A group of archeologists excavating a prehistoric site in Golden Colorado have discovered that people inhabited the region thousands of years earlier than previously believed.
Magic Mountain, the archeological site being studied by archeologists is located on land that was previously owned by an amusement park has been excavated since the 1950s.
It is thought that nomadic hunter-gatherers had lived and camped at the site for around five thousand years.
“It’s a great place to be in the winter. You have water. Their animals congregated there. It’s not too high and it’s not too low. It’s kind of the Goldilocks spot of the Front Range,” says archeologist Mark Mitchell, the director at a non-profit, the Paleocultural Research Group, that is collaborating with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
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But then, in the summer of 2017, they decided to dig a bit deeper.
They excavated more than seven feet underground.
“We dug really deep to try and see if we could get back to some of the earlier remains in the site,” explains Michele Koons, curator of archaeology with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
After having excavated the ground the size of a windshield, they found a number of curious items.
“And in there we found some animal bones and some chipped stone from making stone tools,” added Koons.
Radiocarbon dating has shown that the soil layer that contained the artifacts is at least 9,000 years old.
“So we know that people were there during that particular time period and they were probably eating, butchering and cooking those animals and making the stone tools in that particular location,” explains Koons.
To verify their discovery, Koons and her colleagues will submit their findings to a scientific journal in the coming months.
“We have very few opportunities to see dirt that’s that old and that’s sort of the mantra among archaeologists who are interested in an early occupation in North America,” said Mitchell.
“You’ve got to find the old dirt, and it’s hard to find because it’s either been eroded away or it’s buried.”
While 9,000 years is certainly a nice number, it’s not the evidence of the oldest human occupation in America, as archaeologists have uncovered traces of occupation dating back more than 14,000 years.