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Infiltration Forums > US: Four Corners > Utah Archaeology Dig(Viewed 248 times)
Aran location:
Madison, WI
 
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Utah Archaeology Dig
< on 11/19/2019 8:40 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Time for something a little different. This is absolutely archaeology and not urbex, but it's abandoned locations all the same- these have just been abandoned for centuries, not years. So strap in, because this is gonna be a long thread.

About a year and a half ago I posted a thread on Native American ruins I saw on a road trip. Those ruins rekindled my interest in archaeology, leading me to pursue a minor in the subject- so at the end of last May I departed to southern Utah to spend six weeks excavating a Fremont Native American village site that had never before been excavated.

The site in question was a Fremont summer village consisting of between 10-25 people that preliminary estimates place between 1100 AD and 1300 AD. The Fremont were a seasonally nomadic people who built pit houses in the winter and waddle and daub (mud and stick) huts in the summer. At the end of the season they'd ritually burn their homes to the ground and move on, though they often returned to the same sites multiple times. This site sat on a desert ridge above a lush stream valley, surrounded on all sides by large sandstone hills.

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We were pretty far off the grid- it was five miles up a dirt canyon road to get to the nearest town (one street and a population of 240 people), and we lived out of tents for those six weeks. We had limited electricity from solar panels and one bathroom to share between 13 people, with our only contact to the outside world being an extremely limited internet connection. On cloudy days we'd be out of electricity (and thus internet, lights, and running water) by noon.

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We spent the first week and a half doing survey work- establishing the boundaries of the site, laying out a grid system, and using soil cores to determine the most promising spots to excavate by looking for charcoal staining and charcoal pieces in the soil cores.

Once all that was done, we got to begin excavation in 1x1 meter units. I was lucky enough to be part of the group that opened a unit on top of what we later discovered was the remnants of two waddle and daub huts.

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That circle of stones in the first hut and the holes in the second are fire pits inside the houses. We removed and saved the dirt that filled them because it contained ash, which could be analyzed to find pollen and burnt corn samples that could be used to help date the site. The upright slab in the first site was what made us decide to start excavating here, because an upright slab in a known archaeological site is usually indicative of a structure.

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The band of dark soil being measured here is a cross section of the floor of one of the huts, and is colored darker than the soil above and below it due to charcoal staining from the campfires of the Fremont people. The light colored sand above and below it was deposited after and before their habitation, respectively.

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While the two huts were where we focused the majority of our work, we also opened units in several other parts of the site, two of which panned out. The first photo is of several units we opened in the trash midden (village garbage dump) where I found a heavily worn chert stone knife blade that bears evidence of being sharpened multiple times before being discarded. The third photo is what we believe to have been a stone oven of some kind. Unfortunately due to time constraints we were unable to finish excavating the trash midden or another potential structure that we never got the chance to open a unit in.

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Here are some of the artifacts we found. Not pictured are three bone pendants painted in red ocher, a cache of stone cores that I uncovered between the two huts, a clay disk of some kind that we labeled a game piece (the default label for archaeological artifacts of unknown use), burnt corn, manos and matates (grindstones and grinding slabs), and several worn river stones that would have had to be carried up to the site by humans.

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On the last day of the dig we laid tarps over the bottom of the units we excavated to protect them from the elements. Then we back filled them with the dirt we removed during the excavation process to close the site. Though our dig was done, our professor stated an interest in returning another year to continue to excavate the parts of the site we didn't get to- we excavated 50 square meters of the site and still barely touched it.

But this wasn't the only site we saw- halfway through the dig our professor took us on a week long tour of archaeological sites in the Four Corners region as a break from excavating.

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While I can't remember the name of the first site, it was the ruins of a three story Pueblo village built into the side of a cliff. We didn't spend much time here as we were chased away by a swarm of angry bees that made the ruins their home. The second site was a few hours of walking up a ravine away, and is known as "Old Man Cave." Originally it was a Basketmaker home site, before being abandoned and later repurposed by the Pueblo as a burial site.

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The second site we visited was a several mile hike into the desert. Known as Cave 7 or the Basketmaker Massacre Site, this village and mass grave was in a box canyon with only one way in or out- which no doubt contributed to its fate.

Nearly one hundred skeletons from the Basketmaker era (500 BC - 750 AD) were found buried in two distinct groups here. The first group consisted of about 55 skeletons, mostly male, all exhibiting injuries with death in combat. These ranged from shattered facial bones, crushed skulls, and extreme blunt force trauma to more incriminating damage such as arrow and spear points lodged in limbs. These skeletons were piled atop each other in a mass grave that (I later learned) sat directly below where I took the first picture. The second group consisted of about 45 skeletons that mostly consisted of women and children, all of which showed signs of death by natural causes and individual burial. Though controversial, evidence suggests that they were buried up to 100 years later. One likely interpretation is that the men were killed in battle and the women and children taken as slaves, but were buried with their fallen kin when they eventually died.

