Archeological Society gets grant to study Sand Wash

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Jeff Simon’s family has a history of digging through the dirt.

His grandfather, Byron, moved to Moffat County in about 1908 and made a hobby out of exploring the region. The Museum of Northwest Colorado on downtown Yampa Avenue has some of his finds, including a few dinosaur bones.

Simon’s fascination with the past only increased with time. He is now a social studies teacher at Moffat County High School and president of the Vermillion Chapter of the Colorado Archeological Society.

Pretty soon, Simon also will be helping organize a new archeological study of various sites in Sand Wash Basin that date to the pre-Columbian Freemont Native Americans.

The study is funded through an $89,503 grant from the Colorado Historical Society and a cash match of $29,471 from the Bureau of Land Management.

The grant application was made through a partnership between the Archeological Society, BLM and Moffat County, with the cooperation of the Moffat County Land Use Board.

“We didn’t ever think we’d get it, but the whole pull of the community made it work out,” Simon said.

The group will use the money to hire professional archeologists to survey different Tiger chert rock quarries used for many years by Native Americans to make tools and weapons.

“It’s an amazing site,” Simon said. “This Tiger chert has been found in a lot of places around the state, and it was kind of the main material used for making stone tools. Parts of what we’re looking at, though, haven’t ever been surveyed before.”

The quarries themselves are much smaller than modern gravel pits and other rock mining installations, Simon said. Most are about 10 feet wide by 10 feet long, which shows some of the limited needs of America’s ancient cultures.

Simon said he hopes the project will help scientists document more about the Freemont and other Native Americans who populated Moffat County centuries ago, but at the very least it will be an interesting thing to see.

“Well, being a history teacher, I’m fascinated by history and being so close to it and seeing things that a lot of people will never see in their life,” he said.

Anyone interested in joining the Archeological Society’s Vermillion Chapter can call Simon at 824-0276. The club is open to all ages, travels on several field trips each year and invites professional archeologists to give demonstrations.

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