Baker Village Trail - Baker Archeological Site - Nevada
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Volcanoguy
N 39° 02.172 W 114° 07.442
11S E 748929 N 4324730
Quick Description: Self guided trail the BLM’s Baker Village interpretive site.
Location: Nevada, United States
Date Posted: 3/12/2017 7:32:39 PM
Waymark Code: WMV87V
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Touchstone
Views: 1

Long Description:
At the BLM’s Baker Village parking lot there is a restroom, picnic tables, information kiosk, and a sun shelter but no water is available. The self guided trail begins at the information kiosk where trail guide brochures are generally available. At times the trail guide is not available, so the text from the eight stops are included below (edited for length). The trail guide also has additional information and graphics.

1 - Just ahead are the remains of Baker Village, an archeological site belonging to the Fremont Culture. The culture is named for sites along the Fremont River, in Utah. “Fremont” sites share similarities in pottery styles and materials, basketry techniques, and distinctive ceremonial artwork. Keep in mind that an archeological culture is not the same as a living culture. We do not know what language they spoke, or what they believed. We cannot see or hear their dances and songs. Since no human remains were found here, we cannot know who their descendants are with any certainty. We only know what the physical remains of their culture tell us - they farmed, built stable, permanent villages; and they made certain styles of pottery and projectile points.
The Fremont were contemporaries of the more famous Anasazi, (another archeological culture), the builders of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Archeologists have known about this Fremont site, near Baker for many years. There was a visible raised mound on the surface that was covered with a scatter of chipped stone and pottery sherds.

2 - Look at the valley around you - what resources do you see that could have supported a stable, sedentary farming village - a village of surprising size and complexity? Look on either side of the trail. The tangled, thorny shrubs scattered over the ground are greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus). Look carefully; you can see a dip or swale winding among the bushes. You are standing in this swale, which may mark the course of a former stream. The presence of greasewood, which indicates that water is not far beneath the surface, supports this concept. Behind you, to the south, beyond the ramada, are the fields of the Baker Ranch. Looking back to the north, you can see distant clumps of trees that mark the location of other ranches. The high mountain range to the west, the Snake Range, is high enough to capture moisture from winter storms, moisture that comes mainly in the form of snow. Spring snowmelt sustains several permanent stress that flow out of the Snake Range, and that today, sustain these ranches. After pioneers came to the valley in the 1850’s, the streams were diverted to water crops and livestock. Perhaps it was then that this stream dried up. Seven hundred years ago it is likely that there was a running stream of water here with cornfields and farmers.
The Fremont could have irrigated, though no evidence has yet been found of irrigation at Baker Village. This seems likely, since growing corn is not possible in the Snake Valley today without irrigation. Was it possible 700 years ago? In Utah signs of irrigation canals have bee found at Fremont sites.

3 - The valley and surrounding mountains provided most of what the inhabitants of Baker Village needed. Though they raised corn and beans, the land around them provided other necessities. In some of the structures archeologists found seeds from plants of the goosefoot family, showing that wild plant foods were an important supplement to their diet. Today this group of plants is represented by four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) and shad scale (Atriplex confertifolia). Animal remains found during the excavation revealed that rabbits (various species), bison (Bison bison), also known as buffalo, and pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) were occasionally eaten. Prior to the modern diversion of streams, a sizeable marsh may have been located at the site of the current Baker Ranch. It may have provided abundant cattails and other wild edibles, and possibly attracted animals to hunt.
Today, this land is drier, plants have changed and it is used for grazing. The low, pale, grayish-green plant growing all around you is called winterfat (Eurotia lanata). You can see a dense patch, ahead and to the left. Look for its unique pale color. The name refers its excellent quality as winter forage for livestock, especially sheep. Other forage plants are salt brush shrubs, Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymnodies) and other grasses.

