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BSU Students Chip Away at the Earth in Search of Historic Finds

​Canyon County Park is the site for an archaeological hunt

Walkaround Celebration Park this week andyou'll find nine pretty dirty Boise State University students makingeight nearly perfect rectangular holesin the ground.

No, it's not a strange exercise in hole-digging. It's weekthree of an on-site BSU archaeological field school atthis southern Canyon County site along the Snake River.

"After studying so much in the classroom, you kindof want to get out and do it,"said Bill Knowlden, 43, a former construction worker working on a second career.

You don't have to go to Africa or someexotic place to participate in an archaeological dig, students say.

Idaho offers a different kind of study, Knowlden said.

"Idaho archaeology is dealing with hunters and gatherers," he said. "It takes a lot of investigation to find evidence" of them.

Most of the evidence the students are digging up is miniscule — chipped stone from sharpening tools, charredbone fragments or mollusk shells.

One find that got students excited is an8.2-centimeter-long, bi-facebasalt stone shaped something like a knife or a spear and found 10 to 20 centimeters down in sediment. Bi-face means that it has tool marks that shapedit on both sides.

Students won't knowwhat exactly it was used for until they get it back to the BSU lab and study it under a microscope, said Mark Plew, the anthropologyprofessor leading the dig. The stone will be carbon-dated by grouping it with other remnants — charred bone fragments — found at the location.

No matter what else the students find, they're diggingin ancient dirt that has been blowing around and settling since the Bonneville Flood nearly 14,000 years ago, Plew said.

"Almost all evidence indicates (ancient people inthe area) were foragers," saidPlew, who has had students dig in the park areafor nearly a decade.

Niki Nickoloff, 29, explained thatshe and her peerswere digging down 10 centimetersat a time, keeping the sides of the hole as square as possible.

They usedhand spades, dust pans and their hands tosift through the dirt.

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