archaeology

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Writing has only been around about 5,000 years, so it’s the work of archaeologists to figure out the stories of early humans before there was a written record. Laramie-based archaeologist Rich Adams has just published the World Prehistory Coloring Book, relaying those 3.5 million years.

 

After working in Wyoming for 24 years he started teaching university courses, and he said he found students would get overwhelmed and intimidated because there’s just so much to learn.

Melodie Edwards

We drive for hours on a terrible dirt road to reach the ice patch, but Colorado State University archeology professor emeritus Larry Todd says, heck, this is nothing.

“Today we'll be able to get in the truck and drive for an hour and a half to an ice patch. That's about as close as we can get,” he says. “More often it's, go to the trailhead, load up the horses and pack mules and ride for six to eight hours to get into the area where you can start studying those.”

Maggie Mullen

Thousands of years ago in northern Wyoming, countless animals fell to their death at the bottom of an 85-foot cave. Natural Trap Cave has long been closed to recreation, but scientists have spent the last four summers unearthing the remains of many now-extinct animals. Excavations will soon come to an end.

 

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

The Washakie Museum and Cultural Center in Worland is hosting a symposium exploring some of the big questions in Wyoming's paleontology and archaeology right now.

courtesy of Randy Haas

A summer hike up to a 13,000-foot alpine meadow can be exhilarating. But what if you decided to stay up there for the rest of your life? The lack of oxygen, frigid temperatures, and sparse vegetation would make it tough. Archaeologists know hunter-gatherers traversed highland areas thousands of years ago, but presumed they also had to spend time in lowland areas in order to survive.

That idea is now being challenged by a team of researchers at the University of Wyoming who have made a rare discovery.

Julie Meachen

Over a thousand fossils collected from the bottom of the 82-foot-deep Natural Trap Cave in northern Wyoming will soon be stored at the University of Wyoming. The collection will likely triple the size of the university’s Pleistocene collection.

Julie Meachen is one of the lead scientists on the project and has spent her last two summers excavating the cave. She said 20,000 years ago, a huge diversity of animals fell into the cavern and were trapped. She says that has allowed scientists a unique opportunity to document the many species of that era.

Dr. Lawrence Todd

Climate change is revealing Wyoming artifacts hidden by ice for 10,000 years. Scientists are flocking to the melting snow and ice fields. And the world is watching.

The Prince of Monaco, among others, is giving a lot of money to support a science emerging in the mountains of Wyoming.

Prince Albert II talked about climate change, and his foundation’s support of scientific research on climate change when he came to Cody in 2013.

Robert Kelly

As America contemplates its future with a new president, one man has been looking to the past for cues about our future. Robert Kelly, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming, has written a new book called The Fifth Beginning.

In it, he argues humanity has encountered four transition points - or “beginnings” - in its history: the invention of technology, like stone tools, culture, agriculture, and the state. He sat down with Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to discuss the period of transition humans are facing right now.

Todd Guenther

It’s late afternoon at the base of Dinwoody Glacier, and its creek is roaring with melted ice nearby. It's been a long day of digging for archeology students Crystal Reynolds, Morgan Robins and Nico Holt. 

“We love digging holes!” they say, laughing. “We love playing in the dirt.”

“It's like playing hide and seek with people you never met,” says Holt.

University of Wyoming

A UW professor has co-authored a study that shows a nearly two-million-year-old grinding tool might have actually been used as a weapon.

For years, scientists  have believed round stones, called spheroids, were used by early humans to grind and shape other objects. Spheroids have been found in archaeological sites in South Africa and elsewhere. Archaeologists believe they date back as far as the Early Stone Age, nearly two million years ago.

Todd Guenther

Researchers at Central Wyoming College in Riverton are studying the possibility that prehistoric people may have lived year round above timberline in the Wind River Range.      

Anthropology Professor Todd Guenther says until recently the conventional wisdom was that prehistoric hunters spent most of their time at low elevation and only summered at high altitudes where they hunted bighorn sheep. 

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING

Around 12,000 years ago, hunter gatherers began to settle in one place and farm the land. It’s widely thought to be the first time the human population began to grow at a faster rate. However, a recent study published in the scientific journal PNAS and funded by the National Science Foundation is challenging that idea.

University of Wyoming

Two University of Wyoming archeologists are co-authors on a new paper in the scientific journal PNAS that challenges the traditional understanding of human population growth.

Human population has soared in the last 200 years or so because of the industrial revolution and advances in medicine. Before that, it was thought that the first significant change in human population growth happened around 12,000 years ago, because of the agricultural revolution.

Ana M. Balcarcel

When you think of a Jesus lizard you probably think of the rainforest creature: green crested with big floppy feet zipping across the surface of water.

Now, a new skull fossil shows that a very close relative of that lizard lived in Wyoming 50 million years ago. Anatomy professor Jack Conrad from the New York Institute of Technology just released a paper on the discovery. 

Chris Amerman

A paleontology field school in the Bighorn Basin found an incredibly well-preserved fossil of an ancient anteater-like mammal this summer. The fossil is a Palaeanodon, a ground-dwelling insect eater the size of a cat that lived about 53-million years ago. Colorado State University Field School Instructor Kim Nichols discovered the skeleton and says the fossil is a very rare find because so much of the animal’s skeleton was found. Such small creatures are hardly ever discovered intact.  Its excellent condition is also unusual, Nichols says.

Melodie Edwards

In 1986, a large mammoth rib bone was found jutting out of the bank of a creek a few miles from Douglas.  The state archaeologist, Dr. George Frison, did a hasty 4-day excavation at the time.  But a thorough excavation has never been done because the land owners weren’t interested in hosting an archaeology dig on their property.  That left archaeologists with a big question--was LaPrele Creek a mammoth kill site?  But recently the land sold and archaeologists have finally been allowed to dig. 

Vore Buffalo Jump - Sundance

Apr 14, 2014
Vore Buffalo Jump

The Vore Buffalo Jump is on the interface between what were once great bison pastures of the northern Great Plains and the Black Hills, making it highly attractive to various groups of buffalo hunters. In about 300 years, the site was used by five or more tribes.

The rich cultures and fascinating history of the Plains Indians developed around the immense bison herds and grasslands and of western North America.

Many Native American groups believe the Black Hills have spiritual properties as well as important material resources.

A young Wyoming archaeologist has discovered several more prehistoric villages in the Wind River Range, bringing the total up to 19 confirmed villages at the high altitude archaeology site known as High Rise Village.  His findings are being published in an upcoming scientific journal article.

Matt Stirn was a 20-year-old undergraduate when he developed a model to predict the whereabouts of new lodge sites in the Wind River Range.  Richard Adams was his supervisor. He says Stirn was 13-years-old when he began volunteering on Adam’s crew at High Rise Village.      

A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by UW researchers Bob Kelly, Todd Surovell, Bryan Shuman, and one-time UW graduate student Geoff Smith looks at climate change in the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming and how it affected the population living there over thousands of years. Archaeologist Todd Surovell and geologist Bryan Shuman came in to talk about their work with Wyoming Public Radio's Irina Zhorov.