SUNRISE – The town has a YMCA built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and a natural lake that is 900 feet deep. The land is also yielding up its treasures in the form of thousands of Clovis artifacts.
Clovis people are considered to be the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas, and some of the artifacts being collected by a team of Wyoming archaeologists date back to 13,000 years ago.
It’s a red ochre mine, and we have found artifacts in here that are 13,000 years old,” said archaeologist, Geri Zeimens.“It’s the oldest human occupancy find in the North American continent.
The dig site is called Powars II which is named after a man who coached at Sunrise school in the 1930s. Although he developed his own private dig that few people knew about, in the early 80s Powars had a collection of artifacts that he took to the Smithsonian Institution. At that time, Dennis Stanford, the head of the anthropology department was from Wyoming. They inspected the articles and recognized them immediately as being early man Clovis.
George Zeimens, who was the state of Wyoming anthropologist for many years and his wife, Geri have run an anthropology school for students for 33 years. The students come to wherever the Zeimens are digging and learn to dig from the experts. This summer at the old Sunrise mine, the youngest student is 13 years old and they have 7 students enrolled in the program.
“Things that we found this year, were tools, scrapers, and knives,” Geri Zeimens. “But the coolest things our program has found was the clovis points. And we found several. And what’s neat about this is that we’ve found close to 4,000 artifacts in the last five years.”
George Ziemens was the state archaeologist for the state of Wyoming. He found that it was very time consuming.
“The last year I was state archaeologist I was gone 272 days,” he said. “It was during the energy boom in the late 70s and I had a little boy at home that didn’t know me anymore, so I quit. And people wouldn’t leave me alone.”
There were so many people at that time that had dig sites that they wanted Zeimens to look at and research. There were also many offers to teach classes, which he did, but he said that they did not have enough resources to cover all of the sites. The idea then came to receive private funds to teach students archaeology and they have been teaching students for 33 years. Their organization which was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1989 is called the Western Plains Historic Preservation Association.