John Hinckley Recipient of “Outstanding Achievement Award” for Contributions to Utah Archaeology

There was standing room only the night of Oct. 7 when museum patrons gathered at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures to celebrate Utah County resident John Hinckley for his lasting contributions to archaeological research. The Utah Board of State History honored Hinckley with an Outstanding Achievement Award for his preservation of Fremont archaeological sites on his property near Utah Lake.

Photo caption: John Hinckley (right) receives Outstanding Achievement Award from the state of Utah, standing beside Michael T. Searcy (left) BYU anthropology professor (Photo credit: Quinn Karpowitz)

Hinckley has graciously turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on the Hinckley land since the 1940s.

During that time, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory made visits. Boy Scout groups also participated in the excavation to earn an archaeology merit badge.

Through his efforts, Hinckley has provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

One of those students is Sam Jensen, a master’s student in anthropology and research assistant to Michael Searcy, associate professor of anthropology at BYU. Jensen said the experience of working on the Hinckley site has prepared him for a future career as a professor and has helped him have a better appreciation for the archaeological sites close to home.

“When most people think of archaeology, they think of large, grandiose sites like Chichén Itzá, Mesa Verde, the Great Pyramids of Giza, etc.,” Jensen said. “Consequently, most people don’t worry about protecting sites that aren’t big or that don’t draw in millions of tourists every year. Sometimes people don’t even realize that smaller sites exist and that they exist right here in our back yard. These sites represent the lives of people in the past and may still hold important spiritual or cultural significance to living populations.”

Searcy said he and his team discovered an additional part of the site in August. “It’s still yielding,” he said.

Utah State Historic preservation officer Chris Merritt publicly thanked Hinckley for protecting the artifacts during his speech at the Hinckley reception.

“Without more people like you engaging and preserving these sites, we’re going to continue to lose our archaeological heritage as Utah continues to grow and development occurs,” Merritt said. “And in this case, you’ve helped us save this important piece of the past, which has shaped our understanding of the Fremont culture in Utah county and beyond.”

Merrit hopes Hinckley’s example will inspire other landowners to preserve archaeological sites. Jensen expressed the importance of being aware of and protecting sites like the Hinckley Mounds because there are constant dangers that threaten them, such as development, vandalism, and looting.

When receiving his award and throughout the event, Hinckley displayed an attitude of humility despite receiving thunderous applause.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure wrote in support of Hinckley’s nomination. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

Hinckley said he enjoys seeing the students’ discoveries. When asked what he would like people to know about the archaeological site on his property, he chuckled. “There’s a surprise under every shovelful of dirt,” he said. After the reception, visitors could view artifacts discovered at the Hinckley Mounds and donated to the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

Provo Resident Honored for “Remarkable Contributions” to Utah’s History

Longtime Provo resident John Hinckley was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Board of State History for his lasting contributions. Through his work, Hinckley provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

Through the preservation of priceless Fremont archaeological sites on his land, Hinckley has turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on Hinckley land since the 1940s.

Since then, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory visited. Boy Scout groups participated in the excavation and earned their Archaeology merit badges.

“(The site) has been a boon to our educational endeavors,” said BYU anthropology professor Michael T. Searcy. Searcy said finding artifacts on the Hinckley property helps students connect with the past, and in many instances, it has led students to choose archaeology as a career.

Searcy said Hinckley’s protection of Fremont artifacts, despite losing acres of his property to Provo City due to eminent domain, is impressive, and the Hinckley Mounds are some of the last archaeological remains of a large Fremont village.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support
for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure said. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

A reception will be held in Hinckley’s honor tonight at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures from 7-8 p.m. Join us to celebrate his outstanding accomplishments.

BYU and UVU student surveying the fields at Hinckley Farms. (Michael Searcy)

Native Peoples of Utah County Highlighted in New Exhibit

A new “Utah Valley” exhibit at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures invites visitors to get to know the people who once inhabited Utah County.

“A lot of people who live in Utah Valley don’t realize there is a long history here,” museum director Paul Stavast says. “They just assume its history begins maybe just a little bit before the pioneers got here. That is not correct at all. People have lived in Utah Valley for thousands of years.” 

The exhibit features artifacts from the Archaic, Fremont, and Ute peoples, as well as Mormon pioneer artifacts excavated from the ruins of the Provo Tabernacle. Walking through the small gallery, visitors can examine a horse “quirt” used to spur horses in Ute horse races, or see canine bones dating back to around 3,600 B.C.

History student Hannah Smith helped select the artifacts for the displays, and under the direction of Stavast, she was responsible for the research and text for the exhibit. Her work was part of an internship for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and later turned into a regular, continuing student position.

nnah Smith poses with Hayden Crofts at the Utah Valley Exhibit. Smith played a major role in the research, text, and design for the exhibit. (Hannah Smith)
Above: Hannah Smith poses with Hayden Crofts at the Utah Valley Exhibit. Smith played a major role in the research, text, and design for the exhibit. (Hannah Smith)

“The internship was a custom experience for me,” Smith says. “I was able to experience many different types of museum work: with the administration, with technicians, archaeologists, etc. I was able to experience so much and it really impacted the work and the exhibit that went up. It was perfect.”

Smith hopes to have a career working in museums and designing exhibits in particular. “Working in a museum is cool, because I can use my research but also my creativity,” she says.

