12,000-Year-Old Artifacts In Louisiana Saved By Scientists

This summer, archaeologists have worked hard at the Vernon Parish site in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana, United States.

While digging through the first, the goal of the excavation has been to unearth and preserve the evidence of prehistoric occupation of the area.

Gray Tarry, bottom left, an archeological field technician for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, digs on an archeological excavation site in Kisatchie National Forest, La. Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

“The site appears to have been continuously occupied throughout prehistory, as evidenced by a wide range of stone tools and pottery dating to each Native American cultural era up to European contact,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.

Buried under the woods at the site, archaeologists have discovered 12,000-year-old artifacts that are endangered due to hurricanes, flooding, and looters.

According to the Forest Service, the site in west central Louisiana was discovered in 2003.

Professor Mark Rees, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and director of the Louisiana Public Archeology Lab, holds a side notched, archaic projectile point at an archeological dig site in Kisatchie National Forest, La. Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

“After hurricanes Laura and Delta uprooted trees, disturbing and exposing some of the artifacts, Kisatchie National Forest officials used hurricane relief money to begin salvage excavations to learn more about the site, and to preserve it,” the Associated Press reports.

“Between the looting and the hurricane damage, we were really in danger of losing this site over time,” Forest Service archaeologist Matthew Helmer said during a media tour of the site in June.

“The 100-acre site is much older than Poverty Point World Heritage Site in Northeastern Louisiana which dates back to around 1500 B.C., said Helmer. And it’s important because it point to evidence of a potentially larger, permanent occupations of Native Americans in Western Louisiana.

“This could rewrite the history books on what we know about the Native Americans in this area,” Lisa Lewis, Forest Supervisor of Kisatchie National Forest.

Stone tools and pieces of pottery indicate that Native Americans continuously occupied this area for thousands of years prior to European contact,” the EU Townfolk reports.

By examining changes in soil color and texture and crude artifacts being excavated, scientists can better understand what people who occupied the area at different times over the millennia.

“We’re really writing the history of these peoples that lived prior to 1492, all the way back 10,000-plus years,” said Helmer.

It’s a welcome opportunity for Mark Rees, a professor of archaeology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and director of the Louisiana Public Archaeology Lab.
Still, Rees laments that the work is hampered by people who have made unauthorized digs and made off with material from the site.

“It’s like walking into the archive and finding a book that’s so rare it’s one of a kind and it predates writing itself, it’s like tearing a page out of that book and walking off with it,” said Rees.

The salvaged artifacts will be sorted, catalogued and examined as researchers at the archaeology lab seek to make determinations about past cultures at the site.

Preserving the past and making information available for next generation is vital.

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