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6 November 2013
Extreme archaeology in the mountains of Wyoming

The incidence of high altitude settlements in North America is rare and to date only 6 had been found. Now a team of archaeologists from the Colorado State University (USA) and the University of Sheffield (UK) have located a staggering 13 further settlements, all at an altitude of over 3,500 metres, in a range of glacial mountains in Wyoming known as the Wind River Range.
     Some initial dating calculations have been made, with predictions ranging from 2,700 to 4,000 years old. The question remains as to why did these prehistoric people venture so high up the mountains? The true answer is still a mystery but theories range from tribal warfare driving incumbents away, to scarcity of food in the lowlands. The answer may be as simple as that ventured by Richard Adams, from Colorado State University "It was the place to be in the summer. It is just exhilarating to be there, and the living was easier than the basin".
     The team had to cope with forest fires, flash floods and the odd encounter with a bear, but it was all worth it. One of the largest villages, named as 'High Rise', covers a vast area of 26 acres, with over 60 lodge sites. Archaeologists found a variety of artefacts ranging from sewing tools to arrow heads. As some of these tools would have been quite valuable it is thought that they were stored for use year after year and not taken back to the lowland settlements.
     The findings of the recent expeditions are due to be published in the next issue of The Journal of Archaeological Science.

Edited from USA Today (20 October 2013)

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