UDOT recently offered guided tours of archaeological sites near a southern Utah transportation project.
An Archaeology team working with UDOT is investigating part of a future construction corridor in order to preserve artifacts from Ancestral Puebloan People, prehistoric agriculturalists who lived along the Virgin River over 1000 years ago. The public saw a close up of the investigation at one of many sites as part of Utah Archaeology Week.
Aubry Bennion, who coordinated the tours for UDOT, said that over 100 visitors “walked away with a better appreciation for the process and consideration the state puts into building a road. Even afterward, we received numerous thank you letters from folks who expressed gratitude for the invitation to be a part of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Plans to let the public see archeology in action started months ago. During team meetings, Bennion participated in discussions about the data recovery process as part of an effort to preserve cultural resources. But once on-site, the process really came alive for her.
Throughout the day, the archaeology team made slow and steady progress. “The crews chiseled away, beginning with trenching with a back-hoe, then shovels transitioned to hand trowels, and eventually brushes were used to uncover their finds. They collected the unearthed dirt into buckets, which were then shuffled through a screen – even the smallest shards of pottery or miscellaneous artifacts were recovered through the archaeologists’ process.”
Bennion was most impressed with the systematic way the team carried out the work. “Their precision was the most incredible thing. the number of staff, the steps of the process, the horizontal and vertical measurements they took of each piece they uncovered to document their exact locations…all of it demonstrated a level of respect for the history of the land and that all possible mitigation measures are taken by the state to preserve what they can.”
Seventeen archaeological sites are near the future construction zone of the Southern Parkway, but only portions of the sites have the potential to be impacted by road construction. Archaeologists are investigating to “determine the extent of site boundaries and the types of structures and features that lie below the ground surface,” according to John Ravesloot, an Archaeologist with William Self Associates, Inc. The investigations being conducted currently will contribute to the body of knowledge about former residents of the region “and the ways in which they adapted to this rugged and beautiful basin.”
To learn more, read this: Utah archaeology week handout May 10.