You never know what you'll find out in the red sands of Utah. Known for impressive peaks and valleys, one solo hiker was trying to clean up the environment and got more than he bargained. Picking up this one piece of trash completely changed his imprint on history. He would never forget this day or this hike, but what did he pick up?
This good samaritan was just trying to clean up the environment. All around him, the ground was littered with various garbage from other people's excursions. He thought cleaning up a little bit was better than nothing. He bent down to pick up two bottle lids but then got the shock of his life. This was the last thing he expected to be holding in his hands.
He realized he wasn't holding bottle caps but something much more unique. Trying to rub the dirt off both pieces, he realized this was a coin! It didn't look like a coin he knew and put it in his pocket to do some more research later. Would taking this coin home turn out to be his biggest mistake, and where did the mysterious currency come from?
When he cleaned off the coins, he started finding markings and distinct characteristics. He put what he saw into Google and started reading the results. He was shocked to read both coins could be over 400 years old! He brought the coins back to the park and left it in the hands of very excited rangers and experts. Had he caused more damage by removing the coins?
The Rangers knew it was equally as important to find the exact location of where the coins were found. The site mattered for future research! What else was this beautiful park holding onto beneath the surface? Returning to the scene, they started putting together theories on how these two coins had arrived. The park was able to tell one of the coins is a '16 maravedi' dating back from Spain 1662. What clues would come from these theories, would they figure out how these coins got into the park?
When the team went back to where the hiker had picked up the coins, they found them at the bottom of a canyon with other bits of rubbish, including things from someone's home. It is popular to live in houseboats; a theory began to form with a coin collector living on a houseboat and going on a hike excursion. When they cleaned up the area, they found 15 more coins dating from 1974 to 2016. Was the trail running dry on clues for the origin of these two coins?
Spanish coin experts Dr. Fernando Vela Cossio and Luis Fernando Abril Urmente confirmed the coins' origins. The second mysterious coin was now dated from 1252-1284. The team would continue to dig and research the surrounding area, but what about other famous discoveries. What could they learn from other teams handling their own archaeological discoveries?
An equally groundbreaking discovery was taking place north of the border. In British Colombia, Canada, there was a dispute over who held claim to Triquet Island. The Heiltsuk tribe says this land is sacred and spoken about through their oral history stretching over 14000 years. Would anyone believe a history that wasn't written down?
The Heitsuk People, or also known as Bella Bella, have been recorded in Canada since 1843. Their tribe's history is not written down anywhere, and the community has orally recorded their history for as long as they can remember. This became extremely important when historians were trying to understand their claim to Triquet Island. It was finally time for the history books to record their heritage, and understand this island's mystical balance and meaning to the Heitsuk people. What was the next step to get the proof the Heitsuk tribe needed?
What we know about the Ice Age is temperatures dropped to below survival. What many don't know is we have had a recorded five Ice Age periods. When Icebergs are kept frozen due to cold temperatures, a cyclical pattern emerges in which the snow and ice trap the Earth's moisture. This fuels the growth of icebergs while the sea levels simultaneously drop. What had this tribe's oral history recorded and passed down about this cold freeze?
The tribe's oral history says a strip of the island never froze during the Ice Age. Historians and archeologists needed proof and began to excavate this sacred ground. The tribe believed in their history and waited patiently for proof. Each member of the team was blown away, discovering a site 8.2 ft below the surface with tools dating back 14,000 years. This would be the first time of physical evidence for the tribe, and the results are amazing!
The team began with only a few volunteers soon grew to a funded project. They are being supported by Victoria University & Hakai Magazine. Archeologist Alisha Gauvreau and her team had a slow process. Digging through layers of soil, they finally hit a layer of paleosol, which is a thin horizontal layer of soil. In this layer, they discovered that a stove impression and isolated a few charcoal flakes from space. Everyone held their breath as the samples were sent to the lab for testing and carbon dating.
When the results from carbon dating were processed, the results were astounding! The team had sent in samples that dated back 14000 years. This means their team was currently on a site three times older than the Great Pyramid in Giza. The team also found a fish hook and multiple tools intact. The tribe can now confidently speak publicly about their history and begin to document it. With this dig discovery, it proves early humans, the Heiltsuk, traveled in a region that remained ice-free. What other ancient civilizations are crews finding exciting artifacts about?
As metal detection is a popular past time, and the public hears about a discovery like Guillermo de Anda Mayan Cave, a renewed interest is forming in this field. There is a misconception we have already discovered everything, but there is so much more we have yet to see. Hopefully, we have a new generation also interested in tracing ancient heritage, but it might also be time to look up instead of down. Scientists are beginning to focus on a new frontier hidden in the stars.
As we have spent so much time digging up spaces all over the globe, it makes sense that soon we might have to look up for new museum exhibits. As NASA and other space exploration programs begin to bring back more and new exciting information, what will future museums look like? Will our grand tour or gap year trip be spent in the stars? Is our future even imaginable, or is the unknown what makes it more exhilarating?
As the intelligent hiker in Utah realized, the best thing to do with artifacts is to turn them in. It is always better to leave the artifact where you find it so the area can be searched for more clues and other discoveries. If you move the artifacts, you risk damaging a bit of history that up until that moment, was preserved. The oils from our hands or fabrics from clothes and bags can be more damaging than we realize. Look up, down, and all around but don't touch or you risk losing a bit of history.
As we have learned from humble hikers to native tribes, leaving a footprint is life-changing. Finding a bottle cap that turns out to be a currency from Spanish settlers or retelling your history for generations; these may seem like small actions, but their impact is a ripple. A new chance to study and learn. A second chance to dive deeper under ruins and pull out 150 new artifacts.
Don't stop being curious and sharing your knowledge or discoveries. Where will you and your friends go to find the next big historical site? You could be standing above a second Stonehenge or even undiscovered pyramids and not even realize! Would you dive down or fly towards the moon? Do you want to play in the dirt or clean off new treasures? Share the curiosity and shoot for the stars by sharing with your friends and fellow explorers!