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UW Anthropology Professors to Host Open House at Hell Gap July 13-14

July 5, 2019
people throwing spears
UW students who participated in the 2015 UW Advanced Archaeological Field School at historic Hell Gap take a break to enjoy a friendly atl-atl competition, or spear-throwing contest. Members of the public will have the opportunity to try their hand at spear throwing and many other activities during an Open House Site Tour and Artifact Road Show, hosted by the University of Wyoming’s Department of Anthropology July 13-14. (Marcel Kornfeld Photo)

An area where some of North America’s earliest people hunted bison and made tools will be open for public viewing during an Open House Site Tour and Artifact Road Show, hosted by the University of Wyoming’s Department of Anthropology July 13-14.

Hell Gap Paleoindian Site, an important archaeological excavation site located on the western boundary of the Great Plains about 13 miles north of Guernsey in Goshen County, received a national historic landmark designation during a dedication ceremony in summer 2017.

Marcel Kornfeld and Mary Lou Larson, UW professors of anthropology, will host the weekend events, which include site tours for the public; flint-knapping demonstrations by some of America’s foremost tool makers; and atl-atl competitions, which allow the public to try their hand at throwing a spear. Members of the public are even invited to bring their artifact collections for identification.

During the public tours, visitors can help uncover history; discover and flag new artifacts; and walk ancient stone circles. An abundant number of Paleoindian and Archaic artifacts have been found and excavated in this valley site since 1959.

Kornfeld, Larson and George Frison, professor emeritus at UW and a former Wyoming state archaeologist, are once again hosting a UW field school that is broken into three sessions this summer. The first took place from June 22-July 1. The second session is scheduled July 6-15 and the third from July 20-29. The UW Advanced Archaeological Field School is open to UW graduate and undergraduate students, but community volunteers are encouraged to participate, too, Kornfeld says.

“This summer’s field school offers an extended learning experience for more than UW students,” Kornfeld says. “Volunteers are encouraged to take advantage of it.”

Students have the opportunity to learn field techniques; how to use electronic and digital data recording systems, such as data management and analysis; and graphic and display techniques. Students will compile final reports and will report their findings at future professional meetings.

The mysteries that have been uncovered over the years show evidence of repeated occupations by nine Paleoindian cultural complexes in well-stratified deposits, spanning from between 11,000 and 6,500 years ago. Over the decades, archaeologists have discovered several hundred projectile points, hundreds of scrapers and tens of thousands of flakes, or remains from creating stone tools; bone needles for sewing clothes; and post holes from structures that once stood in the area. Even a few beads were found.

James Duguid and Malcolm McKnight, high school students who lived in the region and both of whom went to school at UW, discovered the site in 1958. Harvard University’s Peabody Museum conducted excavations at Hell Gap from 1962-66. Kornfeld, Larson and Frison continued Harvard’s work, beginning in 1993.

For more information about the field school and open house activities, contact Kornfeld at, Larson at or go to

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