The Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund recently awarded a $21,177 grant to a University of Wyoming research project at the Hell Gap archaeological site, a national historic landmark in Guernsey, Wyoming.
Marcel Kornfeld, an archaeology professor at UW and one of the professors leading the research, said the grant will help with continuing the 20-year-long project and publishing the findings.
“The grant helps us a lot because it ensures a continuation of the project for another year, continued student involvement and it gets UW throughout the state of Wyoming – or in that part of the state at least,” Kornfeld said.
Kornfeld added the Hell Gap site is unique in that the cultural artifacts are well preserved in their respective layers of rock – giving researchers a timeline of the different Paleo-Indian groups or “early Americans.”
“The thing about the Hell Gap site is that these were found in stratigraphic order,” Kornfeld said. “So, the site itself is useful for putting a lot of archaeology of that period across North America in a chronological sequence.”
Kornfeld added the site was used for both short and long periods of time by different hunter-gatherer groups, and the researchers are working to create a monograph, or book, about the site.
“It’s hopefully going to result in coming close to finishing this excavation that we’ve been after, as well as some of the analysis,” Kornfeld said. “The next step is to actually write the second volume of the monograph on site. The first one was finished in 2009, but it left a lot of questions we still had about the site.”
Hell Gap was originally excavated in the 1960s by archaeologists who went to UW, James Duguid and Malcolm McKnight. Kornfeld said the original excavators didn’t really publish their findings, so the current researchers plan to publish their analysis of both the excavations in the 1960s as well as from more recent excavations.
The public is heavily involved as well, something Kornfeld said was an important component to the grant.
“The thing about the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund is, of course, their interest in having public participation in the project — which is something we do anyway,” Kornfeld said. “The way we get public involved is through presentations of our research and through on-site visits; a lot of people from the local communities outside of Guernsey come and visit.”
Kornfeld added the site was a great tool for both undergraduate and graduate students at UW to get valuable archaeological experience.
“Graduate students tend to help us more run the site or lab if we have big enough project going on,” Kornfeld said. “But there’s a lot of experience that both undergraduate and graduate students get out of this.”
Kornfeld said they really valued the local support from the communities around the site, as well as UW and the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.