07 November 2021

Prehistoric Village under South Temple

Archaeological excavation along South Temple near 300 West, 1998

A Fremont aged archaeological site was discovered in 1998 during the construction of TRAX light rail along South Temple at 300 West.

A backhoe operator noticed a human skull during construction and notified UTA, who then called the Antiquities Section of State History and they consulted with the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

Two weeks later another burial was found just to the north of the first. An expedited archaeological excavation was conducted in the area and then construction was allowed to continue.

The South Temple site offered a window into an extensive village built near City Creek and dating between AD 950-1150, a period known as the Fremont Cultural Complex.

These City Creek Fremont built a large village with fields of maize and beans. They also harvested native plants, hunted large and small wild game, and collected fish, frogs, and turtles from the nearby waterways.

The South Temple excavation area only gives a glimpse into the larger Fremont village that once existed where SLC is now. Other discoveries (more details later) suggest a larger settlement area.

Other Fremont aged settlements have been noted by early Euro-American settlers and government surveyors in Davis County, Tooele County, Utah County, Weber County, and elsewhere. Brigham Young seemed to be fascinated by the “Indian mounds” (interpreted today as collapsed house structures and/or burial sites) of Parowan Valley but made no mention of the mounds that must have existed in the Salt Lake Valley nor of the artifacts and human remains that were likely uncovered during plowing activities, canal building, railroad building, and structural construction.

However, as noted in my Hells Hollow post, along with several historic newspaper clippings I have come across, Native American burials (of varied antiquity) were very much known to exist within SLC by the newcomer Euro-Americans. Further, In the 1870s several miners were quoted in government reports acknowledging the existence of “several mounds of great antiquity” in the Salt Lake Valley along the Jordan River.

In the next post we will explore the specifics of the South Temple Fremont archaeological site.

The Arena TRAX station memorialization of the
South Temple Fremont archaeological site, 2021

The South Temple archaeological site today, under TRAX, 2021.


  1. I was on that dig, this is the first written report I have found on it. Did BYU ever publish the findings?

    1. It took a while for BYU to publish. Here is the report title: BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures Technical Series No 03-07. The Right Place- Fremont and Early Pioneer Archaeology in Salt Lake City. By Richard K. Talbot, Shane A Baker, and Lane D. Richens. 2004.