Significant Finds From Fremont People To Become Permanent Collection

Jun 12, 2017



Tim Riley holding a cradle board with a Fremont figurine.
Credit Utah State University Prehistoric Museum

  Recently a prehistoric museum in Price received a significant permanent collection of archeological artifacts.The collection is made up of various everyday items the Fremont people used. The collection first started in the 1920's with the Ephraim T. and Dorothy Pectol family. Since then, the collection resided in Capitol Reef National Park, Brigham Young University and Temple Square until becoming a permanent collection at Utah State University Eastern’s Prehistoric Museum.


Tim Riley, curator of archeology for the museum, said the collection is important because it helps archeologists study more about the Fremont Indians and how their culture differed from the Puebloan, Shoshone and Ute ancestors.


“It’s tied into archeology and how we understand the past," Riley said. "It’s also important because most of it is called perishable materials - things that don’t preserve. There’s a term archeologists use that’s called the missing majority. The idea there is that most of the things that people use in daily life are things like wood or leather or baskets in traditional societies. And those things don’t preserve. It’s really the largest sort of private collection or early 20th century collection of perishable materials from one area.”


Among the perishable items are three of only a handful of baskets left from the Fremont people. For Riley, these items reflect on the everyday lives of people who lived hundreds of years ago.


“I study how people use plants in the past and I’m particularly interested in diet," Riley said. "One thing that I find quite interesting is there is a winnowing basket, that was made my numic people, that’s the sort of group of people that includes the Ute, the Paiute, the Shoshone and the Goshute. It’s probably about 300, 400 years old so a little bit more recent. But it’s a basket that they cook food in. So this basket has charred, carbonized residue on the inside of the basket that includes seed. I tend to like the things that reflect the daily life, the simple things. The idea that this was a meal cooked for a family around a hearth where they were taking coals and these seeds and tossing these coals in the basket and tossing it sort of like you would cook popcorn.”


In its nearly century-long transition from the original private collector, the collection has expanded to include more items that are on display now at the museum.