DJS Blog

The Melding of Science and Art

Les Davis Film update, May 2018

In April I attended the 2018 Montana Archaeological Society meeting in Billings and screened a new trailer for the Les Davis Film.  You can view the trailer below.

The trailer explores the world renowned MacHaffie site a few miles south of Helena, Montana, one of Les' long-term paleoindian projects.  MacHaffie was one of the first stratified paleoindian sites to be excavated in North America in 1951 by Richard Forbis of Columbia University.  Late last summer (2017) Les' wife Pamela Bompart arranged permission from the Archaeological Conservancy to make one last push to "get to the bottom" of MacHaffie.  Les' excavations in the 80s and 90s had been hampered by the high water table right at the Folsom level.  He always felt that the site would go deeper and older.  As a tribute to Les and in the name of Les' dedication to the search for the first Montanans, Patrick Rennie directed the effort along with a number of professional and avocational archaeologists.

The Billings meeting was exciting and stimulating as always and I made progress assembling the complex puzzle that surrounds the life and work of Les Davis.

I continue to do research, collect archival materials and conduct interviews with the people of Montana archaeology.

Read more

Troy Helmick 1933-2018

Our friend and colleague Troy Helmick passed away early this year.  Troy was a close associate of Les Davis for many years and sketched many of his artifact illustrations.  He was an avid artifact collector, champion atlatl thrower and contributed greatly to the field of archaeology in Montana.  Following is a video of Troy interviewing Leni Clubb, one of the founders of the World Atlatl Associatoon at a competition at Blacktail Ranch.  There is also an interview with Troy and shots of Troy throwing the atlatl.


Troy's Obituary (reprinted from the Helena Independent Record)

Troy Clifford Helmick, 84 of Townsend passed away on February 20, 2018 at home with members of his family after a heartbreaking battle with cancer. He was born on August 31, 1933 to Kathleen Riggleman and Creed Helmick in Frenchton, WV but spent his adult life in Montana.

Troy was self-reliant, hard-working, patriotic and civic-minded. As a young man, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force only to have his dreams cut short by a medical discharge due to a congenital foot deformity. Following that setback, he moved to Montana where he lived an active and physically-demanding life.

He began his career on a survey crew with the Bureau of Reclamation and later transferred to the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) as a Civil Engineer Technician. He had a wide variety of interests and roles including volunteer fireman, historian, archeologist, flintknapper, artist, photographer, athlete, sportsman, father and husband. He was loved and respected by all

Read more

Les Davis Documentary

Sadly, my friend and colleague Les Davis died just as we were beginning to develop our proposed documentary film Discovering First Montanans: Portals to the Past.  I have committed to finishing the film with a slightly different approach.  The new working title is Les Davis and the Search for First Montanans.  This is a significant task for a structural geologist with limited exposure to archaeology.  This past April I attended the Montana Archaeological Society Annual Merting and presented my proposal.  We were awarded a $5000 matching fund by MAS for finishing the film.  Watch the trailer here:



 If you would like to make a contribution to finishing this important film, please send your contributions to:

Montana Archaeological Society
Les Davis Film
P.O. Box 1123
Manhattan, MT 59741


You can view the full proposal here.


Here is an excerpt from the proposal:

Montana is a notoriously big place, the big sky country. It contains the entire upper Missouri and Yellowstone River basins and spans an area of over 147,000 square miles. When you add the dimension of time, it gets even bigger.

One man spent much of his Montana life exploring the fourth dimension in his search for the first Montanans. Les Davis was a giant of Montana archaeology and anthropology. He was involved in many excavations and research projects across the state for the last 50 years.

The proposed film centers around Les and his work across Montana, but it also explores the

Read more