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30 January 2005
5,000-year-old settlement found in Colorado

Five thousand years ago, a band of ancient people built homes on the edge of a stream in what is now Parker (Colorado, USA). It was not a temporary camp, like so many of the archaeological discoveries made from that period of time. People here made large houses, some of them 24 feet across, with wood posts and walls of brush or hide. They probably spent months in the area and may have returned, again and again, over centuries.
     In November, a team of archaeologists working at a construction site in Parker uncovered what might be the most complete evidence in Colorado of lives lived about 5,000 years ago. The experts have about a month or two before the site will probably be demolished to make way for Parker's new reservoir complex.
     The artifacts found in Parker - the toe bone of an ancient bison, hundreds of spear points and especially the rare home sites - will help archaeologists understand a period of time about which they know relatively little, said Erik Gantt, lead archaeologist for Centennial. The people who lived on Colorado's plains 5,000 years ago were nomadic hunters and gatherers, he said. They apparently lived in small family groups, hunting everything from rabbits to bison and collecting seeds and berries. They might have settled into larger groups for the winter but moved often, probably following game. On a nearby mesa, his team has discovered tens of thousands of spear points and other tools from about the same time, and a stone circle, which seems ceremonial, he said.
     The homes were dug about a foot or more into the ground, then circled with posts and probably draped with animal hides or brush, Gantt said. He and his crew have discovered fire pits in the centers of the structures, and storage pits, probably for dried meat or pemmican, a mixture of meat, berries and other foods. Archaeologists have found similar hamlets, also about 5,000 years old, in Wyoming's Wind River Range and Colorado's San Luis Valley, he said. People back then apparently had trade networks stretching for hundreds of miles.
     Many archaeologists are frustrated at the irony that development projects often unearth ancient sites, just before they are destroyed. But the quick work done at such sites can turn up important relics.

Source: Denver Post (27 January 2005)

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