Archaeologists Dig Into 1,500-year-old Sandy Settlement

Apr 30, 2015

Nearly 1,500 years ago a small group of Western Shoshone Native Americans lived on a south-facing slope of what is now Dimple Dell Park in Sandy. Their pithouse, which included a fire pit and other remnants of their lives, was discovered a month ago while Questar Gas workers were replacing a 50-year-old pipeline.

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Lori Hunsaker said archaeologists have uncovered thousands of bone fragments from local wildlife at the site, and obsidian—a rock indigenous people of the region valued for making things like arrowheads.

“They’re going to study the obsidian to see if it comes from some sources down south or some sources up north, to give them some information about travel and distance or perhaps even trading,” Hunsaker said.

Putting these clues together, Hunsaker said, will help experts to better understand the people of this time period.

“It’s probably likely that at certain periods of time the Wasatch Front could have supported as many as 1 million people, that at some point in time subsisted on corn agriculture and various hunting and gathering practices,” Hunsaker said.

Past peoples liked to live in many of the same areas as current inhabitants, Hunsaker said, meaning that many of their settlements are either hidden under or have been destroyed by current buildings. She added that Questar Gas was not obligated to have archaeologists study the area, but that they did it to be good stewards of Utah’s history.

“While these sites are not necessarily uncommon, it is uncommon that we get an opportunity to excavate them and do the data recovery and understand the stories that they tell us about the lives of past people,” Hunsaker said.

The pithouse excavation is expected to wrap up on Friday.

Edit: the headline to this story previously stated that the archaeological site was 15,000 years old, it has been edited to reflect that the site is actually 1,500 years old.