Woodward Students Explore Prehistoric Oklahoma

MVI_0229_frame_L.jpg"It's shocking," said seventh grader Ravin about the Folsom people who once hunted bison in her neighborhood. "I never knew anything about them."

As she and her fellow Time Team America field school participants learned, Northwestern Oklahoma was a very different place 10,000 years ago.

Badger_Fieldschool_grid.jpgThis June, Time Team America field school director Dr. Alex Jones led a group of Woodward, Oklahoma girls on a week-long discovery of how archaeological sciences can reveal the ancient past lying beneath their feet.

IMG_2934_L.jpgThe field school kicked off with a trip to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma, where the girls learned the process (such as measuring grid lines and sifting the soil) of excavation on simulated digs in the Museum's archaeology lab.

lab_2shot.jpgAt the University of Oklahoma, they took an exclusive tour of one of the few American DNA labs researching ancient DNA. Archaeologist Lauren O'Shea, who studies prehistoric bison DNA, showed the girls how genetic analysis can reveal clues about animals and the people who hunted them. Below, Kat suits up next to the ancient DNA lab.

MVI_0351_frame_L.jpgAt the Badger Hole excavation site, students walked across the very spot where Folsom hunters brought down a herd of bison 10,000 years ago. Archaeologist KC Carlson led the students through the bone beds where Time Team America was filming.

MVI_0538_frame_L.jpgThe girls re-lived the preparation for a Folsom bison hunt by flint-knapping their own spear points under the guidance of Choctaw archaeologist Ian Thompson. 

Flintknapping_4shot.jpgIan then armed the girls with atlatls and led them on a hunt (for hay bales, not bison).

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Back in Woodward, scientific illustrator Kathleen Rowland joined the field school to demonstrate how she draws spearpoints and other artifacts unearthed from archaeological sites for scientists around the world. Later, students got their hands dirty learning from soil expert Brian Carter how to glean clues about a site's past by analyzing soil.

Soil_expert.jpgTelevision producer Ed Jahn and TTA archaeologists Chelsea Rose, and Joe Watkins, along with Meg Watters, geophysicist, broke away from the excavation to remind the girls of the richness of their neighborhood's prehistory.

"What you have here is awesome," Jahn said. "A TV production crew and all these archaeologists came to your town because the whole nation should know about this incredible bone bed."

"We're talking about a time when maybe 3,000 people lived in all of North America," Watkins added. "They didn't write down what they did when they went bison hunting. But by looking at all the bits and pieces of information, we can reconstruct that past history. And after doing this for 43 years, for me, it's still more exciting than a mystery book."  

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Field school wrapped with a Folsom lunch, where students dined as Oklahomans did 10,000 years ago on a meal of cactus, nuts, berries and bison (and a salad with ranch dressing.)

IMG_3099_L.jpg"I'll never look at the soil the same way again," Ravin said at the end of the week. "Now that I know a lot about the Folsom people that lived here, I want to learn more about other ancient people in other places."

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