A 90-minute journey took ITD employees back more than 10 millennia Wednesday to learn about some of the region’s earliest inhabitants.
James Woods, director of the Herrett Center for Arts and Science at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, led the historical tour from the Headquarters Auditorium. More than 30 ITD employees and a few members of the public turned out for a presentation on the Buhl Woman, whose bones were discovered by county highway crews excavating a gravel site.
No one had any idea at the time about the historical significance of the discovery, Woods said. Researchers spent several hours probing the gravel pit for additional bones and artifacts before allowing gravel excavation to resume. Since then, archaeologists have suggested the find is one of the most significant ever recorded in the region. Buhl Woman predates the famed Kennewick Man by nearly 2,000 years. Most assuredly, the two never met, Woods said.
Scientific analysis of the teeth and bones suggest they were of a young woman (17 to 21 years), who lived about 10,675 (plus or minus 95) years ago. Her predominate diet probably was meat and some fish; food usually was cooked before being consumed. In addition to the well-preserved bones, several other items were uncovered, including a bone needle and an obsidian biface. Their placement suggested the young woman probably was ceremonially buried.
“One of a handful of skeletons of its age known from the Americas, Buhl Woman is also one of the best preserved and most thoroughly studied,” according to Andrew L. Slayman in “Archaeology,” a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America.
“A team led by Thomas J. Green of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey analyzed the skeleton, in consultation with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, before it was reburied in 1991. Bones were measured and photographed, teeth cast, samples taken for radiocarbon dating and isotopic analysis, and the geological context of the find recorded.”
“While Buhl Woman was basically healthy and the cause of her death was not apparent, defects in tooth enamel and bone development indicate periodic, perhaps seasonal, nutritional stress.”
Research indicates that humans moved into the Idaho area at the end of the ice age, about 12,000 years ago. They adapted to the region’s arid deserts and high mountain valleys. Their culture reveals a “remarkable statement of human ingenuity and adaptability to changing conditions and new challenges,” according to Woods.
His presentation was arranged by Sonna Lynn Fernandez of ITD’s Intermodal Planning section.