Before summer wildfires chased them off the upper Rattlesnake last summer, archaeologists discovered a lithic scatter site and a 2,000-year-old projectile point.
A University of Montana archaeology team, in conjunction with the Lolo National Forest, will return to the region this summer to complete the second leg of their two-year study.
Log cabins and dams — historic by today’s standards — have been documented throughout the upper Rattlesnake. Yet little is known about the area’s prehistoric visitors, who frequently traveled old mountain trails connecting western Montana’s sweeping valleys.
“All the historic European American sites have been documented up there — a lot of cabins, a lot of historic dam construction,” said Douglas MacDonald, an associate professor of anthropology at UM. “No one has ever looked up there for prehistoric Native American sites.”
Sydney Bacon, archaeologist with the Lolo National Forest, said the agency is mandated by federal law to survey historic resources on public land. But with budgets growing tight, the district directs much of its work to complete reviews for imminent projects, allowing little time for exploration of historic resources. . . .