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DailyTidings.com
  • Dig under Ashland's Calle Guanajato Plaza walkway reveals settler, native artifacts

    Archaeologist finds that the area under the Plaza walkway is a treasure trove of artifacts
  • "Here's a tiny red jasper fragment from making a tool," says archaeologist Jeff LaLande, holding a minuscule flake of stone up on his index finger.
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      On the Web:
      To see more photos and a video of the archaeological dig, visit www.dailytidings.com/media.
  • "Here's a tiny red jasper fragment from making a tool," says archaeologist Jeff LaLande, holding a minuscule flake of stone up on his index finger.
    Aided by Ashland Parks and Recreation Department workers, LaLande began sifting through dirt and rocks Thursday morning, searching for remnants of American Indian and early European settler life beneath the concrete of the Calle Guanajuato pedestrian walkway.
    The walkway — named after Ashland's sister city, Guanajuato, Mexico — is slated for a major renovation. It runs between Ashland Creek and the backs of downtown Plaza businesses.
    A new water line and electrical lines will be installed underground and the uneven concrete surface will be replaced with pavers.
    The city must check for artifacts before the renovation can move forward, the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office has determined.
    Only a few hours into sifting through the first survey hole that was cut through the concrete, LaLande and the parks workers already had discovered enough promising fragments to cover the bottom of an overturned bucket.
    LaLande says the native people who lived in the area often used jasper and agate to create stone tools. Fragments of those minerals were showing up as LaLande and the workers dumped material on a screen, hosed off dirt, then picked through what remained.
    They also discovered what appeared to be the chalky remnant of a burned bone.
    Native people would break open long bones, then boil the marrow in watertight baskets that they filled with water and hot stones, LaLande says.
    The bone fragment also could have come from an early Ashland restaurant, he says.
    "There was no city dump in the early days. You had to be responsible for getting rid of garbage yourself," LaLande says. "You might burn it out back in a burn pile, toss it out here or throw it in the creek."
    Other discoveries made Thursday included bits of bottle glass and broken window glass, as well as a lumpy piece of slag from burning coal.
    One of the Plaza buildings used to house a blacksmith shop that likely burned its fires with coal brought in by railcar, he says.
    Late last year and early this year, LaLande was in charge of archaeological work that was required when the city reconstructed the downtown Plaza.
    He turned up scrapers, obsidian flakes and hammer stones, among other artifacts, that substantiated the past existence of a Shasta Indian village in the area of the Plaza and Lithia Park.
    Tooter Ansures, tribal monitor for the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, was on hand Thursday to keep an eye on the Calle Guanajuato archaeological dig.
    He frequently works as a monitor on public and private projects that are likely to disturb historical sites.
    Ansures says he doesn't view the archaeological work as a disrespectful disturbance of native sites. He says it's best to look for what lies underground since sites are going to be disturbed anyway by construction projects.
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