14 November 2021

The Fremont Settlement of Block 49

More evidence of a Fremont-age village (and the first informal Mormon Pioneer Cemetery) was found in the 1980s during construction of the Palladio Apts at 360 S 200 West SLC, on the eastern half of Block 49- the block just east of Pioneer Park.

Now known as the Block 49 Site, the site has 2 main components: the lowest is the Fremont occupation while the upper are the historic burials (1847-1850s) and the historic occupation through the 1950s.

The cultural remains of the Fremont found at Block 49 could be an extension of the Fremont Village at South Temple (see previous post). Block 49 is also along an old channel of City Creek and the radiocarbon dates of 830-1240 AD are consistent with South Temple.

Many of the artifacts recovered from Block 49 show a similar lifeway as the Fremont at South Temple: They built homes, made pottery, repaired hunting gear, and traded for Olivella shell beads. They ate maize, beans, and wild foods- especially fish.

The remarkable aspect of Block 49 is the large amount of fishing gear such as bone harpoons, fishhooks, and fishhook blanks. Fish bone remains include Utah chub, Utah sucker, Cutthroat trout indicating fishing in both the colder fast-moving City Creek (trout) and the slower and warmer Jordan River (chub).

In addition, partial skeletal remains of 3 Fremont individuals were found. The most complete was that of a female in her 20s. Her remains were significantly impacted by construction and were retrieved from back dirt.

Block 49 was a salvage excavation focused on removing the pioneer skeletal remains so very little of the Fremont occupation was explored. Much of what was found had been intruded upon by the pioneer burials. It seems likely Fremont human remains have been partly/wholly exhumed throughout the historic period by the digging of graves and the construction of buildings.

Historic records indicate that the Pioneers deliberately chose their first informal cemetery to be located on an “Indian Mound” (remains of the Fremont culture) because the soil was softer and easier to dig. Fremont artifacts were most certainly unearthed when the Pioneers dug more than 30 graves.

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.  Images 2-6 are taken from this manuscript. 

The Palladio Apts (360 S 200 West) now located on top of Block 49 historic cemetery and a Fremont village. Nov 2021.

Looking west at the Block 49 site prior to archaeological excavation. Arrows point to exposed historic coffins. The prehistoric Fremont component is below the coffins.

Overview of the South Temple and Block 49 Fremont sites showing proximity to City Creek and the Jordan River.

Bone harpoons from Block 49.

Bone needles, fishhooks, awls, and pressure flaker from Block 49.

Selection of ceramic artifacts from Block 49.

Construction of Edison House (335 S 200 West) in the foreground and the Palladio Apts in the background, both on 200 West Street. If the Fremont site extended east from Block 49 then it has been significantly impacted by Edison House’s deep foundation. Nov 2021.

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