Tag Archives: Archaic site

Living Gold

Yellow snakeIn the sandpits of a big Archaic site we came upon a golden bull snake, thick-bodied, almost six feet long. We approached it cautiously. It did not move except to flick its black tongue, smelling us.

When we had looked at it long enough, we spoke and moved more normally. It wove toward us, aggressing; then gracefully, unhurriedly, it turned along its body and slipped back into the brush. For all its length and girth it left scarcely any mark in the sand.


crumbling cliffOn an impossibly narrow peninsula of stone was a hunter’s paradise: it overlooked a game trail that crossed from one watershed to another. A hunter had only to wait.

And hunters had waited. On the peninsula was a thousand-year-old Archaic camp, its earth black with twelve to eighteen inches of ashy midden. Eighty feet above the valley floor, craning our necks, we could see that its crumbling north edge was formed of friable Tertiary sediments. The site itself looked “broken in half” like Dun Aengus, the cliff’s-edge fort from the Irish Iron Age, which the Atlantic has half devoured.

Following the game trail, we circled down to the bottom of the cliff. At its base stood an intact chunk of the site. It had slid from the edge where we had leaned and still stood upright, complete with ashes and flakes. On the cliff face rivulets of ashy mud trailed from the broken edge .

Ignorant, we had stood on that undercut, sleazy, brittle cliff’s edge, eighty feet above the valley floor.