When you think of the oldest mine in America you have to go way back. Prehistoric. Before European explorers like the Spanish entered the area.

Archaeologists have found an ancient mine in eastern Wyoming that is around 13,000 years old. This makes it the oldest known mine in America.

Excavations to reach these findings were led by Wyoming’s state archaeologist and involved University of Wyoming researchers.

I have a video for you on this discovery.

The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Wyoming State Archaeologist Spencer Pelton is the lead author.

“We have unequivocal evidence for use of this site by early Paleoindians as long as 12,840 years ago and continuing by early Americans for about 1,000 years,” Pelton says. “It’s gratifying that we were finally able to confirm the significance of the Powars II site after decades of work by so many, including Dr. Frison, who learned of the site in the early 1980s and was involved in the research until his death.” (Buckrail News).

So what were they digging for?


Red ocher, also known as hematite. It was used for many things, including pigment. This stuff was used over a large area in North America. From the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and beyond. Even down into Mexico.

Also found in the area were projectile points, tools, and shell beads.

It looks like they were digging with bones and antlers as their primary tools.

“Beyond its status as a quarry, the Powars II artifact assemblage is itself one of the densest and most diverse of any thus far discovered in the early Paleoindian record of the Americas,” Pelton says. “The site contains over 30 chipped stone tools per square meter, some of the oldest canid remains from an American archaeological site and rare or unique artifacts, among other distinctions.” (Buckrail News).

The quarry may have been used by more than one person over time.

It looks like that perhaps a century later the site was occupied by humans who mined red ocher and deposited artifacts.

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Thermopolis Wyoming has one of the most interesting and active dinosaur museums in the world. As they continued to make new finds in the area they put in on display, so you can discover and learn.

Let's have a look at some of what is on display.

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