1976-1980: California Desert
Tom Venner co-directed an excavation in the eastern part of the Mojave Desert with fellow archaeologist, James Benton. The site was located at the northern tip of the dry playa known locally as Silver Lake, just north of Baker, CA. Here, on a small hillock, and facing the dry lake, sat a small cave and rock shelter. Venner and Benton organized a work crew from Baker High School and from Barstow Community College to work the site.
The Silver Lake Rock Shelter
The cave/rock shelter sat near the top of a small hill overlooking the dry lake playa. Silver Lake occasionally is filled with water, though generally (95% of the time) it is dry. However, in earlier times (3500 - 1000 B.P.) there were pluvial periods when the lake was permanent enough to support plant life along its shorelines, as well as wildlife. Humans occupied the cave/rock shelter, gathering the edible plants and preying upon the animals.
Excavation was carried out during three winter seasons, as Baker, California's climate is exceedingly hot any other time of the year. The cave and surrounding areas were completely excavated, resulting in the re-creation of what life must have been like for its occupants: They lived here temporarily, hunting wild animals and collecting foodstuffs from the lake's ephemeral waters, and then moved on when the environment no longer supported the lake.