The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve Archaeology Project is a long-term plan for studying the archaeology of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve through the integration of research and classroom objectives. The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) is managed by the Research Foundation of the California State University, Chico, for purposes of education, research, and the protection of cultural and natural resources. As an educational resource, the BCCER serves as an outdoor laboratory, a natural museum, and an outdoor classroom.
This project, initiated by anthropology professor Antoinette Martinez (a long-term member of the BCCER technical advisory committee) provides a unique context with which to address the objectives envisioned by those who have supported and cared for the reserve by integrating anthropology courses, research, and the protection of cultural resources.
The first phase of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve Archaeology Project was funded with strategic performance funds from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences in 2001. Anthropology students were hired to research the ethnographic, historic, and archaeological background of the area of Big Chico Creek.
The second phase included the participation of the Department of Anthropology’s site survey course, ANTH 484, taught by Frank Bayham in 2002 and 2004. Within the context of this course several archaeological sites were identified and recorded by students conducting pedestrian survey using compasses and GPS units. These sites represented temporal components ranging from prehistory to recent historical events and activities.
In 2003 an honor’s thesis on the archaeology of the historic flume was conducted by anthropology student, Heath Browning, under the supervision of Dr. Martinez, adding a wealth of archaeological information regarding the BCCER in this time period. Consequently, other areas to be tested over the duration of the project could include sites associated with the Big Chico Creek historic flume and ranching periods.
Fall 2005 marked the beginning of the third phase of a long-term plan for studying the archaeology of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. In keeping with the objectives of the BCCER to protect, evaluate, and mitigate the cultural resources of the reserve, Dr. Martinez established a cooperative agreement with the Mechoopda Tribe of Chico to participate in the study of the sites associated with their heritage. As a consequence of this agreement, members of the Mechoopda Tribe, including Arlene Ward, Chester Conway, and Eileen Conway, along with the undergraduate and graduate students taking ANTH 280-480, field archaeology, participated in the archaeological testing of one of the prehistoric sites located on the reserve (fall 2005).
Final processing and analysis of the cultural materials was begun in archaeology lab methods, ANTH 482, in the spring 2006 semester. The next phase of the long-term archaeological research on the BCCER will again include the participation of the Department of Anthropology’s site survey course, ANTH 484, taught by Frank Bayham in fall 2006 and the field archaeology course, ANTH 480, scheduled for fall 2007.