Prime real estate — that's how Southern Oregon University archaeologist Chelsea Rose describes the land at Hanley Farm.
Owned and managed by the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the agricultural property on Highway 238 west of Medford boasts plenty of top-shelf natural features.
"You can stand there and look out over green and see Table Rocks, Mount McLoughlin, the mountains behind you," Rose says. "There's fresh water. There's everything you need to be successful, whether it's now or in the 1850s when the Hanleys settled it, or 2,000 years ago."
And like any prime real estate, the Hanley Farm location has been well used over the centuries. The things the site's past residents, including Native Americans, left behind show that.
Last month, a team of about 15 archaeologists, volunteers and students unearthed numerous artifacts and other evidence of past use during a dig prompted by Historical Society officials as a preliminary step before a new septic tank and drain pool were installed. Putting in the septic system is a challenge because the process involves trenching and digging up land that's rich with history.
"Any time you're going to dig in a known archaeological site that's protected, you've got to do archaeology first," Rose says. "In this instance, we knew some of the site was going to get impacted, so we did data recovery. We recovered a sample, scientifically, of what was going to get disturbed, so now we have that data for the future, and it's OK that it got churned up, because we saved it first."
SOHS consulted with the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians during the dig. The team dug at four spots, spaced at strategic intervals across the site where the drainage field will be placed. They dug down about five feet.
"Below that it's not really safe unless you shored up the holes or expanded them out," Rose says. "And it's not very easy to dig once you're that deep."
On Tuesday, Rose and SOU archaeologist Andrew Bastier spread out some of the yield on a table in a Taylor Hall classroom. There were two distinct categories, divided by how deep they were found: materials left behind by Native Americans that go back perhaps thousands of years, and others left behind by Hanley Farm's residents from about 160 years ago.
"That's how archaeology works in theory," Rose says. "The deeper you go, the older you go."
The most common finds in the deeper layer were tools and points from arrows and darts, referred to by Bastier as "projectile points," along with leftover rock chips that came from making the tools.
The finds tell some exciting stories. A projectile point crafted from obsidian, for example, would not have been made with local materials. It was more likely brought to the area by another tribe and traded.
"That's going to be brought from the Klamath Basin maybe," Bastier says. "A pretty far trade route."
For the Hanley Farm era, finds included cow bones, jewelry and fragments from broken dishes and bottles. There's still plenty of cleaning and sorting to do on all the discoveries. Next week, SOU students in a research class will assist Bastier with that, which he will follow up on with a written report.
"It's going to be a good teaching lesson for students," Bastier says.
"It was a great outcome," Rose says. "We had a good balance of finding a lot of information that will help us learn more about the Native Americans that lived at Hanley Farm in the past, but also we were able to get enough done that the project can be completed without any further action."
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.