www.archaeology.ws/archive

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3220557.stm

Fossil hints at primate origins

 

An ankle bone discovered in central Burma could be evidence of an ancient ancestor common to many of today's primates, including humans.

The 45-million-year-old fossil has features that link it to all of the anthropoids, the grouping of human-like species such as apes and monkeys.

If correct, this would tie their line of evolutionary descent to Asia and not Africa as some have suggested.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The PNAS journal presents a paper on the discovery by Laurent Marivaux, of the University of Montpellier II, and colleagues.

They say the way the left tarsal bone might have moved in the joint would have been typical of known, early anthropoids, which clambered about in trees.

They even speculate that the remains may have belonged to an anthropoid species known as Amphipithecus, a large, ape-like animal.

The implication of the team's research is that humans' primate ancestor may have had Asian origins.

The PNAS report suggests the Burma descendents would have moved into what is Africa before evolving into the various human species that then spread back out across the globe in the last few hundred thousand years.

 

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/3217397.stm

Quarry threatens prehistoric site

 

Opponents say the plans threaten the 'Stonehenge of the North'

A county council has been criticised over the destruction of the landscape around one of Britain's major prehistoric sites.

Thornborough Henges, near Ripon, has the greatest concentration of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age sites in the UK.

It also boasts the country's largest quarrying operation on prehistoric land, Nosterfield Quarry, producing more than 500,000 tonnes of sand and gravel each year.

Construction firm Tarmac is planning to extend its activities in the area as supplies from existing reserves are expected to run out within three years.

Archaeologist Dr Mark Horton, a presenter on the BBC's Time Flyers programme, criticised North Yorkshire County Council over the destruction of the landscape around the site.

Dr Horton, head of archaeology at the University of Bristol, said: "I've been appalled by what I've seen at Thornborough.

"Archaeological sites like this should be protected and plans such as these shouldn't even be proposed.

"That such landscape destruction could even be considered around Stonehenge, or even our lesser-known sites in the south, is unthinkable.

"Yet at Thornborough it is OK to seriously consider the total loss of a prehistoric landscape, arguably as important, for simple economic gain."

North Yorkshire County Council permitted Tarmac to quarry in the area in 1994 after "only a very limited archaeological survey", Dr Horton said.

 But county council archaeologist Neil Campling defended the previous studies that had been carried out and said all the finds had been recorded properly.

In the event of an official planning application being submitted, a review of the environmental impact of the plans would be carried out, he said.

And a Tarmac spokeswoman denied the site was under threat

"The Thornborough Henges site is an important site of archaeological interest and we believe that in Tarmac's care, it is in safe hands," she said.

"There are no plans to dig up or destroy the henges and we would restore the site in consultation with archaeological experts and provide a visitor centre."

 

http://www.thisisyork.co.uk/york/news/YORK_NEWS_LOCAL1.html

Roman site hitch on City's stadium

by Evening Press reporte

 

York City's planned move to Huntington Stadium has hit another hitch - the discovery of a Roman camp on the site.

Archaeologists flying over Monks Cross in a light aircraft spotted the outline of possible Roman remains.

Now, the subsequent investigations have led experts to believe there is a second Roman site below the covered terracing opposite the main stand.

The football club is hoping to move to Huntington next season after its lease at Bootham Crescent expires.

But it will first need to upgrade the stadium to Football League standards, and it is set to lodge a planning application with City of York Council by mid-November.

The application will be accompanied by a report about the Roman discovery by an archaeological specialist, in conjunction with city archaeologist John Oxley.

It is possible that archaeologists will be given the green light to do some excavations building work begins.

York City's development director, Ian McAndrew, said today: "It's just another of those hurdles which we will have to take in our stride."

He said the planned move was working to a very tight timescale and a tight budget, and he was hoping the Roman discovery would lead neither to delays nor an increase in costs.

"We are liaising with the relevant parties at present to determine how this will affect our application and future construction."

The submission of the planning application will come several weeks later than originally expected, but there have been several complicated transport and traffic issues to overcome at the site near Monks Cross shopping centre.

Mr McAndrew said it was important for local residents and businesses to be consulted to ensure everyone was "comfortable" with the plans.

The club has also been waiting for the Football Licensing and Safety Committee to give the go-ahead for the move.

That body is to meet at Huntington Stadium on November 6 when the club, its architects, North Yorkshire Police and Charlie Croft, City of York Council's assistant director of lifelong leisure and learning, will look at policing and safety issues such as transport and fans' segregation.

