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Sister's Hill archaeological site brings return guests for new research

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The Sister’s Hill excavation site received another visit this year from an archaeological team researching a newly discovered habitation of the site roughly 11,000 years ago. The nearly two-week research stay was led by Wyoming State Archaeologist Spencer Pelton and Buffalo local Cody Newton. The first part of the research happens on site but the rest is taken back to the lab to be completed at a later date. 

Jolie Magelky uses the trowel to remove a layer of dirt

Jolie Magelky uses the trowel to remove a layer of dirt from the unit she was working in on Aug. 13. Magelky is an incoming senior studying anthropology (specifically archaeology) and statistics.

The dark charcoal line in the wall is suspected to be a hearth from roughly 11,000 years ago

The dark charcoal line in the wall, dated at 11,000 years old, is one of the main features of this year’s study. The line is suspected to be a hearth from a fire in the earlier of the two Paleoindian sites that have been found in the same dig site at Sister’s Hill.

Spencer Pelton, left, and Tyson Arnold use hoses to wash away sediment

Wyoming State Archaeologist Spencer Pelton, left, and volunteer Tyson Arnold use hoses to wash away the sediment and keep just the larger pieces. The pair would bring buckets over from the excavation block and then screen them one at a time so as to keep the different layers of material separated with their individual labels.

The water washes the sediment through the thin screen

The water washes the sediment through the thin screen, keeping only the larger pieces that once dried will be screened again to remove the larger rocks. The screening table could hold three screens at a time.

Water and mud drip down the legs of Spencer Pelton as he screens samples

Water and mud drip down the legs of Spencer Pelton as he screens samples on Thursday. The group spread the work out in stages as much as they could with some digging, some screening and another drying, screening and bagging.

Esther Enders volunteered to work on the site as a friend of Spencer Pelton’s

Esther Enders volunteered to work on the site as a friend of Spencer Pelton’s. A nurse by trade, Enders is interested in archaeology and was able to take time off to come out and help work on the site. Enders was working mostly with the screened rocks. After they dried from the first screening, she would screen them a second and final time to remove larger, non-valuable rocks and then bag the remaining materials to be taken back to the lab for future analysis.

Spencer Pelton recovered a piece of a biface

Earlier in the dig, Spencer Pelton recovered a piece of a biface, likely part of a knife. Here he uses his hands to show the approximate size of the biface had it been recovered in its full, original form. This is the largest artifact that the team of about 10 people has recovered at the dig site during this year’s visit.

Jolie Magelky, Tyson Arnold and Colt Marcum laugh about a previous site

From left, Jolie Magelky, Tyson Arnold and Colt Marcum laugh about a previous site where they were finding large artifacts in high volume and how different it was to most sites, like this Sister’s Hill site, where you may not find anything large on some days. Meanwhile, Colt’s pit bull Sadie napped in under the tent shade. The group works to excavate square, one meter units that are divided further into four quadrants. They then remove one 5 cm. layer at a time from the quadrants so as to properly document the depth, location, age and mapping of what they do and do not find.

Photojournalist

Jessi Dodge joined the Bulletin as a photojournalist and a Report for America corp member in 2020. If you have ideas or comments, reach out at jessi@buffalobulletin.com.

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