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28 August 2004
Reno trench site dig yields prehistoric items

A dig that's going on for the train trench through downtown Reno (Nevada, USA) has yielded a prehistoric site that may be as much as 4,000 years old. The site, in what will be the trench's western end, is unique because it lets archaeologists look at how people used the same location over thousands of years, said project manager Ed Stoner of Western Cultural Resource Management. While some artifacts such as grinding stones and hearths could date back 700 years, others found deeper in the soil may be as much as 4,000 years old, he said.
     Carbon dating will be conducted on the items to get a more precise reading of how far back into history people were occupying the site. Prehistoric people likely used the area repeatedly over long periods because of its vicinity to the Truckee River as a source of food, but also because the river served as a natural transportation corridor for a nomadic society. Over thousands of years the river flooded repeatedly, covering the encampments with fine silt, Stoner said. Years later, people eventually returned to the area and set up camps again, creating a new layer of evidence. When the river flooded again, the process repeated itself. Stoner has found at least five layers.
     The project has not interfered with trench construction, and the dig is scheduled to continue for another seven weeks while as many as 14 archaeologists work full time to remove the dirt in centimeter-thick layers and catalogue ground and charred stones, projectile points and animal bones, among other finds. The consensus is that people have inhabited the area for about 12,000 years, Stoner said.
     The site is about 100 feet wide from east to west and 10 feet deep. The north boundary is unknown and never will be discovered because it's on private land, Stoner said. The depth and unknown size of the site makes it impossible to excavate the entire area and get out of the way of the trench construction, so only about 25 percent of the site will be dug up. The rest will be buried under the train trench.

Sources: Associated Press, Reno Gazette Journal, Las Vegas Sun (25 August 2004)

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