City's communications director, Sophie McGill, said the club wanted to ensure it had the licence before seeking planning permission; otherwise it might have to resubmit the application, leading to further delays.

City chairman Steve Beck met this week with the management of the Monks Cross shopping centre, representatives of Sainsbury's, Asda and local businesses, York City Council and Huntington Parish Council at the Monks Cross Park and Ride site.

Buses from the centre of York and from other Park and Ride sites will service the Monks Cross site.

Updated: 10:47 Thursday, October 30, 2003

 

http://www.news-and-star.co.uk/viewarticle.asp?id=44468

ROMAN DIGS DELAY SPORTS CENTRE PLANS

Published in The News and Star on 29/10/2003

By Dean Herbert and Mark Preskett

 

PLANS for two new sports centres in Cumbria have been put on hold while archaeologists investigate possible Roman remains under both sites.

 

Work on the proposed sports halls in Silloth and Maryport cannot be started until archaeologists examine the sites for remains of Roman roads and parts of Hadrianís Wall, it has been decided.

 

Solway Community School is seeking permission to build a new £1 million sports hall, with changing rooms, showers, offices, reception and storerooms in front of the school in Liddell Street, Silloth.

 

Earlier plans to build the sports hall on a site known as The Hollow were withdrawn after objections.

 

The latest plans have attracted only two letters of objection from residents, whose main concerns are the scale and inappropriateness of the building, the loss of trees and traffic generation.

 

And a 600-signature petition has been received supporting the proposal.

 

But planning officer Jane Corry told the county councilís development control and regulation committee that the county archaeologist had recommended the application be deferred because of the siteís archaeological interest.

 

The school playing fields include a Roman camp which is part of the Hadrianís Wall World Heritage Site. A large area of playing field is also protected as a scheduled ancient monument.

 

English Heritage and the county archaeologist recommended that a study be carried out before any planning permission be granted. The study concluded that the likelihood of significant remains being found meant that field survey work was required, involving the digging of trial trenches on the site.

 

Mrs Corry therefore recommended that the application be deferred for further archaeological investigation. The committee agreed.

 

Meanwhile, Cumbria County Council planners have given the go-ahead for a new sports hall at Netherhall School in Maryport, which will enable it to become a centre of sporting excellence.

 

The school, which was recently launched as a specialist sports college, will see the four-court hall built and linked to the existing pool facilities.

 

But this, too, will only happen after archaeologists have scoured the site for Roman remains.

 

The hall will include fitness rooms, a social area, office and storeroom.

 

Members of the councilís development control and regulation committee have also granted permission for an existing car park to be extended.

 

But building is not expected to start for some months as Mrs Corry said an archaeological survey would have to take place due to there being a possible Roman road buried under the site.

 

The plans were approved subject to archaeological work and a flood risk assessment being carried out.

 

http://www.iwcp.co.uk/fullstory.asp?storyid=1

BLOODY KING LINKED TO SAXON BEACH FIND

By Richard Wright

Isle of Wight

 

A RARE gold sword belt ornament which could have belonged to the seventh century Saxon king, Caedwalla, has been found on an Island beach - and there could be another hidden under the sands.

 

Discovery of the intricate gold decoration encrusted with garnets is regarded as being especially historically significant because it could have belonged to the king reputed to have put a quarter of the Island population to the sword in his attempt to convert them to Christianity.

Enthusiast Darren Trickey, 21, had gone out for a few minutes with his metal detector when he came across the find of a lifetime on the beach at Bembridge.

Removal man Darren, of Dennett Road, Bembridge, said: "It glowed like it was brand new when I dug it up.

"I'm told it could be worth up to £30,000 and I would love it if the IW Council's museum service would bid for it because it would be great to see it displayed on the Island with my name underneath it.

"I have been detecting since I was ten and have found coins and items of modern jewellery but nothing like this. It is fantastic."

At an inquest on Tuesday, Island coroner John Matthews declared the artefact treasure trove, which will enable museums to buy it from Darren.

IW Council archaeological officer Frank Basford told Tuesday's inquest the spectacular gold pyramidal sword belt fitting was the most important artefact to have been found on the Island since the excavation of Anglo Saxon cemeteries of Bowcombe Down and Chessell Down in the mid 19th century.

"The gold fitting has an octagonal base and is decorated with 16 panels divided into cells. Originally these were inlaid with garnets, only one of which now survives.

