Historical Details

Local Boys Help Unearth Ancient Niobrara Camp Site

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 11/05/1959

Laramie - An ancient hunting scene, frozen in time by the earth itself, was recently reconstructed by University of Wyoming students excavating in the Mule Creek area in northern Niobrara County.

Eugene Galloway, Buffalo; Robert and Melvin Mcknight of Lusk, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Mcknight of Lusk, and James Duguid, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. O. Duguid of south of Lusk, worked under the direction of Dr. George Agogino, UW supply assistant professor of anthropology.

Agogino explains that approximately 10,000 years ago a small group of Ice Age Indians huddled about a campfire in sheltered valley near Lusk. About them lay the remains of a huge, now extinct, straight-horned bison, killed by the "first Americans" with spear and darts.

"Known today as the Folsom hunters, the Indians are identified by a distinctive point first found at a similar campsite near Folsom, New Mexico., in 1926," Agogino says. "After the bison had been processed for meat and other usable items the Folsom hunters left the valley and probably never returned."

With the passing of time, the discarded animal bones along with broken or lost tools became covered with earth carried into the valley by wind and water erosion.

The characteristic Folsom points and other stone artifacts were photographed and recorded, and along with one of the bison skulls were taken to the University of Wyoming for additional study.

A final discovery was made when a broken Folsom spearhead was found with the bison remains after the protective plaster cast was removed from the animal's skull.

Students carefully collected the charcoal from the ancient fireplace as a radiocarbon laboratory can measure declining radioactive curve and determine within a few years, when the campfire was utilized.

The work at Lusk, financed by a National Geographic Society grant, ended a busy excavation season for Dr. Agogino and his associates. Supported by four grants, they excavated in four states.

Last spring Agogino worked in New Mexico under a Wenner-Gren Grant in anthropology.

During June and July he excavated the first established Early Man site in Iowa. This project, financed by the American Philosophical Society, revealed a bison kill. Charcoal taken form campfires used to roast the bison indicated the kill occurred about the year 6571 B. C.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences recently awarded Dr. Agogino a grant to collect charcoal from the famous Lindenmeier Folsom campsite in Colorado. Assisted by Vance Haynes of the American Institute of Research and by UW students, Agogino spent nearly 400 man hours at this site to obtain a successful charcoal sample.

Dr, Agogino joined the UW faculty this past September. He formerly was acting director of the museum of the State University of South Dakota and taught at Syracuse University.

He holds degrees from the University of New Mexico and Syracuse. He is a member of Sigma Xi, national research honorary, and is a fellow of the Institute Inter Americano.

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