Gilsonite Ridge - Passport in Time

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The Gilsonite Ridge Project

Ashley National Forest, Utah, 1998
by Maggie Tombaugh, PIT Volunteer

In 1998, PIT volunteers returned to the Gilsonite Ridge area to continue an archaeological survey begun the previous year. The work focused on the draws and ridgetops of Antelope Canyon, near where Byron Loosle and his crew had worked in 1997. We had 17 PIT volunteers as we continued the work, documenting and recording new sites. Numerous prehistoric lithic scatters and both stone and bone tools were found, as well as evidence of the later historical-period cowboy era.

Several rock art sites were also recorded, the most interesting being the “Invisible Man” site. This aptly named site was discovered accidentally as the crew investigated a rockshelter. The story of this find begins with a lunch break at a fairly uninteresting rockshelter, which contained just a few scattered lithic flakes. The crew members moved through the site several times, but as a cloud covered the sun for a few seconds, a 3-foot-high anthropomorph was revealed on the rock face. The figure was copied to graph paper by shading it with clipboards, as it was not visible when the sun was shining directly on the rock face.

PIT volunteers learned of the lengthy forms and maps that need to be completed for each site. They learned to read topographic maps, draw site plans, and record rock art and artifacts, all of which dispelled any lingering images of Indiana Jones that they may have had.

The highlight of the week was a trip on Wednesday afternoon to Nine Mile Canyon, where we enjoyed viewing and photographing the rock art from the Fremont and later Ute cultures. A kind gentleman stopped to “read” the rock art for us, complete with a description of 400 boatloads of Egyptians and the burial of Ramses I (here in Utah). This theory will call for future investigations.

On the whole, the project and week spent in the field was productive, enjoyable, and will be remembered fondly by all who participated. We have to thank all the PIT volunteers and our staff, Shaun Nelson and Kelda Wilson, for participating in this project.
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