Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rock Art Ranch archeology dig

Guests Lorna and Kay and Steve and Maria found pottery shards.
The breeze was pretty strong on top of the hill, but calm down in the
petroglyph canyon. The locals call their town Windfast (Winslow, AZ).

Range Creek, which you may have seen featured in Smithsonian magazine or National Geographic or Archaeology magazine, is a 4,000-acre ranch in the Great Basin of Utah. Landowner Waldo Wilcox sold the ranch to the Trust for Public Lands in 2002 for a cool $2.5 million. Range Creek is right in the heart of the basin and range region settled by the Fremont culture, and Wilcox had kept its archaeological treasures protected. When archaeologists led by Duncan Metcalfe of the University of Utah finally got a whack at Range Creek, they found a virtually pristine labspace for studying the Fremont culture.

The Fremont culture is a fascinating story of adaptation. They first moved into the Great Basin probably from New Mexico about 500 AD and successfully followed a combined maize-bean-squash agriculture with hunting and gathering subsistence. For some 800 years they succeeded, with the help of irrigation ditches, to successfully farm the Great Basin despite arid and stormy climatic conditions. The reasons for their end are still debated, but definitely the climate change called the "Medieval Little Ice Age" was part of the equation.

Time Team America and the Fremont

The PBS program airing July 29, 2009, illustrates the fabulous scenery in Range Creek, while giving us a bird's eye view of the archaeology digs ruins. An introduction to Fremont is woven throughout the program, including a detailed discussion of the Pilling collection of Fremont figurines, by Renee Barlow of the College of Eastern Utah Museum.

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