Road project unearths prehistoric Native American ruins

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SOUTHERN UTAH  – Construction of the Southern Parkway has uncovered prehistoric Native American ruins, one of which is the oldest site ever investigated in southwest Utah.

Utah Department of Transportation archeologists discovered more than they expected during excavations of the land surrounding an 8-mile stretch of planned roadway. Hundreds of arrow heads, pottery and fossils are now being analyzed to see what they can tell about ancient Anasazi culture.

“Not a lot is known about them because there hasn’t been a lot of excavation out here,” UDOT artifact specialist Eric Hansen said. “What we’ve been able to do is make a pretty big contribution to our knowledge of pre-history in this area.”

Crews uncovered 15 different sites, including many pit-houses, or ancient dwellings. Hansen said one dig uncovered arrow heads dating back to 10,000 BC.

“Down about four feet in an earthquake fault trench that they were digging, we found a couple of artifacts that were exposed in profile in the side of the trench, they happened to be in a bed of charcoal,” Hansen said.

Archeologists were able to date the arrow heads with carbon dating technology. Hansen said they anticipated finding Native American artifacts and worked with local historical societies and Native American tribes, but they never know what they’ll find until they start digging.

“We were surprised as anybody to see a couple of these sites that turned out to be a lot larger than anticipated,” Hansen said. “We did what we could to miss them.”

Formal excavations ended late last month, but Hansen said they’ll still monitor the construction in case they missed anything. The artifacts will be housed at the University of Utah’s Natural Science Museum.

The 8-mile section of the Southern Parkway will connect Washington City with Hurricane through an eastern roadway. It’s expected to be complete by the end of 2013.