By U.S. ArmyNovember 28, 2018
Aside from flying, airplane and arrowhead share a distinction: in their day -- a day separated by 2,000 years -- they were the most advanced weapons extant.
The irony of jet and stone projectile occurred during the Nov. 6 tour of National Register of Historic Places prehistoric sites near Michael Army Airfield, in observance of National American Indian Heritage Month. The tour was sponsored by the Cultural Resources office of the Environmental Division of Dugway Proving Ground.
Morning and afternoon busloads of workers each spent about two hours visiting the site near Michael Army Airfield, and learned its significance from Dugway archaeologists Jennifer DeGraffenried, Nate Anderson, Nate Nelson, Ellyse Simons, and Rachel Quist, who is manager of Cultural Resources. "I think people were interested in it. It was well received," Quist later said.
One site, bearing the charcoal-stained remains of cooking fires, amazed visitors to learn it was about 2,000 years old. Tiny obsidian flakes, black as an ancient night, and chips of chert the color of toffee, dotted the former wetland soil. Topaz Mountain, some 40 miles south of Dugway, provided the raw stones, which ancient craftsmen knapped into spears, arrows, knives and scrapers.
"This area has the highest density of paleo Indian sites in North America," said DeGraffenried, gesturing northwest to the flat, sage-covered plain that was a wetland bustling with game about 12,000 years ago.
In 2015, just over Dugway's border on the Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range, Air Force archaeologists unearthed projectile points about 13,000 years old -- one of the oldest human habitation sites in Utah.
Many sites within the 1.25 million acres of Dugway Proving Ground and the UTTR reveal their ancient tools because public access has been forbidden since the 1940s, curtailing theft.
"Projectile points are our only reliable time markers, so when they disappear off the land, we lose a sense of time of the site," DeGraffenried said.
Federal protection of artifacts dates back to the Antiquities Act of 1906. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) expanded that protection, and significantly increased penalties for violators who disturb or take artifacts.
An artifact is defined as anything made or used by humans. Whether on federal or state land, artifacts older than about 50 years are protected and must be undisturbed. An arrowhead, 1939 penny, .44 Henry cartridge, wood from a log structure -- all artifacts, all protected. Artifacts on private land belong to the owner, but the owner must give permission to search and take.
Returning on the bus in the afternoon, numerous workers admired how the ancient residents survived and produced the essentials to continue their lives and technology. An arrowhead and F-35 jet fighter may seem disparate, but perhaps the expert hands and knowledge required of craftsmen haven't changed that much in 2,000 years, have they?