Throughout central Utah, and into very eastern Nevada and western Colorado, archaeologists have uncovered the remnants of an archeological culture they call the Fremont, named for the Fremont River in Utah.
The Fremont differed in several ways from their more famous contemporaries in the 11th to 14th centuries, the Ancestral Puebloan peoples who built Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Four distinct artifacts set them apart: very unique "one rod and bundle" basketry construction, mocassins constructed from the hock of a deer or sheep leg, trapezoidal shaped figures found as clay figurines and in rock art, and the unique materials used to make their gray, coiled pottery.
Unlike native tribes before and after them, the Fremont were primarily sedentary. They built villages of pit houses with adobe structures to store food. They collected wild foods and hunted game, but also cultivated corn, beans, and squash using irrigation techniques. The presence of obsidian, turquoise, and shells show that the Fremont traded with distant villages.
The excavations revealed a settlement of surprising complexity. Instead of a scatter of pit homes and mud-walled food storage structures, Baker Village consists of an organized cluster of over 15 buildings built according to a specific plan and aligned to a single compass direction. In the center, a larger mud-walled structure shows intriguing alignments with sunrise on the winter and summer solstices.
First, climatic conditions favorable for farming seem to have changed during this period, forcing local groups to rely more and more on wild food resources and to adopt the increased mobility necessitated in collecting wild food.
At the same time, new groups of hunter-gatherers appear to have migrated into the Fremont area from the southwestern Great Basin sometime after about 1,000 years ago. These full-time hunter-gatherers were apparently the ancestors of the Numic-speaking Ute, Paiute, and Shoshoni peoples who inhabited the region at historic contact, and perhaps they displaced, replaced, or assimilated the part-time Fremont hunter-gatherers.
Did You Know?
The apricot trees in front of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in Great Basin National Park are over 100 years old! The trees are thought to have been planted by Absalom Lehman, discoverer of Lehman Caves. These historic fruit trees continue to produce today.