Country Nodes
An Anthropological Evaluation of William Keys' Desert Queen Ranch, Joshua Tree National Monument, California
NPS Logo


This report was commissioned in order to identify anthropological values of William Keys' Desert Queen Ranch as part of a comprehensive and truly multidisciplinary base for planning the use of the site. In it Ms. Hickman does an excellent job of abstracting the social and economic networks of which Keys' Ranch was a part. In so doing, anthropological terms and concepts are applied in conjunction with National Register criteria in a manner which will be novel to many readers. It is our opinion, and that of other archeologists who have reviewed the report, that this approach is consistent with the aims of modern archeology and with the need for a thorough evaluation of cultural properties which is required of land-managing federal agencies. The Keeper of the National Register has concurred, in the following comment on the report:

By using an anthropological methodology, Ms. Hickman has established an interdisciplinary model for the examination of historic properties. The potential for this approach is enormous. All too frequently a property's significance in one field (history, archeology, or architectural history) is so apparent that the property's significance in other fields is unappreciated. Ms. Hickman's methodology counters this problem by using source material from several relevant disciplines and by placing the ranch in its regional cultural context. This helps relate the property's importance in one discipline to its value in the other disciplines.

The need for the involvement of trained anthropologists in the preparation and evaluation of studies of this nature cannot be overemphasized. One of the reasons that Ms. Hickman's study is so valuable is her choice of the Desert Queen Ranch as the subject, because of the wealth of source material available about the ranch in several disciplines. It must be the responsibility of trained professionals to evaluate such data and make recommendations on the value and possible results of such a project, in itself and as a part of larger research plans. The level of information available to the researcher must be a major factor in the decision to initiate such a project.

We hope that other historic properties with apparent research potential will be given similar analysis in the future.

More importantly, beyond the professional language and the technicalities of National Register procedures, such a comprehensive approach is an essential means to understanding and managing the cultural remains of the recent ancestors of all Americans, regardless of their status or ethnic affiliation. To those whose roots in a simpler past provide reassurance in dealing with a sometimes overwhelmingly complex present, this may be the most important contribution of archeologists.

Douglas H. Scovill
Chief Archeologist
National Park Service

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 04-June-2007