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Archaeological site in southern Utah re-buried by researchers

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Posted at 10:13 PM, Jul 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-31 00:13:59-04

DAMMERON VALLEY, UTAH - An archaeological site discovered in Washington County earlier this year is back underground. Researchers re-buried the ancient dwelling as a means of preserving it for the future.

Engineers discovered the remains of a Puebloan pit house while surveying for future development. Archaeologists also found bone fragments and evidence of corn farming. The artifacts were dated back 1,500 years.

“They dug a big deep house, pit, then built a roof across it,” said volunteer archaeologist Greg Woodall. “[It] probably would have had a ladder entry. And all this is what we’ve been able to recreate just by looking at the site itself.”

After several months of researching the site, including taking photos and digitally mapping the remains, crews back-filled the hole last week. It may seem counter productive to some, but Woodall said it’s a way of preserving the past, likening it to checking a history book out from the library.

“The idea was closing it back up was in essence putting it back in the library,” Woodall said. “That way it’s available for future research, and it also honors the hard work of the family who built that house.”

Thick geotextile fabric was placed over the walls and floors, not only to protect them from erosion, but to show future researchers where they left off.

Woodall said there are dozens of archaeological sites throughout Washington County. Many of them are either destroyed or covered up when the land is developed.

Future landowner of the Dammeron Valley site, Brooks Pace, has committed to preserve that site. The lot will be sold to the non-profit conservation group Archaeological Conservancy.

“We’re constantly on the lookout for preservation,” said the group’s southwest regional representative. “Sites on private property are not protected by any archaeological laws, other than the Utah state burial law.”

Evans said their group owns several archaeological sites throughout Utah. They’re managed through local volunteers. In Dammeron Valley, the seemingly empty lot will have interpretive signs talking about what lies beneath the surface.