Archaeologists dedicate dig site in Dammeron Valley

DAMMERON VALLEY — Archaeologists and enthusiasts gathered together Friday morning to dedicate a dig site in Dammeron Valley.

The site, which Dixie Archaeological Society member Greg Woodall said was built an estimated 1,500 years ago, will be the first site the Archaeological Conservancy will preserve in southwest Utah.

A dig site in Dammeron Valley has remains of an ancient Native American home, Dammeron Valley, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News
A dig site in Dammeron Valley has remains of an ancient Native American home, Dammeron Valley, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News

The site appears to have been a small, single-family farmstead that was never finished, Woodall said, as there appears to be unfinished digging to make it a round-house, but it seems to have been reused about a millennium later by Southern Paiutes.

The people who lived there were probably hunter-gatherers or corn farmers, Woodall said, as it’s a good area for both.

There is still some testing that needs to be done on the soil and artifacts at the site to learn more.

It will be hard to know exactly why the house was abandoned since, Woodall said. The reasons they left could have been lack of resources or to live closer to family somewhere else, he said, adding that until we have a time machine, it’s impossible to know exactly what happened.

Glenn Rogers, a member of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes Council, said he is glad the site will be preserved and thinks educating the public about it is important. However, he said he thinks the Shivwits Band of Paiutes should have been consulted.

“We’ve been in this area since time immemorial, you know, and it’s kind of odd that a lot of people in this area, they don’t realize who the Paiute people are,” he said. “There’s a story to all of those sites; there’s songs to those sites, but they’re long gone.”

The site is currently part of a parcel of land owned by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, but Brooks Pace, a local developer, is working on buying the land to donate to the Conservancy.

Pace is working with the lands administration in a development lease to develop land in the area for residential use and said he decided to donate that piece of land because he didn’t like the idea of the dig site “being turned into a swimming pool in somebody’s backyard.”

The dig site is impressive because of how hard it is to dig through the calcium carbonate rock the house was built into, Pace said.

“You can barely dig through it with a backhoe,” Pace said, “so that people two or three hundred or two or three thousand years ago dug through it with sticks is impressive.

There are plans for the site to eventually have an interpretive kiosk for interested groups to take tours and learn about the site, Chaz Evans, southwest region field representative for the Conservancy, said.

While the site will be filled in to prevent erosion, Evans said, there will be pictures and information about the history of the site and how it fits in with the rest of the region.

In order to protect the site, however, groups will have to go on tours with site stewards and sign waivers. Since the site will be private property, other visitors will be charged with trespassing.

While Rogers hopes the Conservancy will get input from the Shivwits band when interpreting the site, he is glad they are filling the site back in to protect it from looters.

“We don’t want looters to come around and desecrate that site, because that site is a sacred thing for us because they were once human,” he said. “There were once human people who lived there, you know. For the Paiute people, that’s part of our people.”

The site won’t open for more than a year, Evans said, as the land title won’t transfer to the Conservancy for another year.

During that time, Pace will own the land and Kenny Wintch, lead archaeologist with the lands administration, said they will probably take that time to put in trails and fill the site with geotextile material so archaeologists can revisit the site in the future, should they need to.

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  • Brian May 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    The property owner that lives there wanted a swimming pool but didn’t want to dig the hole, so he planted a few beads and voila…

  • sagemoon May 21, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Great article!

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