The 2004 field season was our fourth summer at
the Goetz site on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson,
Wyoming. Support for this year’s research
came from the Earthwatch Institute and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service. Funding was also provided
by the Teton County Historic Preservation Board,
Rock-Tenn Corp., and Clem Whitman. Twenty-five
volunteers from Earthwatch and the Jackson Chapter
of the Wyoming Archeology Society participated
in this year’s field work for a total of
1940 hours. Employees from the banking firm HSBC
were also part of this year’s teams and
represented five different countries: Brazil,
China, France, Panama, and Mexico.
Our main goal in 2004 was to investigate the
geomorphic and paleoenvironmental history of the
valley. This work involved the excavation of seven
backhoe trenches which were described and sampled
by Quaternary geologist Dr. Kenneth Pierce of
the U.S. Geological Survey, geoarcheologists William
Eckerle of Western GeoArch Reseach, and phytolith
specialist Dr. Steve Bozarth of the University
of Kansas. The trenches provided a view of the
valley’s history that extends back into
the Pleistocene (Ice Age). Interpretations of
the geomorphic history are currently underway,
but an important part of the story was resolved
by a radiocarbon date of approximately 8000 BC
on a soil in contact with the Pleistocene deposits.
While we were not able to excavate as deeply as
the ancient soil we did find cultural material
in the trench wall within 50 cm. Our goal for
2005 will be to excavate down to the ancient soil
to see if the is evidence of human occupation.
In addition to the backhoe trenching, hand excavations
produced evidence of large cooking features in
an area first excavated in 2001. This area appears
to have been intensively used for processing and
cooking large mammals, such as bison. A radiocarbon
age of 1900 BP was obtained from this area in
2001. A large amount of elk bone was also recovered,
but these specimens came from the backhoe trenches
and their context is not well controlled. Despite
the context, several elements exhibit butchering
marks and may provide the largest assemblage of
elk in the region.
Overall we had a very successful field season
thanks in large part to the Earthwatch Institute
volunteers and staff, the staff of the National
Elk Refuge, and the Midwest Archeological Center.
An article that appeared in Planet
Jackson Hole (PDF 219KB) is available to
view, as well as a recent article on bison
in the Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem which was published in
the journal Great Plains
A report on the 2004 field
work is available on (PDF 1.24M).