Researchers comb Polynesian LDS settlement

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OSEPA - Benjamin Pykles scans the southern edge of this old townsite in Utah's desolate Skull Valley, looking for the front wheel of a century-old tricyle. The New York anthropologist believes the relic reveals a lot about the Polynesian pioneer community that endured for a 28-year period straddling the turn of the 20th century.

"This is not just some dreary place. There were kids here and they were having fun," Pykles says as he finds his quarry during a tour Wednesday. He records the wheel's GPS position and gathers its parts, a rim, spokes, pedals and a crank once attached to the wheel's hub. A short distance away he finds the runner to an ice skate."This is a cool story. What is this doing in the middle of the desert?"

These toys are among the artifacts left by the inhabitants of Iosepa (pronounced yo-see-pa), an agricultural community known for winning town beautification awards not long before it was abandoned in 1917. Some 100 residences, laid out among a dozen streets with Polynesian names, are little more than depressions, foundations and rock alignments. But their voices can be heard through metal and ceramic fragments of Iosepans' possessions, scattered among the cow dung and other detritus left by the cattle operation that succeeded the town under the Stansbury Mountains. Pykles, a professor from the State University of New York at Potsdam and an alumnus of Brigham Young University, is netting some of those voices as he conducts the first archaeological survey of Iosepa this month with a dozen SUNY anthropology students.

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