HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — An ancient tribal fire pit with tools, a spear tip and tobacco seeds that archaeologists say dates back 12,300 years was recently discovered on a military testing range in northern Utah.
An archaeological team this month uncovered the hearth at Hill Air Force Base's Utah Test and Training Range, which is south of Ogden. The artifacts will be curated through the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City, The Standard Examiner reported.
Hill archaeologist and Cultural Resource Manager Anya Kitterman worked with Far Western Anthropological Research Group to uncover charcoal, animal bone fragments and other remnants from the cooking pit.
"When you come across a find like that, it's obviously very exciting," Kitterman said. "You're getting a real picture of the history of this land. It's an unbelievable feeling. We've been looking for something major like this for years."
Far Western Senior Archaeologist Daron Duke said the age of the hearth and the items within it are remnants from some of the Great Basin's earliest inhabitants. "They really are the first occupants of the Great Basin that we can demonstrate," Duke said.
The Great Basin is a huge region of watersheds that encompasses much of Nevada and parts of Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and California.
The dig site was discovered about a year ago after previous surveys and calculations suggested the area had potential for significant archaeological resources, Kitterman said. Teams are actively surveying between 4 and 8 square miles of the training range each year, she said.
Trying to find artifacts can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, Ketterman said.
Barbara Fisher, chief of Hill's Environmental Public Affairs office, said the base consults with 21 Native American tribes about findings and archaeological work performed at the range.
Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, cultural and natural resources manager for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, said tribes care about findings and are glad work is being done to preserve such history.
"It's another piece of evidence that says we did exist, we did live here, and we had an impact," she said. "It's a testament to our people and the role we had. That's important."