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  1. #1
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    Sisters Hill Site

    Approximately 11,000 years ago, just south of Buffalo, next to a pond fed by a stream, sat a Paleoindian knapping a rock that would soon be a tool.

    These prehistoric people, the ancestors of the American Indians, left small stone flakes from knapped tools 9,000 years before the founding of Rome and 6,000 years before the first dynasty of Egypt. More than 5,000 years before Sumer, they fought the cold Wyoming wind and hunted game.

    “It’s called the Sisters Hill site,” Cody Newton, an archaeologist, said. “We’ve got stuff that’s at least 11,000 years old.”

    Newton spends hours of his day examining small stones that may mean nothing to the untrained eye, but to him they are evidence of humankind’s spirit of survival through the eons of our history.

    Newton and his team are using their expertise to dig south of Buffalo at a site that was used by some of the first people to migrate into the region.

    The site shows evidence that the rich resources and game offered up by the mountains and plains have been used by humans since we migrated from Asia and moved south into what is now the United States over 13,000 years ago.

    The site was discovered sometime in the late 1950s, and the first excavation began in the early 1960s by a group from the University of Wyoming, Newton said.

    During that time, many items were discovered, including projectile point bases of a distinct type known as Hell Gap.

    The Hell Gap projectile point was first described based on finds from a site located north of Guernsey, called the Hell Gap Site. In addition to the Hell Gap style points, Newton and his team uncovered a projectile point known as a Cody point based on the description of a find from a site near Cody, Wyoming.

    The site was also explored more during the 1970s.

    “There was folks there from the University of Wyoming as well, and then we started last year,” Newton said. “Although they were digging a different, older layer, they were finding similar things that we were finding.”

    Chipped stone tools, projectile points and butchered bone fragments are still being uncovered by Newton and his team.

    The most recent dig occurred Aug. 24-28 and is being funded by grants from the George C. Frison Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wyoming.

    Newton is a co-principal investigator, along with Spencer Pelton and Naomi Ollie. Excavated sediment from the site is washed through a fine mesh screen using water, and the remaining small rocks and gravel will be picked through to extract all the minute chipped stone flakes and bone missed during excavation. Bone and charcoal can be dated to provide a calendar-year age for the use of the site, and other materials from the sediment will be analyzed to provide information about the ancient environment and climate.

    What initially made the Sisters Hill site unique from other sites that date to the same period is a general lack of bison bones. Bison were a primary subsistence resource for human groups in the region throughout prehistory. When it was first excavated in the 1960s, archaeologists found the remains of antelope, mule deer, mountain sheep, rabbit and even porcupine, but no bison bone.

    This is unusual because bison were a primary resource for people during Paleoindian times, Newton said.

    “For a site of this age, particularly one that is not in the mountains, you generally find mostly bison bone,” Newton said. “This was a little different.”

    It is unknown as to why this site lacks any bison bones. Newton and others have found evidence that the site was semi-permanent.

    Newton theorizes the site was used for short periods over the course of thousands of years, perhaps by humans moving through the area. Perhaps it was a hunting camp only used during certain seasons. But what researchers do know is evidence shows that humans kept returning to the same site, and they kept making tools and projectile points while they occupied the camp.

    “They were focused more on smaller game-deer, antelope and sheep,” Newton said. “It could just be a product of hunting in that those types of animals were more accessible in the area at that time. It is a bit anomalous because of that.”

    According to Newton, the type of game bones found at the Sisters Hill site are similar to other sites found deeper in mountain chains. But the Sisters Hill site is located in the foothills of the Bighorns and not deep within the mountain formation.

    The site has taught Newton and his team a lot about the behavior and the groups of humans who lived in the Buffalo area so long ago, Newton said.

    “What this does tell us, is what was there,” Newton said. “It tells us what they were interested in, or what they were there to hunt. It was near a water source, which is no surprise. These are the kinds of places that people have always lived near in these arid environments.”

    With every answer that Newton and his team find, more questions arise. Newton said that’s all part of the job.

    “The more you know, the more you don’t know,” Newton laughed. “One thing we’re looking at and would like to learn more about is are there changes in the types of stone they’re using through time?”

    Newton and his team can tell the site spread up the shoreline of the body of water that was once in the area. As sediment moved due to floods and the melting of glaciers, the humans who used the site would simply move up the shoreline as the water rose in the pond. Those changes can be tracked by Newton and his team.

    As time passed and the water rose, the styles of projectile points evolved, leaving an artifact timeline that can be traced.

    “What this site does give us is a pretty decent length of time where people were in one spot,” Newton said. “When you hold that as a constant, we can look at the changes in the types of animals they were procuring to eat, the types of stone they were using to make their tools and correlate that information against the environmental data we’ll get and see if there are any patterns there that sync up or make sense and learn about long-term land use and changes through time.”
    A glimpse of humans 11, years ago - Buffalo Bulletin: Home
    Premature certainty is the enemy of understanding.

  2. Likes Tdog, rddalto, tomclark, Dennis, Papajoe, Beatup69 liked this post
  3. #2
    PhD in Arrowheadology
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    That's a very interesting area just a short drive south of where i live.

 

 

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