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Origins of Utah


Image of Utah
Image of Utah

The first inhabitants of Utah were peoples of the Paleolithic period who lived in the region from about 11,000 bc to about 6000 bc. They appeared after North America’s last ice age and hunted large animals for food. They lived in small groups and inhabited caves, rock, brush and wood shelters, often near freshwater springs or near marshlands formed by lakes. By about 5000 bc, prehistoric peoples who gathered plants and seeds to supplement their diet were living in the region. This culture, called the Archaic stage, lasted to about ad 500. The Archaic peoples occupied many of the sites used by the Paleolithic inhabitants. Archaeologists do not know whether the Archaic peoples represented a new group entering the region, whether the Paleolithic inhabitants took on the characteristics ascribed to the Archaic group, or whether both occurred.

Two cultures, the Anasazi and the Fremont, occupied the area from about ad 1 to ad 1300. They planted corn and squash crops and raised animals such as turkeys for food. The Anasazi, also known as the Basket Makers and the Pueblos, lived in the Four Corners area of the Southwest and in the southeast part of Utah. They developed a complex society and apartmentlike dwellings on the mesas (level land on top of what were once plateaus) and under huge overhanging cliffs. At about the same time the Fremont culture appeared to the north and west of the Anasazi. Both cultures disappeared about 1300, but left behind rock art, artifacts, and buildings. No one knows what happened to the Fremont people, but they may have been absorbed by the Ute and Shoshone peoples who migrated into the area in search of food. The Anasazi abandoned their dwellings and moved southeast into New Mexico and Arizona, becoming part of the Zuni and Pueblo groups.

Severe droughts and incoming Navajo and Ute may have forced the Anasazi to leave. The major groups of Native Americans in Utah since 1300 have been the Ute of the Colorado Plateau and central Utah, the Paiute of southwestern Utah, the Gosiute of western Utah, the Shoshone of northern Utah, and the Navajo in southeastern Utah. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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