‘Keep looking and keep asking’

Area youth afforded opportunity to take a hands-on approach at searching for artifacts in historic Sunrise

SUNRISE – “Keep looking and keep asking” was the theme of the day on Friday and Saturday as Archaeologist George Zeimens told his young budding archaeologists as they brought him items found throughout the day at a dig site east of the historic Sunrise Main Office building.

George, along with his wife, Geri Zeimens, John Voight and Deidre Newman helped youth dig for artifacts in the prepared dig site. The crew showed them the proper way to use hand tools to carefully extricate possible artifacts from the soil and document their findings.

Zeimens explained how the soil below them contained several layers with each layer containing artifacts from different time periods.

Closer to the top, one may find nails, broken glass, bricks and other items from when the town was a hub for mining activity. Further below, one may find artifacts from indigenous people, such as arrowheads, tools and other items used by the indigenous people.

The youth who participated in the dig were offered the opportunity to do real archaeological work, according to George. Those who found artifacts would turn over the artifacts to George for inspection or have him go to their specific location for inspection. If the artifact proved to be something of note, George would document the items, record their finding and collect them for preservation and further analysis.

“What is this,” Asher Kennedy of Denver asked.

“That’s a flake,” George replied.

He explained the flake is a piece of “discarded parts” of a stone which is cast off from something one of the indigenous people would have made, such as an arrowhead. The flakes are caused by striking one item against another and can include ripples or waves in its visual makeup. The flakes found were thin, slightly curved and had sharp edges which feathered outward.

“I found a piece of flint,” Titus Hamik of Douglas told the Guide.

“I found an arrowhead,” Kennedy later told the Guide.

The finds continued throughout the morning. A few arrowheads, lithic flakes, iron, coal and flint were the primary finds of the day.

“There were Indians living here for 13,000 years,” George explained. “The Powars II Red Ochre Mine goes back 13,000 years. It’s the only, what we call, early man, red ochre mine in North America. The only site similar to it is clear down on the west coast of Chile.”

The rich and rewarding site could even become a world heritage site, according to George. There are currently only 23 of these sites in the United States at this time.

“It’s a big and long involved political process,” George explained. “We are probably looking at a dozen years before that, but that gives you an idea of the level of significance.”

While John has interest in the minerals of the location, the Paleo-Indians of past used the red ochre as a medium to color items.

John Voight owns the land but has graciously permitted George and his team to dig at the site to uncover artifacts and to host educational and research activities such as Friday and Saturday’s events.

Currently, George and his team are working in hopes to uncover a campsite used by the Paleo-Indians. If found, they are hoping to unearth unique artifacts to carbon date them and determine who the people of the area were as they determined they were not of the Clovis people who were previously suspected of inhabiting the area.

“When we find the campsite, maybe then we can get a good radiocarbon date and date those unique projectile point types we thought were Clovis, but they’re not,” George explained. “That’s one of the important things about this is, is we have the chance to really learn something new about the early people on this continent.”

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