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.

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.

Printing with purpose: 3D printing enhancing knowledge, research and learning

Archaeology doesn’t always live up to its Hollywood fame—you don’t always bring the cool artifacts home like Indiana Jones.

But with new technology, we can do the next best thing.

Robert Bischoff is a recently graduated BYU master’s student who focuses on this technology.

Focusing his studies on the people of the Southwestern United States, Bischoff has been able to take Fremont and Ancestral Pueblo artifacts away from archaeology sites and into the hands of research colleagues and Museum of Peoples and Cultures visitors through 3D printing and modeling.

The first 3D printer was used in the 1980s by Charles W. Hull to make mechanical part prototypes.

Today, the uses of 3D printers have expanded to replicating artifacts, documenting historic landscapes, and building archaeological models.

In the past, students and researchers were limited to studying artifacts at excavation sites and presenting and teaching the public with 2D photographs. But with 3D printing, archeologists can tangibly share their knowledge as they bring copies of artifacts to conferences, campuses and museums.

When Bischoff and his peers excavated a site in Goshen, Utah where all the artifacts legally belonged to the landowner, they were able to make 3D models of basketry impressions to continue studying their findings. Other students are reconstructing clay lamps and figurines from Petra, Jordan.

Bischoff’s favorite project (so far) was doing 3D modeling of Pilling Figurines.

 

The benefits of this technology expand to students and community residents as they visit the Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Individuals get to handle replicas of artifacts from around the world without risking any harm to the artifacts themselves. Allowing people to touch, handle (and sometimes drop), and see demonstrations with these printed replicas elevates off-site archaeological learning to the next level.

While 3D printing has already expanded the archaeological world, Bischoff notes that archaeologists are always adapting new technology to do even more.

BYU research archaeologist Scott Ure was an early adopter of using drones to take aerial photographs and then processing these photographs into 3D models. This inventive approach provides opportunities for documenting large landscapes and identifying features that cannot be seen from the ground. Ure has created a number of 3D replications of archaeology sites that allow researchers to better understand what is on the ground. As this specific approach evolves, archaeologists will be able to more easily record the exact shapes, dimensions, and appearance of archaeology sites and preserve and share these sites and artifacts digitally.

Another perk to 3D modeling: instead of carefully planning and packing for the transportation of models and artifacts around the world, models can be shared digitally to be shared with the public and archaeologists conducting research across the world.

“Communicating our results to the public is one of the most important things we do, and new technology allows us to do so more effectively,” shares Bischoff.  “New technology [allows] us to discover more sites and to better document and preserve them so we can share what we find with the public.”

Step into models of actual archaeological sites and handle the printed replicas of artifacts that create our history at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.