4 - Seven hundred years ago Baker Village was a living community - then it was abandoned by the people and left to the elements. Look ahead, the trail bends to the right. You should see a raised mound 3 to 4 feet (about 1 meter) higher than the generally flat valley floor. The mound was formed as Baker Village returned to the earth. The people removed some of the roof support logs as they departed, causing the roofs to fall in. Some roofs burned, others collapsed with time. The adobe walls, exposed to the elements once the roofs were gone, began to dissolve with each rainstorm, the mud running and puddling around the foundations. Crumbling adobe walls intercepted the wind and captured layer after layer of windblown silt within the interiors of the buildings. Beneath the windblown silt, flood debris, and melted adobe walls, the floors of the houses were sealed, protected from the ravages of time. Sitting on those floors laid stone metates, manos, chipped stone points, and broken pottery. On those floor surfaces were fireplaces, burned corn and animal bones. By carefully peeling away each layer of silt, adobe, and cultural debris, archeologies brought those floors to light with everything still in the same location it had been left 700 years ago - revealing a moment in time, centuries past. By this careful technique of reading the layers or strata, mapping everything, and peeling each layer away, that the cultural remains are exposed in context. Archeology is not just digging up things, but precisely locating them in time and space - allowing for the interpretation of their use and meaning.

5 - Find the small plaque set in cement. The plaque marks the grid used to map the site. Based on this grid, measured in meters, the location of every feature - foundation, wall, pit or artifact - was carefully plotted. Archeological technique requires careful mapping and depends on knowing locations where things were found. (In archeology, as in real estate, the three most fundamental principles are location, location, location.) Look for the metal rods with aluminum caps arranged in a straight line at measured intervals. These helped the archeologist map the location of buildings and artifacts. It is not the object itself, but its exact location and relationship to other elements of the site that reveals significance. Archeologists call this context.
The vertical position of each building and artifact, relative to the strata in the excavation, indicates the dimension of time. Within each stratum, the horizontal position of each item shows the layout of surfaces where people lived. The position of each item, relative to others within the same layer, shows what people were doing at a given point in time. As each layer is scraped and brushed away, it is added to the pile of excavated debris, thus losing its identity, layering and structure that told of its history. The process can be compared to reading a book - except that in archeology, as each page is read, it is torn from the book and put in the shredder. Yet as each page is read and destroyed, another record is created. Detailed notes, lists, and photographs relate and record all that was found and its precise location. From this record, along with extensive lab analyses, of pottery, tools, and bones a picture of the past is reconstructed.

6 - The low walls that you see here were built in 2002 to protect buried adobe walls. They cap the prehistoric walls, conforming to their shape and direction. After the 1994 excavations, dirt that had been removed from the site was returned, a process called backfilling. Wind began to blow away the loose backfill, and by 2001 the buried walls had begun to protrude and were in danger of eroding away. These modern walls were built to preserve the prehistoric walls and their associated archeological state for possible future excavations; and to allow visitors to see the plan and layout of Baker Village.
Today, the new walls show the pattern of Baker Village that the excavations revealed. Had you stood at this spot during the summers of 1991 through 1994, you would be standing in the midst of an excavation. Precisely located trenches and pits cut into the earth along a metric grid revealed the foundations of eight adobe structures and the floors of several pit houses. Within each structure the many layers of earthen fill, or strata, were peeled away to reveal deeper layers. Each layer reveals a period further back in time. In this way the past was reconstructed. Today, with some confidence, it can be said what you would have seen if you had stood on this spot 700 years ago. Imagine . .
About 40 feet in front of you is the wall of the Big House, about six feet high, the rough ends of small logs stick out where the walls meet the roof. The Big House is surrounded on all sides by a compact, orderly cluster of buildings. Walking around the Big House to an open plaza, on its far side, you might see someone knocking flakes off a large core of obsidian in preparation for crafting chipped stone tools - knives or points for arrows/spears. Perhaps someone is making pottery. The laughter of children floats up from fields of corn, as they run to and fro, playing games amid the stalks. A woman sits in the shade of a pit house, weaving a basket.

