News & Events

Noon seminar - Ice patch archaeology in the mid-latitude Rocky Mountains: Five years

Monday, March 01, 2010, 12:00PM - 1:00PM


Craig Lee



RL-3 620

Full title: "Ice patch archaeology in the mid-latitude Rocky Mountains: Five years of tough prospects and amazing discoveries."

As the Earth’s climate warms, archeological and paleontological materials are being discovered in areas of melting perennial snow and ice. Although artifacts have been found in association with glaciers, in North America they have primarily been discovered in association with relatively static snow banks, or “ice patches.” Archaeological discoveries demonstrate some ice patches attracted animals and their human predators. The stable ice in these features retards decay and has kept otherwise perishable materials suspended in virtually unaltered states for millennia. Once released from this protective environment, arrested taphonomic processes resume and organic artifacts rapidly decompose. Discoveries in the mid-latitude Rocky Mountains include a complete atl atl dart foreshaft, dart and arrow shaft fragments, chipped stone tools and processed animal remains. The discoveries offer important insights into alpine paleoecology and the use of high elevation environments by humans. Ice patch archaeology is a nascent field in North America. This talk will review progress made in the last five years to identify and survey prospective locations in the greater Yellowstone area and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado as well as review of the state of ice patch archaeology from a global perspective.