2. UDOT News

Modern Transportation Meets Ancient Ruins

When road construction and ancient ruins coincide, much care is taken to locate and preserve artifacts.

Archeologist Sonia Hutmacher holds a recovered artifact. UDOT preserved thirty ancient structures and over 3,000 artifacts at the Dixie Drive Interchange construction site. She gave a presentation today at UDOT’s annual Engineering Conference.

The Puebloan Ancestral People lived in the Four Corners area of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Elegant examples of their adobe homes draw tourists to sites like Hovenweep National Monument on the border between Utah and Coloradoor Mesa Verde National Monument in Colorado.

Remnants of that ancient civilization were found near the UDOT Dixie Drive Interchange construction site in 2010 in an isolated spot near the confluence of the Virgin and Santa Clara Rivers. UDOT Region Four Archeologist Eric Hansen and AMEC Archeologist Sonia Hutmacher executed a recovery effort as part of the construction team.

Hansen and Hutmacher initially thought that the recovery effort would be minimal. The site had been leveled by heavy equipment and two giant billboards had been constructed nearby. Accumulated modern trash was also evidence of human activity. At first glance, it seemed like no cultural deposits would be found.

It only took a couple of days to find out that the “entire surface was covered in artifacts” and had 30 residential structures. Most of the structures were rectangular, similar to Lost City dwellings which have been reconstructed in Nevada. Sadly, many had also been looted and partially destroyed. UDOT archeologists pushed forward in recovery mode.

Working in the area was hot, dusty and time consuming. The recovery team screened dirt bucket by bucket and eventually recovered approximately 3,000 artifacts and was successful at preserving the structures located by Hansen, Hutmacher and team in the UDOT right of way.

Success was due to having a “people oriented project team,” says Hutmacher who stressed that cooperation among team members and with other agencies was paramount during the effort.

Another reason for success was the way the archeologists were completely integrated as members of the construction team. Hutmacher advised that to provide the most help, archeologists need to “get on board right away” and be involved in the project planning stage to “keep on schedule and help hold costs down.”

Hutmacher is glad that the recovered artifacts have been preserved by “UDOT’s Right of Way caretakers” so the objects can help archeologists understand how pit structures were formed and shaped.

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