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 westernmost known Fremont site, Baker Village, is located only a few miles from Great Basin National Park. Believed to be occupied from 1220 to 1295 C.E., the site had been known to archeologists for many years because of a visible raised mound covered with a scattering of potsherds and chipped stone. From 1991 to 1994 the Brigham Young University, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management who owns the site, conducted summer excavations at the Baker Archaeological Site.
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.