Posts Tagged ‘in the news’

Find Your Geocache: Yavapai Indian Pot

Geocacher Finds Ancient Yavapai Indian Jar

By Joanna Dodder Nellans, The Daily Courier, 4/18/11

When Dave Kurr was a kid exploring the hills north of Prescott with his friends, he was bummed out when they would find arrowheads and he never did.

It took him until he was 43 years old to find an Indian artifact, but he’s made up for it by finding an amazingly rare ceramic jar on the Prescott National Forest.

And instead of keeping it to show his friends, he chose to do the right thing by leaving it where it was and reporting it to archaeologists, so everyone could learn more about the people who created it.

Yavapai Indian Jar

Dave Kurr and his family admire a rare Yavapai Indian jar Kurr found on the Prescott National Forest. Courtesy of Joanna Dodder/The Daily Courier

“It’s not going to do me any good in my house,” Kurr said. “I thought it would be more beneficial to them.”

Kurr found an intact clay jar used by the Yavapai people long ago. Realizing that the location of an artifact is important to understanding it, he photographed it, marked its coordinates on his GPS and left it in place.

Then he looked around on the Internet to find an archaeologist he could tell about his find. He located Kelley Ann Hays-Gilpin, an expert on Northern Arizona pottery who teaches archaeology at Northern Arizona University and is chair of anthropology at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

“He’s an angel, because he did the right thing,” Hays-Gilpin said. “He’s just been so generous.

“He just knew that was for everybody, and for the Yavapai descendants.”

But Kurr had no idea just how rare the jar is.

It’s called a Tizon Wiped jar, and only a handful are known to exist.

“It doesn’t get much rarer than that,” Hays-Gilpin said.

It’s probably the first time someone has found something like this on the Prescott National Forest and turned it in.

“To find one pretty much whole is phenomenal,” said Elaine Zamora, an archaeologist on the Prescott National Forest who helped relocate the jar and bring it to the forest offices in Prescott. “It’s a thrill to see it.”

Kurr, now a resident of Scottsdale, was geocaching near the Pine Mountain Wilderness Area when he found the jar. Geocaching is like a treasure hunt in which one person hides a container in a remote area and puts the GPS coordinates online, then others try to find it.

So Kurr was walking off-trail where few people travel, looking in places that few people look. He had hiked 11 miles when he thought he might have found the geocache he was seeking, under a rock overhang.

Instead, he found an earthen jar that a Yavapai Indian had left there perhaps centuries ago.

“I just knew it was clay, and it was old,” Kurr said. “And I couldn’t believe how thin it was.

“If I would not have been looking for a geocache, I never would have found it.”

It was in the perfect spot to weather the ages, archaeologists said.

“It was well protected from the elements, or we would have found a bunch of pieces,” Zamora said. “Someone stashed it there. They probably intended to come back to get it.” Hays-Gilpin agreed.

“Somebody protected it by putting it in those rocks… but they didn’t come back,” she said.

When Kurr recently brought his children and other family members to see the jar at the Prescott National Forest office, they pondered who might have left the jar in the rocks so many years ago.

“I’d just love to know the story behind it,” Kurr’s wife, Jennifer, said.

“I think it’s the coolest thing ever,” said Kurr’s sister Carolyn, who still lives in Prescott. “It just has such presence.”

A bedrock food-grinding site is not far away from the spot where the jar was sitting, so it’s possible that someone was storing food they had ground up nearby. Or, they might have been storing berries or water they collected.

Judging by all the soot on it, someone might have been using it for cooking, too, Zamora said. The context of the site might eventually help experts narrow the possibilities.

No good dating methods exist for the jar itself, Hays-Gilpin said. It could date anywhere from about 1400 to 1890.

“This was everyday pottery for the Yavapai people,” Hays-Gilpin said. “Every Yavapai family had a couple of those.

“We know the Yavapai made and used that kind of pottery for hundreds of years, but there are not very many intact.”

That’s because the jars are so fragile, and the Yavapai people were hunter-gatherers who moved around a lot.

It’s called a “wiped” jar because its maker wiped or scraped it with something like coarse grass or a corncob while it was still wet, Hays-Gilpin explained. That would help thin the walls evenly, provide a texture for easy gripping, and protect it against abrasion and thermal shock from repeated heating during cooking.

