual evidence. The Absaroka Mountain sites are also significant because forest fires have burned and removed the overlying vegetation, revealing thousands of artifacts and features and providing us a rare and exceptional opportunity to examine daily life. Objects visible on the ground surface include hundreds of stone tools, dozens of small arrow points, scissor-cut metal cans, thousands of glass trade beads, historic period rifle cartridges, native-worked bottle glass, metal projectile points, ceramic cooking vessels, polished stones, and heavy amounts of sheep and elk food remains. These materials are clustered into distinct activity areas, such as tool manufacture, animal butchery and bone processing, cooking facilities, and craft production. This is important because it reveals information about the relationships among the artifacts and the spatiality of everyday practice. The exceptional range of aboriginal and introduced materials is the only example of its kind in the west and possibly in the country.

Bridger-Teton National Forest 2007 Mapping out the daily survey route, Bridger-Teton National Forest, June 2007: Ted Preator, Ed Herrmann, Catherin Page, Judson Finley, Zac Muller, Megan Lewis, Evan Lewis, Ashley Howder, Jake Gee.

This project will expand the discussion of culture contact in North America by focusing on long-term culture change and continuity from pre-contact (pre AD 1700) to initial contact (AD 1700-1860) to early reservation (AD 1860-1900) periods. Repeated reoccupation of the same place allows us to consider how people chose to continue to use old materials, substitute new materials, or incorporate new materials in unique ways in a frontier situation. The Absaroka sites play a key role in understanding culture change and continuity prior to and following initial contact with Euroamerican explorers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Given the late dates of some artifacts, which clearly have a Native American affiliation, the sites also contribute to understanding continued use of the landscape following the initiation of the reservation period. The Wind River Reservation was established in 1868. The mountain Shoshones who visited the area at the end of the 19th century may have left the Wind River Reservation temporarily or may have been escaping reservation life by hiding in the remote high country. The archaeological evidence will give us a better understanding of this critical juncture in the lives of Indian people.

During summer 2008, the research team will conduct archaeological survey and reconnaissance along the Southfork Corridor, searching for additional Mountain Shoshone campsites in recently burned areas. We will be employing a targeted GIS approach based on the location of previous sites and a combination of environmental parameters. This information will allow us to further address the role of northwestern Wyoming’s wilderness landscape in structuring Shoshone social history.


Judson B. Finley is a recent PhD in Anthropology from Washington State University and is director of the Summertime Program in Wyoming Archaeology at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. Judson has 15 years of field and research experience working on the Northern Plains and Middle Rocky Mountains. He holds a BA in Anthropology (1996) from the University of Wyoming and an MA in Anthropology from Washington State University (2001) where he wrote a thesis exploring Late Holocene geoarchaeology and paleoenvironments of the Bighorn Mountains. Since 2000 he has directed field studies in the Bighorn Mountains, developing an educational program in Wyoming archaeology through Northwest College that brings archaeological field opportunities to the residents of northwestern Wyoming’s many small communities. He was assistant editor of American Antiquity from 2001-2002, visiting professor of anthropology at Northwest College from 2002-2003, and currently teaches classes through Washington State University’s Distance Degree Program. His membership in professional organizations includes the Society for American Anthropology, the Plains Anthropological Society, and the Wyoming Archaeological Society. A list of representative publications include the following:

  • Finley, Judson Byrd (2007)  Stratigraphy, Sedimentology, and Geomorphology.  In Medicine Lodge Creek: Holocene Archaeology of the Eastern Big Horn Basin, Wyoming, edited by George C. Frison and and Danny N. Walker, pp. 131-152.  Clovis Press, Avon, Colorado.
  • Finley, Judson Byrd (2007) The Geologic and Geomorphic Context of Rockshelters in the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming.  In On the Shelter’s Ledge: Histories, Theories, and Methods of Rockshelter Research, edited by Marcel Kornfeld, Sergei Vasil’ev, and Laura Miotti.  Proceedings of the XV World Congress UISPP Lisbon, Portugal, September 2006. British Archaeological Reports BAR S1655.  Archaeopress, Oxford, England.
  • Finley, Judson B., Marcel Kornfeld, Chris C. Finley, Brian N. Andrews, George C. Frison, and Michael T. Bies (2005)  Rockshelter Archaeology and Geoarchaeology in the Bighorn Mountains.  Plains Anthropologist 50:227-248.
  • Larson, Mary Lou, and Judson Byrd Finley (2004)  Analytical Nodules: Retrospect and Prospect.  In Aggregate Analyses in Lithic Studies, edited by Christopher T. Hall and Mary Lou Larson, pp. 95-111.  University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
  • Finley, Judson Byrd, Marcel Kornfeld, George C. Frison, and Chris C. Finley (2003)  Below Folsom at Two Moon Shelter, Wyoming.  Current Research in the Pleistocene 20:18-20, Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, College Station.
  • Finley, Judson Byrd, Brian N. Andrews, Marcel Kornfeld, and George C. Frison (2002) Two Moon: A Folsom Rockshelter Occupation in the Bighorn Mountains, WyomingCurrent Research in the Pleistocene 19:22-25.  Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, College Station.

Laura L. Scheiber is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University and is the director of the William R. Adams Zooarchaeology Laboratory. She has 19 years of field and research experience working on the Northwestern and Central Plains. She has a BA and MA in Anthropology from the University of Wyoming, where she wrote her Master’s thesis entitled “Prehistoric Domestic Architecture on the Northwestern High Plains: A Temporal Analysis of Stone Circles in Wyoming.” She also holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she conducted research resulting in her 2001 dissertation which addressed issues of daily practice and culture contact on the North American High Plains. She recently initiated a new archaeological research project with Judson Finley in northern Wyoming/southern Montana focused on interpretation of historical landscapes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Professor Scheiber has taught archaeological field schools in Wyoming for 18 years and is the author of over 30 papers delivered at professional conferences. She is the former Vice-President of the Plains Anthropological Society and the chair of the student paper competition. She is the co-editor of Archaeological Landscapes on the High Plains to be published in 2008 by the University Press of Colorado and the co-editor of Across the Great Divide: Change and Continuity in Native North America, 1500-1900, to be published by the University of Arizona Press. At Indiana University, she is affiliated with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, the Center for Archaeology and the Public Interest, and the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. She is a member of the Society for American Archaeology, World Archaeological Congress, and American Anthropological Association. Relevant publications include the following:

  • Scheiber, Laura L., Judson Byrd Finley, and Maureen P. Boyle (2008) Bad Pass ArchaeologyAmerican Surveyor 5(4).  March/April 2008 issue.
  • Scheiber, Laura L. (2007)  The Economy of Bison Exploitation on the Late Prehistoric North American High Plains.  Journal of Field Archaeology. 32(3):297–313
  • Scheiber, Laura L. and Charles A. Reher  (2007)  The Donovan Site (5LO204): An Upper Republican Animal Processing Camp on the High PlainsPlains Anthropologist 52(203):337-364.
  • Scheiber, Laura L. (2006) Skeletal Biology: Plains.  In Handbook of North American Indians: Environment, Population, and Origins, Volume 3, edited by Douglas Ubelaker, pp. 595-609.  Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
  • Scheiber, Laura L. (2006) The Late Prehistoric on the High Plains of Western Kansas.  In Kansas Archeology, edited by Robert J. Hoard and William E. Banks, pp. 133-150.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence.
  • Scheiber, Laura L. (2005) Late Prehistoric Bison Hide Production and Hunter-Gatherer Identities on the North American Plains.   In Gender and Hide Production, edited by Lisa Frink and Kathryn Weedman, pp. 57-75.  AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California.  In Gender and Archaeology Series, edited by Sarah M. Nelson.
  • Scheiber, Laura L. and George W. Gill (1997) Bioarcheology of the Northwestern Plains. In Bioarcheology of the North Central United States, edited by Douglas W. Owsley and Jerome C. Rose, pp. 88-114. Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Series, No. 49.
  • Scheiber, Laura L. (1994) A Probable Early Nineteenth Century Crow Burial: The Pitchfork Rockshelter Reexamined. Plains Anthropologist 39(147):37-51.