Student participation like Smith’s was central to the success of the project. Stavast had students in his anthropology classes workshop possible ideas for the exhibit. Students were also responsible for the design, promotion, fabrication, installation, and object registration to get the new gallery off the ground. 

Above: Ute moccasins decorated with dyed porcupine quills. The exhibit includes artifacts used in cooking, hunting, dancing, etc. by the Ute tribe as well as other indigenous peoples. (Aaron Barnes)

“We want to give students an experience from beginning to end so that they have an understanding of what it takes to put an exhibition together — even on a small scale — so they have a framework for their future careers,” Stavast says.

Both Stavast and Smith say they hope the exhibit invites Utah residents to reflect on the place where they live. Stavast also hopes seeing the exhibit will remind visitors of the rich history in Utah county so that in the wake of booming development that history can be preserved rather than destroyed. There are over 2,000 archaeological sites in Utah county alone.

“No matter where you go, there’s a lot more history than you might initially realize,” Stavast said. “Take the time to find out who lived in the places where you live. There are sites all over. Learn about them, respect them, and preserve them.”

The Utah Valley exhibit will be on display for at least five years and will likely be modified with additional pieces from sites in Payson, Goshen, and Provo.

For more information about the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, visit their website.

New MPC exhibit: Returning to Bethlehem

The Middle East is more than a conflict zone—it’s a region of cultural beauty.

The BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures‘ newest exhibit “Returning to Bethlehem: A Cultural Pilgrimage” highlights the unique religious and cultural aspects of life in Palestine, and Bethlehem in particular, that color the region’s history and guide local traditions and identity. The exhibit has visitors explore modern-day Bethlehem, as well as the historic cultural heritage sites shaped by Hebrew, Christian and Islamic traditions.

From olive wood and mother of pearl carvings, to intricately embroidered wedding costumes, the exhibit presents artistic pieces that illustrate the similarities and differences of the people from different regions and religions in Palestine including Bethlehem, Gaza and Jerusalem, among others.

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One of the central foci of the exhibit are traditional Palestinian wedding costumes. While wedding costumes share a similar design throughout Palestine, specific characteristics such as colors, embroidery stiles and ornaments are unique to each region. Certain aspects of Bethlehem’s culture are being lost due to regional conflict, but textiles help keep cultural traditions and identity alive.

The exhibit is a joint project between the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Mother of pearl collections were loaned from Enrique Yidi Daccarett, olive wood carvings were loaned from the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation and costumes and textiles were loaned from Hanan and Farah Munayyer, co-founders of the Palestine Heritage Foundation.

People often go on pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to see and visit the holy sites, but Bethlehem is more than a place to visit—it’s a home for thousands of individuals and a beautiful culture.

Explore and better understand the culture, traditions and people of Bethlehem and Palestine at the MPC exhibit “Returning to Bethlehem: A Cultural Pilgrimage.” Learn about the rich ancient history that forms current arts and traditions today. As we inform ourselves on the diverse religious and cultural influences in Bethlehem, we’ll have a better understanding and respect for the people who live there, helping us make more informed decisions and opinions concerning the region.

The exhibit opens October 17, 2018 and will run through April 2018. Admission is free, and the exhibit is open to the public. The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information on the exhibit and other events and exhibits at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, visit their website.

Getting work done: recent hands-on anthropology experience

Going through semester after semester of classes can be exhausting when you don’t have opportunities to apply what you’re learning to a career-applicable setting.

Determined not to settle in this grind, BYU Anthropology students have sought opportunities that have not only benefit their education, but that benefit the college as a whole.

Bringing Bethlehem to Provo

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Kelsey Ellis examines Palestinian textiles and embroideries.

One of the more recent hands-on experiences that anthropology students (specifically those involved in Museum Studies) have had was a trip to Washington D.C. There, students looked at and selected textile weavings from Palestine and objects made of mother-of-pearl and olive wood for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures upcoming exhibit on ancient Bethlehem. Some of the key pieces of the exhibit that students and faculty selected are rare bridal costumes from Bethlehem and the surrounding regions of the Holy Land. The  exhibit is schedule to will open fall 2018.

“A lot of these cultural traditions are being lost,” explained anthropology student Kelsey Ellis who went on the trip. “I’m grateful to work at a museum where, at least to some degree, we can be the refugee houses for cultural heritage.”

 

Doing research (and sharing it, too)

Closer to home, graduate students, alumni and faculty recently shared their expertise at the Utah Professional Archaeologists Council (UPAC). BYU’s presentations were focused on Utah archaeological research and discoveries about the ancient Fremont inhabitants.

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Spencer Lambert (right) and Joseph Bryce (left) present at UPAC.

At the Council, graduate student Spencer Lambert received the annual Student Sponsorship Award for having the best research abstract. His abstract was on strontium isotopic analysis, and at the Council he presented his thesis research on animal bones and Fremont hunting patterns.

Joseph Bryce, a BYU graduate, makes the powerful statement, “In archaeology, if you never tell anyone about what you’re doing, what good is it?”

Bryce’s commentary highlights the need to not only receive hands-on research experience, but also the pressing need to share what is learned in the process.

Learn what students in the social sciences have discovered in their recent research at the Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 12, 2018 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is pleased to host this event that is free and open to the public.