Between October 2009 and October 2012, HRA, Inc., Conservation Archaeology (HRA), Brigham Young University’s Office of Public Archaeology (OPA), and Bighorn Archaeological Consultants (Bighorn) conducted excavations at ten Native American sites in Kane County, UT. Work in the area was undertaken as part of the process for the construction of a new dam and reservoir, as all of the sites were in the dam footprint or below the reservoir water line (Figure 1).
Thanks to funding provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) a tremendous amount of new information about the Native American people who lived along the edge of the Kanab Creek floodplain was discovered. In addition, portions of some of the sites that the project did not directly impact will be placed under a conservation waiver and permanently protected thanks to the efforts of the KCWCD, the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and the Kaibab Band of Paiutes.
The excavated sites were camps and villages that dated from the Archaic Period about 5,000 years ago through the Post-Puebloan Period, which ended when the first Euro-Americans arrived in Kanab. Archaeologists found grinding stones, hearths, and flaked-stone tools at the oldest Archaic period sites, suggesting that they were camps used by prehistoric people as they gathered and processed wild foods. One 5,000 year old camp contained four surface houses, which are rarely found during this time period. Basketmaker and Pueblo sites, spanning the period from two thousand to five hundred years ago, included large, deep storage structures, pithouses, and trash deposits (Figures 2 and 3).
Over forty houses and large slab-lined storage features were excavated at the largest Puebloan site located under the northern footprint of the dam. The presence of burned maize kernels, cob fragments, and pollen from beans and squash suggest that the site’s occupants were farmers who began cultivating in the region over 2,000 years ago. The post-Puebloan sites were characterized by pithouses with large, deep hearths and nearby brush kitchens or activity areas.
With help from Bighorn and OPA, lithic, shell, ceramic, ground stone, mineral, macrobotanical, pollen, and residue analyses are currently underway to help answer questions regarding trade interactions and subsistence in this area. One early discovery is that turquoise collected from the largest site came from a prehistoric turquoise mine known as Halloran Springs, located near Baker, California (over 200 miles away). The project report will be published in its entirety online, and a book summarizing the findings is planned for publication through the University of Utah Press.