Harlan I. Smith recently returned from a superficial archaeological reconnaissance of the southern half of the State of Wyoming. This region is near the center of a vast neglected field for archaeological research, to which Mr. Smith called attention in his contribution to the Boas Anniversary Volume of 1907. The neglected area extends from the Arctic regions on the north to the Mandan remains of Dakota and the well-known archaeological remains of the Mississippi Valley on the east; to the Cliff Dwellings on the south and the rich archaeological finds of the Santa Catalina Islands, the Sacramento Valley to California, and the plateau culture of Washington and British Columbia on the west. The region is so vast and the problems are so numerous that no one institution, much less any individual, might hope to more than begin the work. The museum has done this through the preliminary trip of Mr. Smith. He endeavored to interest not only the local educational institution, but all the great museums in the country to co-operate in the work. Among the problems to be solved, the following may be mentioned: When did man first appear in the region? Judging from the results of exploration in other places, it may take many years of the combined efforts of all who are interested before extensive evidence on this point is discovered. What was the culture of these first inhabitants? Was there more than one culture in the area, either at various places or during different periods? How was the culture affected by the introduction of the horse? No doubt the coming of the horse to a people whose only beast of burden was the dog caused a great advance in their general culture, as it would enable them to travel farther in search of food, to possess and transport more property, and to become somewhat more independent of the scanty water supply. The larger part of the area was inhabited by tribes of Indians belonging to the Athabascan, Algonquin, Siouan, and Shoshonean groups. An examination of the archaeological remains will throw light upon the early history of these people and their migrations. The central portion of the area was the home of the American bison, upon whom the Indians, when first met by the whites, depended for not only their food, but for the material for their clothing, moccasins, covers for their tipis and ferryboats or rafts, backgrounds upon which to paint their calendars, and other things of like character. The horns and bones furnished them with material for various articles and implements, among which may be mentioned spoons, bowls, skin scrapers, etc. After all the vaunted superiority of the white race, our people to-day are holding the cattle much as the Indians held the buffalo. For instance, the Indians held the herds at the North Platte River in order that the tribes living north of the river might be able to get buffalo all through the year, for if left to themselves, the herd would have traveled farther to the south in winter. Our round-up and general treatment of the cattle of the plains resembles to-day and always has in wildness and cruelty the buffalo hunt of the red men. In the eastern part of Wyoming, some extensive quarries, where the prehistoric people found quartzite and jasper, out of which to make chipped implements, have been known for some years. Mr. Smith visited these, securing specimens and photographs, and also discovered other extensive quarries, some of them covering acres in the same general region. Besides these, notes were taken of still other quarries known to the local ranchers. Nearly everywhere in Wyoming, but more in the eastern part, circles of stones marking the sites of ancient tipis were found. They may be counted by the hundred in the southern part of Converse County. These stones were no doubt used to hold down the skin covering of the tipi. Stones are still employed for this purpose by the Blackfeet Indians in Montana, only a short distance to the north. Pictographs painted in red and black and petro-glyphs cut or pecked on the cliffs are noted, especially in the vicinity of the Wind River Mountains. A number of these were photographed. Some of them 439 represent horses, proving them to have been made since the white man brought horses to America; others represent the buffalo. Steatite pots in the form of an egg, with the tip of the larger end cut off, and apparently of a type unknown in other parts of America, were noticed, especially in western Wyoming. True pottery was rare. Less than a dozen sites were found to have been located where it occurred, and these were all well toward the southern part of the State. They probably mark the northern limits of pottery in this portion of the area. In the vicinity of Hammond in the Algonquin area, caves into which the wolves had dragged bones of cattle, sheep, and other animals, and in front of which are much village debris and a large number of tipi circles as well as some petroglyphs, probably contain many remains, and this vicinity, as well as the eastern slope of the Wind River Mountains, would probably repay detailed exploration. Several months' work in the latter region would be sure to enable the explorer to secure a collection of photographs illustrating the art of the vicinity, as executed in the form of petroglyphs. It would seem to be the duty of the students of the Cliff Dwelling and Pueblo region to explor northward into this vast neglected area, in an attempt at finding the northern limit of that culture. The students of the archaeology of the Mississippi Valley have a similar duty to perform in determining the western limits of the archaeological culture of that valley. While the students of California owe it to the world to investigate the eastern portion of California and Nevada, the eastern limits of the plateau culture of southern British Columbia and Washington should also be defined.
This article was originally published with the title "Archæological Work in Wyoming"