Dig It: Anthropology students search for history in the soil.


Hi there my name is Jerry Moore and I’m
professor of anthropology at Cal State University Dominguez Hills and my students and I are out here
working at the Rancho Dominguez, which is not only a lovely place, but
it’s one of the most important places in the entire history of Southern
California. And what we’re trying to do out here is we’re trying to recover aspects
of the unwritten history of the Rancho that tell us so much about the history the
development of Los Angeles County in general. What my students and I are trying to
understand is aspects to the daily life of this Rancho when it was actually a
working ranch. It’s interesting to realized that in the 1880’s LA county’s biggest exports were wheat and cowhides. And in 1920 their biggest exports were
petroleum and movies. This rancho was a very
important place in the southern South Bay Area. And this area
that we’re working right now was supposedly an outdoor kitchen and
barbecue area. So that during the harvest time or
doing roundup large numbers a ranch hands would be fed
out her. So what we’re doing here is we’re trying to use a number of
techniques to try to test whether or not this idea
is actually correct. And so the students in the background
are using a magnetometer to try to find features in the ground
that might be things like cooking pits or fire pits or areas where animal bones or garbage pits would have
been discarded Today we’re focusing on collecting 10
samples. And then we will go ahead and take those
samples to analyze them. What they’re doing is they’re trying to
learn how to find stuff with different pieces have scientific equipment. They’re
working through trying to find out how to make that equipment work and how to
discover things about the past using that equipment. Today we are at the Rancho Dominguez
testing out new equipment. It’s called a ground penetrating radar. And basically
what does it send electromagnetic signals down through the
surface and whatever is under there are reflected in the antenna picks it up.
And we’re looking for anomalies in the ground for evidence a possible action or
encampment that took place here at the Rancho Dominguez during the
Mexican-American war And we’ve been do plots all over the
Rancho to see evidence of military
encampment / artifacts. And we’ve been using a combination of
folk history and analyzing GPR results. But at another level what they’re doing is they’re discovering how to discover.
They’re finding out how to use a little pilot project and catch the
errors that they may have made in the first steps of a process. How to check their
results. How to work as a group. And how to not only determine that
they’ve actually discovered something but how do you go about asking new
questions; so that discoveries a process. We found
out that the oil derrick itself being of a metal property, most likely steel,
was sending off a magnetic field and when we were
processing the data you can actually see this distortion effect affect the entire
scan area. This made us have to rework our methodology. So we couldn’t scan areas
with metal objects like the oil derrick nearby. That’s one of the things that people
are learning in the course of a class like
this, is not just how to do this, but how to have that thrill of discovery.
About how to make learning not just something that you go
and passively do in a classroom but something that actively becomes part
of your life and becomes the way the person you are and the way in which you see the world. That’s a tremendously powerful insight for people to get. And, in part, I think
they get that here. I feel very fortunate to have been a part in this course this
semester. Not only did I lead a team in archaeological research but I also gained a skill that I will
benefit from the future. The skills I learned from Doctor Moore through this course will definitely help me on my journey in Grad school and in my
career as an archaeologist. Went great, you know. It’s great day and
you can see you know I you need to have a Ph.D the to wrap
string around the nail. But a no it was a great day. And I think people learned a lot. And they’re getting faster what they’re
doing and now will be the the next level in this
process. Where were going to go back, gonna look at data sets. Make sure we
got everything right And see if we can figure out something
else a to do in the next step of this research.

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