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St. George • Archaeologists have found evidence of corn farming dating back 1,500 years at the site of an ancient pit house discovered in southern Utah but reburied it for safekeeping.
Surveyors mapping out a housing development discovered the ancestral Puebloan pit house last year near a fence in the Washington County community of Dammeron Valley.
Researchers spent four months excavating the rectangular house, which is about 10 feet deep. They found a bone awl that's about 500 years old and evidence of corn farming dating back more than a millennium.
Despite the careful work, they haven't been able to learn much about the pit home, including how long ago it was abandoned. The ancestral Puebloan people, formerly known as the Anasazi, are believed to have left the southern Utah area around A.D. 1300 before moving farther south.
Brooks Pace, the developer of the housing project, agreed to hand the site over to a conservation group, saying he would hate to see a historically significant place turned into a swimming pool.
The Archaeological Conservancy, a national nonprofit group that preserves such sites, has taken over management of the spot, according to The Spectrum of St. George.
Archaeologists delicately cataloged the site and artifacts such as stone chippings and bone fragments. In mid-July, they began backfilling it with dirt to protect it from erosion.
They are also marking the area with signs and other materials to create an above-ground, outdoor museum alerting visitors to what's below.
Chaz Evans, a regional representative for the Archaeological Conservancy, said the group hopes that in 100 or 200 years, researchers equipped with better technology will be able to again unearth the site and learn more about the house.
Kenny Wench, an archaeologist with Utah's School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, told The Spectrum in May that almost all dating techniques are less than 100 years old, and it's likely better methods will be used in the years ahead.