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Presenter to speak about Anasazi artifact

Apr 17, 2012 - By Carolyn B. Tyler, Staff Writer

Jack States, a retired professor from the University of Northern Arizona, is the guest presenter for the public meeting of the Fremont County Archaeological Society.

The title of his program is "How an Ancient Anasazi Artifact Changed Archaeological and Biological Theory."

The program begins at 7:14 p.m. Tuesday in the Hudson Town Hall, and it is free and open to the public.

States' studies have their basis from an Anasazi macaw feather artifact that was recovered from a small cave in Lavender Canyon in San Juan County, Utah, in 1954.

The item is a ceremonial skirt constructed of a buckskin belt with two thong waist straps to which 12 narrow feather ropes are bound at the middle. The two outside ropes on both sides are made of thousands of scarlet macaw feathers. Attached to the upper margin of the belt is the winter pelt of an adult tassel-eared squirrel.

In 1979, archaeologist Lyndon Hargrave reported that this artifact is amazingly unique in the Americas.

Leading archaeologists and anthropologists proposed that the artifact was made by Aztec craftsmen in Mexico 900 to 1,200 years ago and subsequently arrived in southern Utah via trade routes.

States and his colleagues at the Mayo Foundation and the University of California joined forces and used an examination and DNA analysis to determine the exact origin of the materials and makers of the artifact. Their results not only changed the understanding of artifact origin but also determined that the species of tassel-eared squirrel used in the artifact is now extinct. The extinction is possibly related to a change in climate that also affected Anasazi populations in the Southwest and led them to abandon their settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and southern Utah.

The program is sponsored by the Fremont County Archaeological Society, a chapter of the Wyoming Archaeological Society, Inc., a not-for-profit educational organization.

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