Rare archaeological site discovered in Book Cliffs
A rare type of archaeological site has been located in a remote area of the Book Cliffs in eastern Carbon County.
The location is a "wickiup" or a temporary log and brush hut used by Native Americans west of the Rocky Mountains, explained the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.
The wickiup was discovered by archaeologists from Utah State University while surveying the area for cultural resources prior to the sale of a square-mile school trust section in the Book Cliff.
USU was conducting the survey for the trust lands administration. The state agency typically conducts surveys prior to the sale or development of a piece of trust land.
The wickiup was considered an important find and the state agency asked USU anthropology professor Steve Simms to fully investigate the site before sale of the land at public auction.
Wickiups are "important because they offer a more complete window into the organization of forager camps and help archaeologists better evaluate older sites where only non-perishable stone artifacts survive the ravages of time," explained Simms.
"By studying the artifact patterns and remains on a site where a wickiup was known to exist, we can better understand which of the tens of thousands of older, less well-preserved sites once had wickiups and were thus places where people stayed for longer periods of time as opposed to more short-term camps or special-use sites," added the USU anthropology professor.
The information, in turn, will provide archaeologists with a better understanding of how Native American people lived in a given location and how it compares to other areas in the West during the approximately 9,000 years before Europeans settled and took control of North America.
"Archaeology is all about patterns" noted Kenny Wintch, lead staff archaeologist for the trust lands administration. "And the more detailed and complete the patterns available to you, the more you are able to understand how people were living in a particular region at a given point in time and how things changed through time in that region. But not all patterns are created equal; and just like a jigsaw puzzle, putting certain pieces into place speeds completion of the overall puzzle."
In addition to USU's investigation, the administration placed restrictive covenants on the site requiring the buyer of the property - Hunt Oil Company - and any subsequent owners to protect the site into perpetuity.
The state agency uses the restrictive covenants when one or more archaeological sites in a sale parcel contain information that can answer important questions when studied scientifically.
The site has been investigated and mitigated through the combined efforts of the trust lands administration and Hunt Oil Company, pointed out the state agency. The costs of the investigations at the wickiup site were split equally between the company and the trust lands administration.
Hunt Oil currently owns the Preston Nutter Ranch in Carbon County, which is contiguous to the parcel where the wickiup site is located.