Virgin River Village (Utah)

The Conservancy’s new acquisition in Utah could help archaeologists understand a prehistoric group of which little is known.

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Gaylord Robb holds up a large sandstone slab that could have served as a door for a storage pit or a pit house. Credit: Chaz Evans/ The Archaeological Conservancy.
Gaylord Robb holds up a large sandstone slab that could have served as a door for a storage pit or a pit house. Credit: Chaz Evans/ The Archaeological Conservancy.

Three years ago Gaylord Robb brought the Virgin River Village, five-acre prehistoric site located in southwest Utah, to the Conservancy’s attention. At the time, the Conservancy was in the process of acquiring Paragonah Mounds in southwest Utah. (See “The Conservancy Preserves One Of The Largest Known Fremont Sites,” page 44, American Archaeology, Fall 2013.) The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah was involved in that acquisition and  Mr. Robb, the tribe’s director of economic development, was acting as its representative. Being a life-long resident of the region, Robb knew of a number of archaeological sites in the area, including this ancient village near the town of Virgin.

The site is perched on a river terrace overlooking a calm stretch of the Virgin River just west of Saint George. Its location makes it attractive to developers, and consequently it’s in eminent danger of destruction. During a surface survey, eight complete manos and multiple mano fragments were observed across the site, as well as ceramic sherds and debitage. The sherds appear to be North Creek Gray, a style that dates from A.D. 550 to 1300.

The site has numerous sandstone slabs, some of which stand upright and resemble tombstones, and as a result it has been mistaken for a burial ground when in fact it’s a habitation site.

This remarkable preserve may give future researchers insight into the lives of the prehistoric inhabitants of the Virgin Anasazi, a group about which archaeologists don’t know much.

Summary. Read More  in our Fall 2016 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 19 No. 3. Browse the article summaries in our Fall 2016 Issue.

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