Jed Boal Reporting Archeologists have announced a major find in Utah. Among the rugged and remote canyons and cliffs of central and southern Utah is a treasure trove of ruins from ancient cultures.
Archaeologists speak of this series of sites behind the Book Cliffs with a lot of superlatives. They say everyone who has seen the abundance of artifacts has been amazed and awestruck. State Archaeologist Kevin Jones calls it several lifetimes of archaeological work.
Kevin Jones, State Archaeologist: “It's very thick, very dense with archaeology. The kind of sites we don't find that often."
These ruins tell a partial tale of the Fremont Indians who lived in a string of villages stretching more than a dozen miles along Range Creek, a remote drainage tucked between the Book Cliffs and the Green River.
Kevin Jones: “Most of the sites on public land have been visited and damaged some way. These haven't been; that's what makes them remarkable."
Archaeologists now think thousands of people lived along Range Creek around one thousand years ago. They've known about the sites for years, but a rancher kept these treasures hidden and preserved for more than six decades. Two years ago the rancher sold the 1500 acre canyon to the state.
Kevin Jones: “He showed us in the course of a day some of the most amazing archaeological sites I've ever seen. We knew we had something very important on our hands at that point."
University of Utah field archaeologists have found large village sites with pit houses and rock shelters; rock art with bold colors and rare pigments; mile after mile of relatively undisturbed artifacts; tools, beads, and pottery. The archaeologist's kids came across a cliff-side granary.
Jones calls it a great career challenge to protect Range Creek while sharing it with the public.
Kevin Jones: “Educational opportunities for our kids for hundreds of years, if we don't mess it up."
Archaeological field crews are just getting to know the area. They have already identified more than 200 sites and anticipate more than 1,000. Now the objective is to come up with a delicate management plan for a delicate area.