4,000-year-old campsite found in Wyoming





Around 4,000 years ago, a group of late archaic Indians camped near the shores of Fremont Lake. They used granite slabs and finely crafted obsidian tools to process wild plants and game.

On Wednesday, May 5, at about 1 p.m. a construction crew digging a water pipeline for the town of Pinedale uncovered a dark stain in the sub-soil.

Just west of the Fremont lake lower boat dock parking lot on Forest Service land, the discovery was immediately recognized by a team from Current Archaeological Research, which was hired to monitor the pipeline project for cultural resources.

Soon after, archaeologists cordoned off the area into square-meter units where they carefully dug into the site centimeters at a time.

What they found was unmistakably human and unmistakably prehistoric: flakes caused by tool making, large flat rocks that could have been used to grind plant matter and knife-like biface tools.

It all showed evidence of a human camp that was occupied around the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, according to Current Archaeology’s David Wolfe.

“It’s a nice campsite,” he said pointing to Fremont Lake and Pine Creek. “There are probably sites like this throughout the area.”

The camp was probably a temporary home to a small band of people Wolfe described as an “extended family.” While it was too soon to determine what time of year it was inhabited, Wolfe guessed at the site’s age somewhere near 4,000 years old.

“We’ll know for sure after carbon dating,” he said.

In addition, the obsidian’s source rock will be determined using X-ray fluorescents. Wolfe said most prehistoric obsidian in the Upper Green River Valley originates from Jackson, although it’s possible the rock was collected near present-day Malad, Idaho or the obsidian cliffs in Yellowstone National Park.

Regardless of the source, highly skilled prehistoric hands fractured the obsidian into delicate, yet effective tools.

One in particular caught Wolfe’s eye. It was the broken base of a drill less than an inch wide. The artifact’s intricacy and artistry was astonishing.

“It’s just amazing the level of work,” Wolfe stared

reverently.

But soon a team member requested his expert advice. For the archaeologists there is no time to waste. The site is in the path of the pipeline, which teems with huge track hoes and front-end loaders. Consequently, the archaeologists have been working 12-14 hour days to get the

artifacts removed.

It’s a process that was so captivating, a pair of Rio Verde Engineers stopped amid the din of heavy machinery to observe the excavation.

“We have to get this out of here,” Wolfe explained. “It’s a nonrenewable resource.”

He estimated the excavation would be completed by the first of the week.



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