Posted by: Brian | July 29, 2009

Time Team America at Range Creek

The Pilling Figurines - Fremont clay figurines found at Range Creek. (Photo by bclee)

The Pilling Figurines - Fremont clay figurines found at Range Creek. (Photo by Brian Lee, Flickr "bclee")

Wow! Time Team America is really hitting their stride. This episode was their best in my opinion. Starting with a world class archaeological treasure – the Range Creek valley of Utah – and adding a truly interdisciplinary approach, experimental archaeology, rock climbing, helicopter rides, and even a little bit of theory makes for an episode that has it all.

Range Creek, Utah is a phenomenally preserved collection of Fremont sites including pit house villages, pictographs, cliff-side grainaries, and mountaintop defensive structures. The dry desert conditions have helped preserve organics – including timbers and lashing in the granaries, but the most important factor was the previous landowner, Waldo Wilcox, and his family. Wilcox was a rancher, owning some 4000 acres in Range Creek of eastern Utah. He’d recognized 60 years ago the incredible native history preserved on his land and made sure that the sites remained undisturbed. In 2001 he arranged for the land to go into public trust. Now these sites are owned and protected by the people of Utah. Wilcox and his family are probably among the most important preservationists of Native American history in recent times.

What made this episode work for me though, was how well Time Team America integrated the different parts of the project. The geophysics team’s results were visually clear and led to some interesting finds. The experimental archaeology, where they reconstructed a granary out of clay, stone, and wood, had a meaningful connection to the research. I also liked that they brought in a paleoethnobotanist to illustrate a specialty in archaeology (besides geofizz).

I’ve come to realize that Colin Campbell, the shows artist and narrator, is the key to the show’s success. This episode was his best. He was lively – actually almost running from one dig site to another. He also seemed a little more confident, a little more willing to ask questions and try things out. His role is really to represent the viewer – so it’s important that he be the central figure. I like him. He’s intelligent, curious, and empathetic. The show is at its best when he is enthusiastically involved and having fun. Colin was definitely having fun in Range Creek, so I had fun watching him and watching the rest of Time Team America.

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Responses

  1. I concur that this was a brilliant presentation of North American archaeology at its finest…finally a television program that gives an accurate perspective of the discipline.
    I particularly enjoyed the geophysics with Dr. Meg Watters who I’ve had the privilege of working with on a public archaeology project here in Milwaukee! Hope this series continues to flourish as it has in Britain!


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