Yosemite’s cultural heritage has been under study since the late 1800s. Since then, over 1500 archeological sites have been documented, each containing physical memories of people from the park’s past. Through these, archeologists get to decipher a cultural chronology that helps them understand human behavior. Dedicated to their goals, Yosemite’s archeologists uncover 25 new sites annually.
One of the most common items is obsidian flakes, which are pieces of volcanic glass that were used for making or honing stone tools. As insignificant as these flakes may sound, they are actually very helpful as X-ray fluorescence tests uncover the exact geographic source of obsidian, which ultimately explains how trade was made in the area. Archeologists learn about the time the flakes were made while their discovery sites help in creating maps of travel routes, camp sites, and hunting regions.
To ensure the American Indian members of the community that no harm was done to their sacred areas, archeological excavations included a representative from the American Indian Council of Mariposa County Inc. They would monitor excavations and provide consultations during the project development.