"At the base is a bar through which a leather strap would have been threaded.

"The eighth century historian, the Venerable Bede, credits Caedwalla with converting the Jutish population of the Island to Christianity.

"If this is the case his conversion methods sound rather drastic, as the Island is chronicled as having accepted Christianity some 25 years earlier when it was ruled by the South Saxons.

"As it was found on the beach it may have been dropped by someone visiting or even invading the Island.

"We can be confident its owner was of very high rank. The sword belt fitting is particularly fine and its octagonal form makes it a unique example. It is possible it belonged to Caedwalla himself and it is also possible there is another under the beach because they were worn as pairs."

ē When other metal detecting enthusiasts had packed up and gone home, Terry Orme's persistence paid off with the discovery of an important 15th century ring, which could have royal significance.

An inquest decided that the ring, dug up from a Godshill field, was treasure trove, which opens the way for a museum to buy it and put the ring on display.

Half the proceeds of several thousand pounds would go to Mr Orme, 54, of Main Road, Havenstreet, and half to the landowner.

But if the British Museum or the IW Council do not want the 95 per cent pure silver gilt ring, tomato picker Mr Orme said he would like to be able to pay the landowner for his half and have the ring for himself.

 

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/2590463/detail.html

Battlefield Excavation Uncovering Remnants Of Slave Village

POSTED: 9:48 a.m. EST October 29, 2003

UPDATED: 9:50 a.m. EST October 29, 2003

 

FREDERICK, Md. -- Archeologists at the Monocacy National Battlefield are sifting through artifacts that predate the Civil War battle and reveal another part of the area's early history.

 

National Park Service archaeologist Stephen Potter says a team is excavating what may be a slave village dating back to the late 18th or early 19th century.

The land was once a plantation owned by a family from Haiti that may have been one of the largest slave-holding families in Frederick County.

 

Researchers say the family may have owned as many as 90 slaves.

The excavation has been going on for 3 years. The project is a joint venture between the National Park Service and the University of Maryland.

 

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Geophysics surveys of Brodgar penisnula

For centuries scholars and antiquarians have had their own theories over the activities that once took place in Orkney's World Heritage Site covering the Ness of Brodgar in Stenness. From druid enclosures to ancestral monuments, each era had its own ideas about the Neolithic ceremonial centre. However, despite the advances in archaeological knowledge, technique, and technology, there is still very little known about the area.

     But this looks set to change, with the continuation of a project to use magnetometry to scan the entire Brodgar peninsula. Magnetometry is the technique of measuring and mapping patterns of magnetism in the soil. Ancient activity, particularly burning, leaves magnetic traces that show up even today when detected with the right equipment. Buried features such as ditches or pits, when they are filled with burnt or partly burnt materials can show up clearly and give us an image of sub-surface archaeology.

     So far, 45 hectares have been scanned, and the measurements showed that the entire Brodgar peninsula is covered in anomalies that indicate that there was once considerable activity there - although the exact details of this remain tantalisingly unclear. "If this is all related," said Nick Card of Orkney Archaeological Trust (OTA), "then we're looking at what could potentially be the largest Neolithic settlement or ceremonial sites in Britain."

     The geophysics results clearly show a lot of activity around the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Brig o' Brodgar and house of Lochview right up to Brodgar Farm. At this point, however, from a landscape rife with anomalies, there comes an almost clinically defined point where activity ceases:  an invisible boundary over which the area's inhabitants did not want to cross.

     Does this mark the start of a symbolic shift in the perception of the landscape? Or is there a more mundane reason - a field or territorial boundary perhaps? Despite all the questions the scans raise, the evidence to provide answers awaits 'ground truthing' of the geophysics by excavation. Nick explained: "Although a lot has been written about the World Heritage Site, there's a lot still to be discovered, not only in terms of structures and monuments, but how they all inter-relate with each other."

     A chance discovery on the Ness in April this year revealed solid evidence of one of the geophysics anomalies - a stone dwelling almost exactly halfway between the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. The structure was found to be remarkably similar to the Neolithic structure at Barnhouse, a short distance away. At Barnhouse, this "double-house" has come to be interpreted as being that of a chief or person of authority. The structure was different from its contemporaries in that it was the only house at Barnhouse that was not superseded - in other words it stood throughout the entire life of the village. All the while, houses around the structure were being knocked down and rebuilt.

