WorldWide Drilling Resource

16 SEPTEMBER 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource® America’s Oldest Mine Discovered in Wyoming Adapted from Information by the University of Wyoming University of Wyoming (UW) researchers along with Wyoming’s state archaeologist confirmed the discovery of an ancient mine in eastern Wyoming used by humans to produce red ocher starting nearly 13,000 years ago. The Powars II site at Sunrise in Platte County is the oldest documented red ocher mine - and likely the oldest known mine in all of North and South America. The excavations, completed shortly before the 2020 death of famed UW archaeologist George Frison, confirmed theories he advanced stemming from research he began at the site in 1986. The findings appear in In situ evidence for Paleoindian hematite quarrying at the Powars II site (48PL330), Wyoming, a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. The paper’s lead author is Wyoming State Archaeologist Spencer Pelton, who became involved in the project in 2016 when he was a UW doctoral student. “We have unequivocal evidence for use of this site by early Paleoindians as long as 12,840 years ago and continuing by early Americans for about 1000 years,” Pelton said. “It’s gratifying that we were finally able to confirm the significance of the Powars II site after decades of work by so many, including Dr. Frison, who learned of the site in the early 1980s and was involved in the research until his death.” In fact, Frison - who died in September 2020 as the only UW faculty member ever elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences - is listed as a coauthor of the new paper. Other contributors were George Zeimens, executive director of the Sunrise Historic and Prehistoric Preservation Society; Erin Kelley, a UW graduate and Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist staff member; and UW Ph.D. students Sarah Allaun, Alexander Craib, Chase Mahan, and Charles Koenig. Red ocher, also known as hematite, fulfilled a wide range of functions in Paleoindian societies, including as a pigment in rituals. It has been found at ancient graves, caches, campsites, and kill sites in the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and beyond. The Powars II site is the only red ocher quarry identified in the North American archaeological record north of southern Mexico - and one of only five such quarries identified in all of the Americas. Among the artifacts previously discovered at the Powars II site are Clovis points - believed to be from the first inhabitants of North America - along with other projectile points, tools, and shell beads. Researchers claim the evidence discovered so far, indicates the quarry was used in two primary periods. During the first, dating back 12,840 years ago and lasting several hundred years, people not only quarried red ocher using bones and antlers as tools but also produced and repaired weapons, along with other activities. After a hiatus of a century or more, the site was occupied by humans who mined red ocher and deposited artifacts in piles in a quarry pit. Spencer Pelton photo of Chase Mahan as he inspects an artifact from excavation at the Powars II archaeological site in 2020. Mahan is one of the coauthors of a new paper confirming the site at Sunrise in Platte County is the oldest documented red ocher mine - and likely the oldest known mine of any sort - in all of North and South America. Ocher is the earliest known pigment used by humans for rock art paintings, pottery, wall paintings cave art, and human tattoos. MIN New & Used Tricones PDCs Drag & Claw Bits Drill Collars Bit Tipping Subs & Stabilizers HDD Bits & Reamers DTH Hammer & Bits Custom Fabrication Junk Mills / Fishing Tools Rod Henderson 661-201-6259 Eran Henderson 661-330-0790