7 - You are standing in the center of the village, next to the Big House. The surprising thing that the excavation discovered was the complexity and apparent planning that the village layout suggests. This surprise must be seen in the context of Fremont archeology.
Previous excavations, at other Fremont sites, conducted rather hastily as salvage operations prior to the construction of highways or houses, showed a culture of small subsistence villages with a somewhat haphazard, variable structure. Due to these earlier excavations, the Fremont were thought to be less sophisticated than the Anasazi. They were treated as the “hicks” of southwest archeology. More recent work, including the Baker Village excavations, has shown that the Fremont were probably every bit as complex as their “flashy” neighbors, the Anasazi. Baker Village excavations suggest that the less durable building materials often used by the Fremont, resulting in poor preservation, accounts for much of the difference observed in the archeological record. It is this, rather than any actual technological inferiority, that may account for this difference.
The planning and complexity of the Baker Village is strikingly shown by the alignment of buildings. Most of the buildings were lined up with their north and south walls parallel to each other. The regularity of the pattern, and the similarity in size and proportion of the structures, indicate that the community was planned. The one structure that was different from all of the others, the Big House, was distinct not only in size, but in other ways as well. Most of the adobe structures were one and two room buildings that have been interpreted as granaries. The show some preparation of the floors (smooth application of adobe), but these structures were not used for cooking or living in. This is evidenced by the lack of fireplaces, and lack of compacted floors containing charcoal and other artifacts.
In contrast, the Big House was intensively used. It contains five separate floors, each with its own fireplace. It held the remains of stone tool manufacture and layers of animal bone, interpreted to be the remains of feasting ceremonies. It was clearly an important structure and occupied the central position in the village. More intriguing are indications that the Big House was built in alignment with sunrise positions for the summer and winter solstices.

8 - You are standing in an open area or plaza. The Big House is behind you and three smaller adobe structures are in front of you. This plaza must have been an important work area since one of the greatest concentrations of artifacts was ofnd here. A great deal of debris from the chipping of stone tools, pottery sherds, bone fragments, and ground stone was found here. Beneath you feet, evidence was found of a pathway leading out from the center of the Big House wall. Does this indicate a doorway in the middle of the eastern wall?
Hold the thought about a possible door for a moment; we will come back to this later. First consider the three smaller adobe structures that once stood in front of your. At sunrise on the summer solstice, light from the rising sun would cast the shadow of the left structure on the corner of the Big House. The middle structure of the three, would cast its shadow on the Big House three months prior to winter solstice. The rising sun would be behind the structure for one month before being seen agin at its right edge, at which time the structure would cast its shadow on the center of the Big House wall.
Remember the door? If there was indeed a door, the light of the rising sun on this date, which is two months prior to winter solstice, would have shone into the interior and struck the inside of the western wall. Finally, on winter solstice, the light of the rising sun would graze the left corner of the right hand structure, casting this shadow onto the Big House and through the postulated door. But why is all this important? What does this have to do with the people of Baker Village?
Look around you. The flat floor of the Snake Valley sweeps outward to the horizon; mountain ranges, distant and far, rise on all sides. In this wide-open expanse of earth and sky how would the Fremont have tracked the seasons and known when to plant each crop and when to harvest?
Throughout history, planting cultures have had some system for keeping track of the shifting seasons. Modern Pueblo cultures in New Mexico and Arizona use a system in which the location of the sun, during sunrise or sunset, relative to landmarks on the horizon, such as prominent peaks, are noted and tracked by a sun watcher or other prominent person in the village. In some cases, the walls of buildings may be marked or carved where light strikes them on certain days, or a doorway may be positioned such that sunlight will shine through and sunbeams will fall on painting or markings. In this way the sun watcher can select the proper time to plant each crop, allowing it time to mature and ensuring an adequate harvest.
Did the aligned buildings of Baker Village function in this way? Was Baker Village constructed as a horizon calendar? We may never be sure - but the possibility is intriguing.
Approximate Time to Finish: 1/2 hour

Addtional Website URL: [Web Link]

Brochure or Interpretive Signs: Brochure

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Volcanoguy visited Baker Village Trail - Baker Archeological Site - Nevada 9/30/2016 Volcanoguy visited it