At the present time, Weber State University’s Archaeological Field School focuses on the prehistory of the eastern Great Basin and eastern Columbia Plateau. Since 2012, Dr. Brooke Arkush and WSU students have been investigating a series of ancient rock shelters in the Birch Creek drainage of far eastern Idaho, where the record of human occupation dates back to approximately 9000 B.C.
This year’s field school will consist of the third and final season of excavation work at Cottontail Rockshelter, a prehistoric seasonal habitation site located in a canyon just east of Birch Creek Valley. The site was first excavated under the direction of B. Robert Butler, Earl Swanson and Rob Bonnichsen from Idaho State University in 1961. Their investigation documented the presence of stratified natural and cultural deposits extending to a depth of at least 5 meters (~17 feet), with the oldest radiocarbon date ranging between 3200 and 2900 B.C.
Our project focuses on research topics such as site chronology, seasonality, function, subsistence practices and obsidian source variability. During the field school, you will acquire skills in excavation techniques, artifact classification, faunal remains identification, mapping, and basic surface survey methods.
Our work at the site has exposed various strata and sub strata extending to a depth of 2 meters (~6 1/2 feet) and dating to ca. 2000 B.C. A wide array of flaked stone tools, some bone and stone ornaments, thousands of lithic flakes and bighorn sheep bone fragments have been recovered from our excavation block thus far, and this project promises to contribute important information regarding prehistoric settlement patterns and subsistence practices of the Birch Creek region.