Mystery Orem Structure Being Excavated

Mystery Orem Structure Being Excavated

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OREM, Utah (AP) -- A mysterious dig is under way here. Three archaeologists have started excavating what remains of a 10-by-14 foot yellow brick building on the northwest corner of the nearly renovated Nielsen's Grove Park.

The Utah State Historic Preservation Office last month gave local archaeologist Asa Nielson a permit to excavate the structure.

The office has no record of the building, and no one seems to remember it.

The archaeologists still don't know what the building was used for, but they have ideas.

It could have been a smokehouse, ice house, a building where irrigation drained, or it could have been used to butcher animals.

The top of the building had already been knocked off, so it's only about knee high with cement steps at its entrance.

It's unknown whether it was there with Nielsen's Grove, which was hailed by many as the most beautiful park west of the Mississippi, until it was turned into a wheat farm to support the World War I effort around 1917.

"The first day or two on something like this, speculation runs rampant," Nielson said. "I'm guessing that this thing is post-1920s, but we'll have a better idea after the next set of excavations."

Nielson hopes the city will keep the building as a historical site.

"I'd like to be able to preserve this little structure with a sign that explains what it was," Nielson said.

Volunteers will continue the project every Saturday until it's finished.

Archaeologists last weekend assigned volunteers a spot to carefully dig with tools and brushes. They emptied dirt into buckets then sifted it, looking for smaller objects they might have missed.

Mostly they found junk, like a tin bucket full of tar, cow and deer bones and a glass cup.

"You can tell a lot about people by their trash," Nielson said.

After every 20 centimeters of digging, archaeologists drew and took pictures of the site, then they took all of the artifacts back to the office to clean and catalog them, said Todd Seacat, an American Fork archaeologist.

They will also send pollen samples from the building's foundation to a laboratory that will test for the age of the pollen. The archaeologists will also test several samples of paint to tell how old it was by the type of paint used.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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