First High Elevation Archaeology Kicks Off in Cody

Scientists are meeting in Cody for the first high elevation archaeology symposium.

They’re trying to coordinate their research in a race against time.

This is the sound of an historic snowmelt. Snow fields that had been on this high mountain landscape for centuries melted away.

Jim Halfpenny shared with News 13, “It is unbelievable how fast this is melting, and I’m down in the snow-bergs. They’re not icebergs because icebergs come from glaciers.”

But these archaeologists meeting in Cody know glaciers are melting in the Yellowstone region, too.

The archaeologists are finding tools and skins and baskets and other items that reveal the first people spent a lot of time at high elevations, and so did their prey, like bison.

CWC Professor Todd Guenther says his students explored evidence in the Wind River Mountains at 11,000 feet.

Professor Guenther commented, “There were bison up there, and we think people were doing large scale bison hunts and jumps, running them over cliffs as well.”

Dr. Craig Lee received the camp Monaco Prize, from the Prince of Monaco last year, for his discoveries in the Yellowstone area.

He says scientists must act quickly to record and save artifacts that degrade quickly, once they are exposed by ice and snowmelt.

Dr. Craig Lee reported, “And if ten millennia worth of ice has melted, we need to respond to that and not sit around on our hands and play some kind of blame game about why it’s occurring. If we don’t intercept that organic material it will be gone, and future generations won’t have another bite at the apple.”

Cody is surrounded by mountains, from the Absarokas, to the Beartooths, to the Bighorns; new archaeological studies are taking place in all of those areas.

So, it was not surprising that the researchers decided to meet here, to share, and coordinate.

Bonnie Smith told News 13, "As that snow is melting, these organic objects are coming out of the snow, and if this continues at this rate, we’re going to be losing a whole lot of data…a whole lot of information about these people who lived here. This is kind of a call to arms.”

Student presentations will continue at the conference this morning.