Exciting Days in the Field

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Erik Larson

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Field School – 24MO188

We had a really exciting week at the dig site. We found several items that will help with the continued research of Ft. Missoula. It was hot and the bugs were out in force along the Bitterroot, but no one seemed to bothered by this at all. We were having too much fun, I guess. I found a toothbrush fragment this week that might connect our dig with the previous dig done by archaeologist Carling Malouf in the early 1980s.


The field crew hard at work in the heat of the day, uncovering the past. 

Artifacts aside,  I also found a painted turtle crawling alongside the road. He had the most beautiful markings. I was not aware that painted turtles could be found along the Bitterroot River. Beautiful scenery, interesting wildlife, and gorgeous weather made this week at the dig site an experience to remember.


Research of Ecological and Anthropological River Dimensions

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The Montana Anthropogenic Research Cooperative (MT-ARC), via the Dixon Archaeology Lab, has partnered with the Institute on Ecosystems (IoE), via the Valett Ecology Lab, to look at the research of ecological and anthropological river dimensions. The project is combining historical data in ecological and anthropological features of the Missoula valley to address the interaction between people and their environment over the long term. We are looking at sites both in the anthroprogenically dynamic urban center, like the Underground and in the more ecologically dynamic areas near the confluence of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers. Human development has historically shaped the environment and contributed to landscape transformation by counteracting the natural complexity of river floodplains.


Dr.’s Kelly Dixon, Marc Peipoch, and Maury Valett surveying the research site while trying to determine the best plan of action for installing test wells for monitoring the river. This particular research site not only sits on the river and maintains relative ecological diversity, but it is within blocks of the hustle and bustle of the city and is in close proximity of significant archaeological and National Register sites.

This project is seeking to address when the complexity of the human actions and the complexity of the environment intersected and diverged; basically as human interactions in the Missoula Valley became more complex the environment became less complex and diverse. It is this point of convergence that we are seeking to quantify.

The project will be reaching out to local area schools hoping to share research and learning opportunities. A hands-on exploratory exhibit is currently under design for exhibition at spectrUM Discovery next fall that will conceptualize many of the ideas and concepts from this project and make them tangible for children of all ages. This project is all about human interactions and in that same vein we encourage comments, thoughts, ideas, and input on this post to help us as we move forward with this project.

Research along the Bitterroot.

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Research along the Bitterroot.

Graduate Student, Mary Bobbitt, surveying one of three sites that are the focus of her master’s thesis.