     After the preliminary excavation the structure was covered over again. The OTA hope that the new scans will allow them see a clearer picture of the settlement. County archaeologist Julie Gibson added "The further study of this structure and the area around it could offer an insight into the relationship between ritual and domestic life in the Neolithic."

     The scanning work around the World Heritage Sites will include an area to the north-west of Maeshowe, where aerial photographs indicate the presence of a large enclosure. The geophysics scans should clarify the nature of this site as to whether it is perhaps the remains of another Neolithic henge monument or perhaps a settlement.

 

Source: Orkneyjar Archaeology News (24 October 2004)

 

Ancient mound under a swimming pool

 

Removal of an old swimming pool at the Mound House on Estero Island in South West Florida, USA, soon might lead to a rare archaeological and educational opportunity. The resulting hole in the 2,000-year-old Indian mound then would be turned into a covered, climate-controlled walk-in archaeological exhibit where visitors will see the history of the mound's occupation in layers of shell. But first the state must approve $269,500 for a project proposed by the city of Fort Myers and Florida Gulf Coast University's Cultural Resources Management Program.

     If all goes well, the 45-year-old pool will be pulled out in the autumn of 2004. "Take out the pool and you have a huge cavity in the mound" said Corbett Torrence, co-director of the Cultural Resources Management Program. "This is how to make the best out of a bad situation. The hole is a giant earthen history book. Each layer is a chapter in the 2,000-year history."

     Once the pool at the Mound House is removed, archaeologists and volunteers will conduct an excavation to level the area under the pool, which was 8 feet deep at the drain and 4 feet deep in the shallow end. Much of archaeology is concerned with how artifacts relate to each other in a given activity area - a space where a single activity took place. By figuring out how different activity areas were laid out in a single structure, archaeologists can make assumptions about a culture's structure, said Theresa Schober, co-director of the Cultural Resources Management Program and principal author of the grant proposal.

     Because many archaeological excavations are conducted in 1-meter squares, it's sometimes difficult to see a big picture. But the Mound House dig will cover the entire horizontal area of the pool - 40 feet by 20 feet - so archaeologists should get a rare glimpse of daily life. Archaeologists and visitors to the exhibit also should learn plenty from the vertical area - the walls of the hole.

     The mound, which is small compared to mounds at Mound Key and Pineland, is not really a mound; it's the southern-most end of a 3,300-foot long ridge that was bulldozed for development. "The ridge sites here and on Useppa were abandoned at the very time the mounds at Pineland and Mound Key were exploding upwards," Torrence said.

     When the project is complete, possibly by the fall of 2006, visitors will walk into the mound from ground level and see the insides of an Indian shell mound measuring 40 feet long and 8 feet high.

 

Source: News-press.com (23 October 2003)

 

Canadian caves yield ancient artifacts

 

A caving expedition to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Canada) is believed to have found the base of a spear point that could represent the oldest human artifact on the British Columbia coast. The quartz spear point could be up to 11,000 years old, based on the sediment layer in which it was found, lending further credence to the theory that early humans migrated down the coast of North America by watercraft rather than travelling inland along an ice-free corridor.

     "Certainly, on the British Columbia coast, it would probably be the oldest site," said Parks Canada archeologist Daryl Fedje, comparing it with similar ancient human sites dated to about 10,300 years on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska, 10,500 years at Charlie Lake near Fort St. John, and almost 11,000 years on Santa Rosa Island, California. "It's a very interesting, very exciting find. But it's still preliminary."  The quartz used to make the spear is not known to occur on the Queen Charlottes.

     The week-long July expedition involved a combination of nine cavers, archeologists, paleontologists, and Haida natives, who know the Queen Charlottes off northwest British Columbia as Haida Gwaii. It was the fourth annual expedition to the cave - known simply as K-1 - located on remote Moresby Island outside Gwaii Haanas National Park in old-growth forest at least 500 metres from the shoreline.

     To date, just over one kilometre of cave passageway - ranging from a tight squeeze to vast chambers - has been mapped or explored. The exact location is not being released to protect the cave from unsupervised exploration and the potential removal of valuable artifacts.

 

Sources: Time Colonist, Victoria Canada.com (15 October 2003)

 

Work on Brazoria Woman continues

 

In 2001 the skull of a woman was discovered near Freeport (USA), on the coastal plains along the Gulf of Mexico. The skull was just a few feet below the surface, and came to light when US Fish and Wildlife workers sliced off the top while digging out a ditch. When archaeology consultant Robert d'Aigle from Spring, near Houston, was called in to record and investigate the site, a piece of skull bone was radiocarbon dated at around 13,000 years old. The site was excavated this summer by d'Aigle and a team from Texas A&M University's new Centre for the Study of the First Americans. The dig revealed more of the skeleton.

