The University of Wyoming recently teamed up with the Center of the West in Cody to research archeological materials not typically found in most of Wyoming and the Mountain West.
Most of Wyoming’s archeology focuses on rocks, tools, and bones with knife markings, but as part of a new class, ten students will be looking at perishable items going back about 11,000 years. Brigid Grund, one of the class’s instructors, said it’s important to open students’ minds to the possibilities that perishables hold.
“I mean we got scraps of clothing that are still sewn together, entire shoes, boots, moccasins, or whatever you want to call them,” said Grund. “We got cordage that’s knotted into nets. All sorts of things like that. That when I first saw this collection my jaw dropped. I can’t wait to see how the students react.”
In most cases, perishable materials like wood, hair and plant fibers disintegrate in open air archaeological sites. But, right outside of Cody at a special site known popularly as the Mummy Cave, where these materials were preserved.
“So really this site because it has layers and layers of human activity for all these thousands of years,” said Grund. “It can serve as kind of a textbook or key to help us understand how human culture has changed over time.”
And the Center of the West holds a sizable collection of these artifacts in its vaults. With the help of their professors, the students hope to present their findings to the professional archaeological community in October.