It’s the first Tizon Wiped jar Hays-Gilpin has ever seen, and she is highly impressed at how skilled its maker was at shaping and firing it.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. It’s plain, but it has a very elegant shape.

“To me, it’s a marvel of engineering.”

Find Your Geocache

Geocachers Fight Weeds

Most of the time, when we see an article about geocaching, it’s because the news media has “discovered” this fantastic hobby and has decided to spread the word. I think that’s always a good thing since it helps bring new cachers to the hobby.

But, in doing a Google search for “geocaching articles” today, I found a totally new spin on “geocaching in the news.”

County Recruits Geocachers in Battle Against Invasive Weeds

This article is by Russell Nichols, staff writer for

Geocachers in Ada County, Idaho, have a new mission, should they choose to accept it: tracking down hidden containers that hold data on noxious weeds.

This is part of an ongoing operation set up by the county’s Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement Department to pinpoint expanding noxious weeds before they wreak havoc on the environment. In years past, the department used informational brochures and fliers to educate the public on harmful weeds. Now they’re taking the high-tech, hide-and-seek approach known as geocaching to spread the word.

“There are a lot of people in the county who do this,” said Jake Mundt, the department’s administrative operations manager. “We put in a more formal mechanism to allow geocachers, if they find the same weed in another area, to report where it is. This helps us develop our action plans to help us control or eradicate noxious weeds in the region.”

Geocaching is a global phenomenon in which recreationists use GPS receivers and other navigational tools to locate any of the million-plus containers, called caches, hidden in rural and urban areas around the globe. For the past 10 years, devotees have declared that geocaching forces you to go to places you’ve never gone before.

Seeking to attract visitors and inspire residents to go exploring, more state and local governments have been looking to “cache” in. Georgia reportedly launched a high-tech treasure hunt in May, hiding caches at state parks for seekers to find. In Palm Coast, Fla., the GIS division planted containers in parks, trails and natural reserves with “a treat” inside each cache.

“We’ve taken the time to plant 10 geocaches in locations we feel are the hidden gems of Palm Coast,” according to the city’s website. “Just plug the coordinates into your GPS receiver and start hunting.”

In Ada County, local officials took a different path. Bounded by two rivers and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the county already lures recreationists out of their homes to explore the great outdoors: hikers, mountain bikers and, of course, the geocachers, according to Laura Wylde, the Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement Department’s public outreach coordinator.

But of the 64 plant species the state lists as noxious weeds, 32 of them can be found in Ada County, local officials said. These weeds threaten public health, crops, livestock and land. To help keep them from spreading, the county hid four caches throughout the county, stocked with information about weed infestations and weed control efforts. Officials plan to hide more in the future.

Armed with handheld GPS receivers and maps, geocachers can track these containers, learn about the weeds, and log and submit the coordinates of any other infestations they come across. It makes sense to recruit geocachers. For them, going new places and discovering new things comes with the territory.

“It’s the challenge of going new places you may never have gone,” said Clint Hutchison, webmaster for Idaho Geocachers, which has more than 1,000 members. “There’s a lot of things to see that people don’t realize are there.”

Ed Lenhart of Boise has lived in Idaho for 35 years, but since he started geocaching nine years ago, he said he’s seen more of the state and country than ever before. Retired from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Lenhart was the one who pitched the geocaching idea to the county’s Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement Department.

He said he goes on geocaching expeditions four times a week and he even bought a few nature books for research, but wanted a way to report his findings. He believes this program will help local geocachers get active in the fight against noxious weeds.

“It’ll be a lot more eyes out there looking for this stuff once we educate geocachers on what to look for,” Lenhart said. “I just want to see more counties and states get involved, and maybe even a federal agency. If geocachers can help, I think we can spot a lot of weeds.”

I wish the article mentioned a few TYPES of weeds and why they are noxious.

I think this is an excellent premise to have geocachers help fight the spread of an invasive species. (I JUST wrote about that in the fishing world! See my article about stopping invasive species.)

I’ve seen articles complaining that geocaching is bad for nature since geocachers hide containers, create paths to the containers, and generally clutter up the forests. (I guess those people don’t know that we practice CITO!)

This is the first article I’ve found that doesn’t just highlight the fun of geocaching as a hobby, but also points out how geocachers help out in their communities.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you think of Ada County’s geocaching promotion?
  • Would you participate in logging sites of the weeds?
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