Skip Navigation

A Tour through Time

Here's the "whole" story--from beginning to end.

Hm..... Is it the whole story? What did we leave out? Why?

Could a person tell a history of Utah using just the parts we left out?

Before written history

figures painted on sandstone

Archaic rock art in Buckhorn Wash, in the San Rafael Swell.

Utah's prehistory is as diverse as its scenic landscape, covering more than 10,000 years. All corners of the state contain archaeological sites, showing that ancient people in Utah adapted well to deserts, high mountains, badlands, and marshes.


Archaeologists call the first people living in Utah PaleoIndians. They were hunters and gatherers who sometimes hunted now-extinct mammals like the mammoth. PaleoIndian archaeological sites are rare and mostly found in dry caves, where artifacts thousands of years old were sheltered from moisture and disturbance.

Some PaleoIndian camps identified along the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville show how these people used the plants and animals of the marshes along the lake.

Archaic culture

Around 8,000 years ago, the styles of weapons and way of life began to change. This marked the beginning of the Archaic period. During the Archaic period, people were nomadic, but sometimes they settled in small villages and caves for short periods.

During the Archaic period, people made a variety of baskets for collecting plants. They made many types of stone spear and dart tips for hunting. Until 2,000 years ago, they used the atlatl, a spear-thrower, to help their spears go longer and faster.

rock and mud wall

An Ancestral Puebloan structure in a cave in southeast Utah.

Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont

Life began to slowly change around 2,500 years ago.

Archaeologists have used the clues they found in ancient sites to identify two cultures that emerged around that time: the Ancestral Puebloan and the Fremont cultures.

Farming changed the way these groups lived. The Fremont, who occupied much of northern Utah, often farmed, but they still relied on hunting and gathering for much of their food.

Across the southern portion of Utah, the Ancestral Puebloan people relied heavily on corn, beans, and squash. They also domesticated the turkey and used it as an important source of food and raw material.

Part 2: New groups

Back to the beginning