     'Brazoria Woman' appears to have been intentionally buried. Soil from near the skeleton showed signs of human protein, indicating that she had decomposed on the site; and she had been lying face down on a bed of shells, arms crossed across her chest. Doubts remain as to the age of the woman. When Mike Waters, an archaeologist from Texas A&M, visited the site in 2003 his conclusion was that the soil level was unlikely to be older than 5,000 years. He also questioned whether the first bone sample was in a good enough condition to be reliably dated. More bone samples will be tested over the next few months, at universities in England and the United Sates.

     An early dating would add fuel to the debate over when the first humans arrived in North America (Archaeo News readers will have followed recent contributions to this debate over the past few months). Some archaeologists believe that North America was first settled between 11000 BCE and 9500BCE by the Clovis people, hunter-gatherers who crossed via an ice free corridor between Siberia and Alaska that opened after the last Ice Age. Others have suggested that the Clovis people were preceded by other arrivals, possibly by boats from Europe that skirted the edge of the ice cap; or that there were earlier crossings of the land bridge during far earlier openings in the ice cover.

     Since the late 1980s the West Texas desert has produced evidence of bison hunting and nomadic hunting camps dating back to at least 13,500 years. These have been identified as Clovis settlements. But archaeology professor Reid Ferring, who discovered some of the most significant clusters of campsites in 1988, doubts that these were signs of the very oldest Texans. He believes that these will be found on the coast. A further dimension was added between 1998 and 2002, when a site dating from 10,000 to 13,000 years ago in Bell County, north of Austin, showed that the occupying 'Gault' people may have already been moving from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle. A University of Texas team headed by archaeologist Michael Collins has found signs of possible floor foundations, together with crafted and resharpened stone weapons, and art. With due caution, Collins says that this may suggest that people arrived in Texas far earlier than once imagined. An accurate radiocarbon analys!

is of Brazoria Woman that shows a very early date may add new data to the resolution of the question of America's first settlers.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/3228063.stm

Drawbridge unearthed at castle

 

Archaeologists believe they have unearthed part of a medieval drawbridge at Carmarthen Castle.

The discovery means experts now think parts of the west Wales town were well below the ground level of some of the streets of today.

The landmark has been the focus of a £1m dig and restoration project that is drawing to a close after two years.

But the discovery has boosted hopes more money will be forthcoming from the Heritage Lottery Fund for further work.

Piers thought to have supported the drawbridge have been found near Bridge Street.

This follows on from the discovery of a network of medieval walls, cellars and cobbled floors earlier in the year.

Pottery, leather shoes and other items have also been uncovered at the site.

The piers, which extend 25 feet below street level, would have been built as part of a causeway across the castle moat.

Archaeologists are dating everything they have discovered before preparing a detailed report on the excavation works.

The area in front of the castle will now be filled in and covered with a temporary surface while the county awaits the result of a lottery bid for extra funding for the final phase of works.

Building conservation officer John Llewelyn said: "The archaeologists have finished their work and are dating everything they have unearthed.

"They have found structures in front of the castle which show there was originally a drawbridge there.

"We are now in talks with the Heritage Lottery Fund over the application for funding for the fourth and final stage of works.

"It is a detailed process of negotiations and it will be some months before the public see any new work starting."

The castle, which dates back to the twelfth century, was officially re-opened in the summer after major enhancement works.

About three-quarters of the cost was met by a lottery heritage grant, with the remainder coming from Carmarthenshire Council and the Welsh ancient monuments body Cadw.

The castle was founded in 1109 by Henry I and became the centre of Norman control in south west Wales.

Much of the building was destroyed by the Owian Glyndwr rising in the fifteenth century, before being strengthened during the civil war of the 1640s.

 

 

http://icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100localnews/content_objectid=13573250_method=full_siteid=50002_headline=-World%2Ds%2Doldest%2Dcondoms%2Dgo%2Don%2Dtour-name_page.html

World's oldest condoms go on tour

Oct 30 2003

 

The world's oldest condoms are to leave the UK for the first time later this week to go on show at a sex exhibition in the Netherlands.

The five contraceptives, which were excavated from a medieval toilet in Dudley Castle in 1985, are believed to date back to the mid 17th century.

