Archaeologists have unearthed a clay pot at Yellowstone National Park, which is seeing an unusually high level of archaeological research this summer.
“This is about as busy a season as we’ve had,” said Ann Johnson, a National Park Service archaeologist. “This is some rare research, inventory work.”
The clay pot, about 15 inches tall, was found this month along a bank of the Yellowstone River, in the northern area of the park. Archaeologists say the piece may have been made by the Shoshone Indians about 500 years ago.
The pot is only the second Yellowstone location at which prehistoric ceramics have been discovered, Johnson said. The find was part of a research project directed by Mack Shortt of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.
One of the questions scientists are researching concerns when Indians were in the park area, and at what time of year.
The project that yielded the pot also revealed the bones of animals, including those of a fetal lamb. Johnson said the lamb bones indicate the ewe was hunted in the winter or early spring. A laboratory analysis of the bones should allow scientists to calculate more specifically the time of year that prehistoric hunters were using the Yellowstone country.
The riverside excavation is funded by the Park Service, but other archaeological surveys this summer are financed with federal highway money. There is an effort to identify culturally significant sites before they are paved.
The oldest artifact uncovered this summer may be a projectile point, found between Mammoth and Norris, that is perhaps 7,000 to 8,000 years old.
Artifacts recovered this summer will be sent to private laboratories for analysis. When the examinations are complete, the pieces will be returned to Yellowstone, where they will be available to researchers, Johnson said.
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