(October 18, 2016)—Imagine a hunting party on the prehistoric Great Plains. Imagine tense muscles, clenched jaws, fierce and determined eyes. Imagine hearts pounding. A signal is given, arms swing, voices rise in an undulating chorus of battle cries as warriors unleash a volley of missiles at their panic-frozen prey.
Now imagine a rousing cheer from a crowd of parents as a 10-year-old kid successfully spears a paper bison with a dowel dart (fletched with colored duct tape) fired from a Home Depot paint-stick atlatl.
This year marked the third annual Archaeology Stewardship Day in Utah’s impressive Nine Mile Canyon, boasting a record turnout over years past—more than 300 people attended. Hosted by Project Discovery, a non-profit educational program aimed at introducing youth to the field of archaeology, the event is supported and co-sponsored by grants and donations from a variety of different sources—including the Bureau of Land Management, the Utah Division of State History, Montgomery Archaeological Consultants, SWCA Environmental Consultants, Utah Statewide Archaeological Society, EPG, USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum, Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, and the Utah Rock Art Research Association, among others. Chaperones, gear, and a pack of teenagers eager to share what they’ve learned with the public are provided by the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE). These partnerships are what make this event so distinctive and memorable.
The program is organized into three phases. The first phase walks the students through a series of labs and lectures designed to convey archaeological principles through scientific, artistic, and critical-thinking lenses. The second phase involves a field visit to Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, where the students work for four days as professional archaeologists, completing forms, photographing sites, reading topographic maps, and developing a deep love for sunscreen and bug spray.
The third phase is the Stewardship Day event. Organized as an informative and interpretive trail, it leads visitors along a series of stations where students are paired with professional archaeologists at various well-known and frequently visited sites throughout Nine Mile Canyon. Project Discovery’s goal is to foster an evolution within the participants that propels them from the role of student to that of teacher, sharing the many exciting things they’ve learned about prehistory, archaeology, and cultural resource preservation with the public.
Wedged in the middle of canyon tour at the Cottonwood Glen Picnic Area was a bonanza of informational booths—hosted by the Friends of Cedar Mesa, the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, and the Nine Mile Canyon Settlers Association, among others—and archaeology-themed activities.
Professional archaeologists, volunteers, graduate students, Project Discovery alumni, SLCSE students, Project Discovery staff, and a Ute Tribal elder came together to share Utah’s culture history. The weather was amazing, the attendees had a blast, and the students were practically clambering over each other to engage the public with their new cache of knowledge. This year’s event will be tough to beat!
But we will.