A spokesman for Dudley Council, which has care of the rare items, said they would be on show in Holland from November 11 to February 8 next year.

The West Midlands borough has been asked to loan the condoms to Drents museum in the northern province of Drenthe, which is staging an exhibition entitled 100,000 Years of Sex.

Because they are so fragile, Dr Vincent Vilsteren, keeper of archaeology at the museum, is making a special visit to the UK this weekend to collect them.

Adrian Durkin, exhibitions officer at Dudley Council, said: "It is very rare for such items to survive so well. Indeed the next oldest condoms in the world are over 100 years younger and will also be on display in the exhibition."

Councillor Charles Fraser Macnamara, lead member for culture and leisure, added: "This exhibition certainly has the opportunity to put Dudley on the map.

"The borough is most famous for its wonderful glass heritage and more recently for being the epicentre of last year's earthquake.

"It's good to know that the earth has moved for many generations in the borough and that we can share our knowledge with the rest of the world."

The sheaths, made of animal and fish intestine, were probably dropped into the toilet in the great tower sometime prior to 1646, when the castle was surrendered to the Parliamentarians.

 

 

http://www.adn.com/alaska/story/4274550p-4285223c.html

State hurries to document ancient hunting grounds

TANGLE LAKES: Chance of mineral finds lends urgency to archaeological project.

By PETER PORCO

Anchorage Daily News

(Published: October 29, 2003)

 

The Tangle Lakes region north of the Denali Highway is thought to hold mineral riches -- platinum, nickel, copper and other metals.

Located northwest of Paxson, the area contains other riches too, chiefly herds of caribou that have been hunted for perhaps 10,000 years and artifacts left by Athabascans and others who have hunted them.

The convergence of those facts has lent urgency to the work of a state agency to document hundreds of known archaeological sites in the area and to find artifacts left there by ancient and modern hunters, in the event mining should disturb some sites.

Already over the summer, the first of two seasons in which the state Office of History and Archeology is engaged in the special project, experts found parts of prehistoric arrows that could be up to 1,300 years old.

Previous finds in the area include flakes from even older stone tools, said Richard VanderHoek, an archaeologist who is one of those who got lucky with finds this summer.

"This is all hunter-gatherer populations," VanderHoek said. "People in the past used the area seasonally, most probably for hunting as well as berry picking, but especially for hunting caribou. A good case can be made that people have been hunting caribou herds that move through there for 10,000 years to the present."

Indeed, on one known site where Indian cultural remains have been discovered in the past, VanderHoek found a pair of .223-caliber rifle shells dating from the 1960s at the earliest, he said.

In January, the federal Bureau of Land Management transferred more than 200,000 acres in the Tangle Lakes region north of the highway to the state of Alaska as part of long-deferred statehood land conveyances, according to the Office of History and Archeology.

The land, known as the Denali Block, includes part of the Tangle Lakes Archeological District that the BLM formed a number of years ago. Managing the state's share of that district and its cultural resources as well as archaeological sites found outside the district where the principal mining interest lies will be a challenge, VanderHoek said.

"There is an increased push to get this property transferred (and documented) because there appears to be a large ore body -- minerals -- in the region," he said.

Because of the mineral potential, the state Legislature allocated money for a permanent position within the state Division of Mining, Land and Water to administer the region, VanderHoek said.

It also allocated funds for his own, temporary position, which will sunset after next year, he said.

Anchorage geologist Bill Ellis has been working as a consultant to several mining companies who have had claims in the region.

One of those, Seattle-based Nevada Star, has sub-surface rights to several hundred square miles of mostly state land, Ellis said.

The company has drilled exploratory holes in the search for economically recoverable metals but hasn't found enough to mine yet, he said. They have faith in eventual success, however, and will continue exploratory drilling next summer.

Over the last 10 years, more than $10 million has been spent in explorations.

"They wouldn't spend that kind of money if they weren't getting some encouragement," Ellis said.

One other challenge for the state is to keep off-road vehicles confined to the few trails within the archaeological district.

"It's a very popular hunting area, and off-road vehicle (drivers) have been using it for years," VanderHoek said. "The area has a very thin topsoil, so the off-road vehicle use is causing erosion and destruction of archaeological sites that are very shallowly buried."

The use of off-road vehicles outside the district is another story, he said.

"The use is largely unrestricted," VanderHoek said. "You can run anywhere you want."

 

Daily News reporter Peter Porco can be reached at pporco@adn.com or 257-4582.