Abram Sorensen is a serious amateur archaeologist with three years' field- work behind him who just happens to be 13.
The Holladay youth has earned the praise of professional archaeologists in the State Antiquities Section. He is "an inspiration even to us who have been doing it for 30 years," said Kevin Jones, manager of the section.
Ron Rood, an archaeologist with the section, adds "Abram has grown from a kid that likes to dig up stuff and find artifacts to a budding scientist who is really starting to understand the science and documentation process in archaeology.
"He's recorded sites and we've been working closely with him to make sure his work is done in a professional and ethical manner."
Three years ago, Abram wondered about bits of old material sticking out of the ground in his back yard. Like many curious kids, he began digging. Unlike most, his next steps were to research the material and talk to a professional.
"I got in contact with Assistant State Archaeologist Ron Rood, and he came up to the site and helped me out," Abram said in a telephone interview. "We started keeping in contact, and we became pretty good friends.
"He let me come to the lab and do lab work, and go out to sites on Antelope Island."
As other talented youngsters do every year, Abram helped out on a dig at an ancient Fremont site on the Great Salt Lake island. He continues to do lab work, helping the state experts with many of their projects and learning proper field techniques.
Meanwhile, he kept digging in the Sorensen back yard.
Finds ranged from about 90 to 110 years old. They are household items like nails, locks, toys, parts of dishes and bottles, "and some shoe pieces," he said.
"It was a community dump down here," Abram added. He could see that by the way artifacts are "clustered and just broken up."
Then he discovered another site on private land, and received permission to excavate. It too was probably a dump, "just larger scale."
His dad, Roger, and mom, Rebecca, are supportive of the project, which has become a consuming interest to Abram.
The teen has discovered well over 10,000 items, said Roger Sorensen. "It's just amazing the stuff he found."
Among these treasures are what Abram calls "an amazing amount of bottles." Many of the medicine, liquor and other bottles are complete. They are in a variety of shapes and different colors of glass, he said, ranging from more than a foot tall to smaller than an inch.
One way to date bottles, according to Abram, is "the type of glass, the type of rims, and sometimes you can even find dates when companies started. And in jars there's the same thing. Just the different styles."
Many of the bottles were made in an Art Deco style, which helped date them. Also, Rood gave Abram a reproduction of a Montgomery Ward catalog from the 1800s.
"That helped me out. I could look up some artifacts and find them (in the catalog), and get dates from that. That's very useful."
Rood also provided books that helped research bottles, allowing him to narrow down the dates when the artifacts were made.
Meanwhile, Abram has kept "a big log book of all my findings." He records artifacts in the book, drawing them and measuring them, noting the grids in which they were found and other data.
"It's fun to see him do it," said Roger Sorensen. "It's a perfect thing for a boy, to be able to dig in the dirt and find really cool stuff. . . .
"We support him, but we have to make sure he kind of cleans things up once in a while."
Abram is determined to become a professional archaeologist.
"I want to study more on archaeology and continue this dig," he said. "I'm studying up on Maya and Olmecs (ancient peoples). I'm really interested in them. I want to work down in Central America and study those cultures when I grow up."Comment on this story
Jones said Abram is "a very bright, very energetic guy who's really interested in archaeology." He has pursued the field, and "he's done a lot to educate other kids too. . . ."He's sort of one of those little bright lights you run into every once in a while."