State Historic Preservation Office
Greg Pierce named new State Archaeologist

National Register of Historic Places

Trappers Point

Sublette County, Wyoming

Date Added to Register

Monday, May 14, 2007

Smithsonian Number

48SU1006

Read all about it

The Trappers Point site is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion D, because it has yielded information important to the understanding of prehistory in the Intermountain West (Miller et al. 1999a), especially with regard to hunter/gatherer interactions with wildlife (settlement), the procurement and processing of pronghorn antelope (subsistence economy), and stone tool/weapon technology (industry). The social history of these human groups is partially revealed by evidence of communal activities pertaining to the exploitation of game animals during and immediately after a mass kill. In addition, data gathered in 1992 continue to yield significant information (Fenner and Walker ms; Sanders and Miller 2004), and preserved site areas will contribute even more data if future research is initiated. The site is nominated at the national level of significance because it is the earliest known mass kill/processing of pronghorn in North America. Prior to the Trappers Point discovery, the 3,000+ year old Laidlaw site in southern Alberta (Brumley 1984) was the best example of time depth for communal pronghorn hunting (Frison 1991:241).

Several factors make the Trappers Point site a significant discovery. First, it contains a long term record of human adaptation to the upper Green River Basin environment that begins at the onset of the Early Archaic and extends into the Late Prehistoric. Second, Stratum III is one of the few components from the entire Green River Basin with a substantial artifact assemblage and good integrity that dates to the earliest portion of the Early Archaic, which is known in southwestern Wyoming as the Great Divide Phase (Thompson and Pastor 1995:29). More sites of this general age are beginning to be found in the Jonah natural gas field, but without the amount of preserved bone characteristic of Trappers Point (Jana Pastor, personal communication, July 2006). Third, the extensive faunal assemblage from the second cultural level (Stratum V) yielded the first evidence in the region of a pronghorn mass kill, intensive butchering, and seasonality of procurement on which to base models of Early Archaic subsistence and settlement (see Lubinski 1997). Fourth, all three Early Archaic cultural levels (strata III, V, and VII) contained extensive and diverse artifact assemblages; in fact these combined components include one of the largest collections of projectile points recovered from stratified, Early Archaic contexts known from southwestern Wyoming (Francis and Widman 1999:139). Fifth, the great variation in projectile point morphology from these three strata provides a clearer perspective of typology and chronology for the Early Archaic Period than has traditionally been possible. Sixth, chipped stone raw materials were transported into the Trappers Point site from all margins of the Green River Basin, hinting at wide ranging patterns of human movement. Seventh, inferences for communality suggest Early Archaic populations aggregated in larger groups than single family units for regional hunting and gathering, at least based on Stratum V evidence. Finally, spring pronghorn migration may have great antiquity in the basin, having begun at least by the Early Archaic. Trappers Point informs us about prehistoric hunting strategies, technological diversity in weaponry, and yields tantalizing clues for the time depth of regional pronghorn behavior that persists today in the Sublette herd.

The record at Trappers Point clearly establishes it as one of the key sites in Wyoming and a unique resource to the nation. It contains archaeological and paleoenvironmental data that span the entire Holocene, with high integrity components representing the Early Archaic Period. While older or younger sites with similar functions may exist elsewhere on the ridge, additional fieldwork would be required to find them. Trappers Point already has yielded strong evidence of the “hitherto unknown, but long suspected, time depths for both human procurement of pronghorn and patterns of pronghorn migration” (Frison 2004:138). Research on the diverse projectile point assemblage, the well preserved faunal assemblage, and the intact site stratigraphy has shed light on several aspects of prehistoric human adaptations, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, ancient game migration patterns, and the culture history of the Intermountain West. The site is a major discovery in Wyoming archaeology, and its documentation is being used as a standard for some of the ongoing cultural resource management investigations in the Green River Basin (Dave Vlcek, personal communication, September 2006). Trappers Point deserves national recognition for its contribution to the study of ancient human lifeways, and for its potential to yield further information if more of the site is ever investigated.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources