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University Relations

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June 6, 2005
Contact: Rex Buchanan, Kansas Geological Survey, (785) 864-2106, or Rolfe Mandel, (785) 221-4390.

Archaeologists return to NW Kansas to search for evidence of early humans

LAWRENCE -- Researchers from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas, and the Denver Museum of Science and Nature are returning to northwestern Kansas this month to continue the search for early evidence of humans on the Great Plains.

The researchers, along with staff from the Kansas State Historical Society and approximately 40 volunteers from the Kansas Anthropological Association, are working out of Goodland from June 4 to June 19.

The dig, in Sherman County, is being directed by Survey archaeological geologist Rolfe Mandel and Steven Holen from the Denver museum.

Previous investigations at the site turned up bones of now-extinct animals that may have been fractured by humans. Dated at 12,200 years before present, the bones could represent the oldest evidence of humans on the Great Plains. In addition to the bones, the site produced a rock fragment that could be a piece of a stone hammer.

The site has also produced artifacts that are about 10,900 to 11,000 years old, which scientists refer to as Clovis age. Those artifacts include stone flakes, tools and pieces of mammoth bone.
The location was probably a camp site that was occupied for a few days or weeks by a small group of nomadic peoples.

" This location has the potential for shedding new light on the timing of human entry into the Western Hemisphere," said Mandel. "This could be the oldest site of human activity on the Great Plains."

The work is supported by the Odyssey Archaeological Research Fund, an endowed program at KU with a directive to search for the earliest evidence of humans in the Great Plains.


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