Jeanette Blain | News Editor | @JeanetteBlain
Photos courtesy of Jaren Wilkey / BYU
For the past few weeks, UVU and BYU students have showed up for class in a field near Provo Airport. They are part of a joint effort between the universities to excavate an ancient Fremont village that dates back roughly 1,000 years.
The site, called Hinckley Mounds after the family who owns the land, is one of the last undisturbed sites in Utah Valley. Many sites have already been lost to the encroaching development of modern culture.
The mounds are the remains of pit houses, which were simple dwellings created by digging a pit into the ground and adding a roof.
Just like the Hinckley’s of today, the Fremont farmed the fertile Provo River Delta.
Site co-director David Yoder, a lecturer of Anthropology at UVU said this particular area may have had five distinct periods of occupation by Fremont people.
“One of the things we’re trying to figure out is how many people would have been at this site—and when,” Yoder said.
Students in this six-credit field class learn to methodically clear away layers of earth 10 centimeters at a time. The dirt is then sifted through a mesh screen and any artifacts found are labeled and stored.
UVU sophomore Kodi Frost said, “It’s an amazing experience to be out here. You can’t learn this kind of thing from a book.”
She was quick to show off a small, intact arrow head that a colleague had just sifted from the dirt.
Mostly, the finds are pieces of pottery, arrow points and broken figurines. But the structures of the pit houses themselves are starting to take shape out of the dirt.
“It’s amazing,” Frost said, “This is where someone lived. This is where someone was a person 1,000 years ago.”
Assistant professor Michael Searcy of BYU said, “It’s really neat that the mounds have been preserved so well.”
He said the Hinckley family deserves credit for their efforts in keeping the mounds intact until they could be excavated. For now most of the surrounding area is still being farmed, but development is not far away.
Searcy said modern-day city planners and developers can learn from excavation sites like this one. Better information can lead to better planning. He said there was a reason the Fremont left the area, whether it was due to flooding, or some other cause.
The team hopes their research will answer that and many other questions about the ancient culture of Utah.
This fall, in a laboratory analysis class, students will help process the artifacts. The information will be synthesized with data from similar digs and the findings will be published.