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Danger Cave

It’s older than a log cabin. Older than a teepee, older even than the Great Pyramids. It’s a cave. People have been living in caves for thousands of years. Right here in Utah, even. And you know what? A cave works pretty well as a house—even though you might have to share it with bats.

Think about what your house does. Can a cave do the same things?

How would life in a cave be the same as life in your house? How would it be different?

Danger Cave is a big open cave near Wendover, Utah. People started staying in there at least 11,000 years ago (right after the Ice Age ended!)  They left stuff scattered on the cave floor. Over hundreds of years, many people used the cave, leaving their stuff on top of the old stuff.  When archaeologists excavated the cave, they found many layers of artifacts* and dirt—as deep as 12 feet down!

Look at this cross-section of Danger Cave. Test yourself!

a cross-section drawing of Danger Cave

Drawing by Rebekah Smith

 

 

1.   Which is older, the stuff in the top layer or the stuff on the bottom? Answer
Look at the picture.

2.   How long ago did someone first build a fire in the cave? Answer
Look at the picture.

3.   Why are the layers thicker at the mouth of the cave? Answer
Look at the picture.

4.   Why is there no pottery in the lower layers? Answer
Look at the picture.

5.   Why do the sizes of the arrow and spear points change over time? Answer
Look at the picture.

6.   How could there be beach gravels here, so far from the ocean? Answer
Look at the picture.

7.   Coprolites are very old pieces of human poop. What could archaeologists learn from studying coprolites? Answer
Look at the picture.

8.   Why are there pickleweed and Indian rice grass seeds in the cave? Answer
Look at the picture.

9.   What kinds of things did people eat 9,500 years ago? Answer
Look at the picture.

10.  What would people use cordage (ropes) for? Answer
Look at the picture.

11.  What artifacts come from the last 20 years? What will people learn by studying them someday? Answer
Look at the picture.

 

ANSWERS

1. Okay, this was a giveaway question. The bottom stuff, of course! Next question.

 

2. 11,000 years ago. That’s a LOT older even than Great-Grandma Mabel! Next question.

 

3.  People liked sitting close to the outside instead of way back in the cave where it is dark and stuffy. And that’s where they left their trash. Next question.

 

4.  People didn’t figure out how to make pottery until about 2,000 years ago. Just like they didn’t  start making aluminum cans before 40 or 50 years ago. Next question.

 

5.  Early on, people used spears. After 2,000 years ago, people used bows and arrows. So the kinds of points they made changed. Next question.

 

6.  Thousands of years ago, a huge  lake—Lake Bonneville—had its shoreline at the level of the cave. Next question.

 

7.  They can learn more about what people ate. Next question.

 

8.  They were food! Next question.

 

9.  Besides seeds, they ate different kinds of animals. Next question.

 

10. Rabbit snares, nets, clothes, rope, and things like that. Next question.

 

11.  Anything we leave behind could be an artifact someday. (Note: This is no excuse for littering!) What do YOU think scientists will learn about us from our artifacts?

GOOD JOB!

If you like the idea of learning about past people by studying their artifacts, maybe you'll want to be an archaeologist someday!