The stone ruins such as the granary in the second photo were built by the Pueblo (750 AD - 1100 AD) several centuries later. It is unknown where they knew the significance of the site when they built the village.

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The last ruin we visited was the Betatakin Cliff Dwelling in the Navajo National Monument. The only way to access this one is via a five mile hike down some switchbacks along a cliff face, and there is a Navajo park ranger at the bottom to give a brief lecture about the history of the site. Built in the late 1200s, Betatakin was inhabited by 125 people. It was built by the Fire, Deer, and Water clans, as evidenced by their respective symbols in the other two photos. The symbol on the left of the third photo has been argued by the Hopi to correspond to the Wind Clan as well, though this is disputed as it might also correspond to a calendar of sorts.

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This is the Wolf Man Panel, a rather well known Anasazi petroglyph only a mile's hike from the highway. The pockmarks in its surface are from cowboys using it as target practice in the 1800s.

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We also got a behind the scenes tour of a museum archive, visited a hydroelectric dam, visited some centuries-old roads built by various Native American tribes with an archaeologist who's studied them for years, and learned how to craft pottery and projectile points in the traditional Native American ways. One day we learned how to throw atlatls (throwing spears), but we all were... not great at it and one dude accidentally impaled the outhouse. Twice. The picture above is a set of 11 obsidian arrow and spearpoints I flint knapped using just a piece of copper and a scrap of leather.

Now for some bonus landscape pics!

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If you're still with me after all of this, thanks for reading! I also managed to fit a little bit of urbex into those six weeks, but that's a story for another thread.



Indiana Jones wasn't an archaeologist, he was an urban explorer. Archaeologists do a lot less running and a lot more paperwork.

Flickr: https://www.flickr...ple/161731563@N02/
blackhawk
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Re: Utah Archaeology Dig
<Reply # 1 on 11/19/2019 9:18 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Pretty cool. Some tribes like the Apache were big into trading and I've found turquoise in W TX as well as very colorful flint not from this area.
Arrowhead "factories" are always a cool find.
Have found "master" blocks of flint being used to be cleaved into arrowheads.
The Apache had an eye for color..



Just when I thought I was out... they pulled me back in.
Explorer Zero   |  |  | 
Re: Utah Archaeology Dig
<Reply # 2 on 11/20/2019 4:29 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Outstanding write up, nice post. Those obsidian points are something I only dream of I hunt arrowheads in Texas but never found any that beautiful



blackhawk may actually be an expert
Aran location:
Madison, WI
 
 |  | 
Re: Utah Archaeology Dig
<Reply # 3 on 11/20/2019 5:23 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Posted by 2Xplorations
Outstanding write up, nice post. Those obsidian points are something I only dream of I hunt arrowheads in Texas but never found any that beautiful


Thanks! I didn't find them though, I made them via pressure flaking. Apparently you can also make arrowheads from the bottom of glass bottles, so I might give that a try some time.


[last edit 11/20/2019 5:25 AM by Aran - edited 1 times]

Indiana Jones wasn't an archaeologist, he was an urban explorer. Archaeologists do a lot less running and a lot more paperwork.

Flickr: https://www.flickr...ple/161731563@N02/
Explorer Zero   |  |  | 
Re: Utah Archaeology Dig
<Reply # 4 on 11/20/2019 12:17 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Posted by Aran


Thanks! I didn't find them though, I made them via pressure flaking. Apparently you can also make arrowheads from the bottom of glass bottles, so I might give that a try some time.


I have to dig through my stuff and find a collection I have made from Coke bottle and Sprite bottles by a guy named Degroot. Theyre so well made I will try to photograph because people have commented they "look real" well, they look better than any paleo indian made and Im almost certain they didn't have green glass! The one he makes from flint he inscribes a tiny initial so nobody tries to pass them off as authentic

I always wanted to do flint knapping those are real nice projectile points there. I found a large spear point in Coryell county many years ago but sadly its broken, thing was huge maybe 3" wide.

A large part of my exploring interest now is finding archaeological sites. I found what we think was/may have been a buffalo hunter camp, some stone circles and bone fragments coupled with the history of the area. It was a wow moment for me.



blackhawk may actually be an expert
blackhawk
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location:
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Re: Utah Archaeology Dig
<Reply # 5 on 11/20/2019 1:01 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER ForumQuote
Posted by 2Xplorations
Outstanding write up, nice post. Those obsidian points are something I only dream of I hunt arrowheads in Texas but never found any that beautiful


They're pretty... a proud hunter.
I've only found fragments of obsidian arrowheads in W TX... so they're here.

Never know what the shifting sands will turn up.
Found a 57 half dollar in near mint condition on top of a sand dune like it was just dropped... probably been there half a century judging by bottle caps and the remains of a knife found near by.
May have been the first time in decades that it surface.




Just when I thought I was out... they pulled me back in.
Infiltration Forums > US: Four Corners > Utah Archaeology Dig(Viewed 248 times)
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