Recent Losses

The archaeological community was saddened by the recent passing of two long time Minnesota archaeologists.  Doug Birk whose work focused on the European Colonial period in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.  Doug was an expert on the fur trade and early European exploration.   And Steven Mulholland who focused on northern Minnesota archaeology.  Steve’s expertise was in lithic analysis and toolstone identification, particularly in northeastern Minnesota.  Steve was also a recent past president of the Council for Minnesota Archaeology.  A copy of Doug’s obituary can be found here:   A copy of Steve’s obituary here:  

Our condolences to their families.

2017 Lake Superior Basin Conference

The annual Lake Superior Basin Workshop will be held March 17 and 18, 2017 in the Heritage Center at Grand Portage National Monument ( ).  The address is 170 Mile Creek Road, Grand Portage, Minnesota.  The event will run from 9 am to 5 pm both Friday (17) and Saturday (18).  The core of the Workshop is one-on-one or small group discussions on artifacts, sites and other archeological topics.  A congenial atmosphere to share information and ask questions.  The event is free and open to the public. Download the event flyer here:

Pope County Survey

The Oversight Board of the Statewide Historical and Archaeological Survey and the Minnesota Historical Society have released a request for proposals for an archaeological survey of Pope County, Minnesota.  The purposes of the survey are to summarize what is known about the early human occupation of the county, update the State Archaeologist’s site file with regard to the status of known archaeological sites and find through field survey unrecorded prehistoric and early historic sites.  The cost of the survey should not exceed $95,000.  For more information follow this link to the State Register and see page number 960:

Dakota County Survey

I realize this a busy time for contractors with the end of the field season approaching, but the Oversight Board of the Statewide Historical and Archaeological Survey has released another call for proposals, this one for an archaeological survey of Dakota County.  It was published in this week’s issue of the State Register, the Monday 24 October 2016 issue. It is on page 496 (or page 12 of the current issue).

“The Minnesota Historical Society (Society) and the Oversight Board of the Statewide Historical and Archaeological Survey (Board) seek a qualified consultant to conduct an archaeological survey of Dakota County. The purposes of the project are to summarize what is known about the early human occupation of the county, update the State Archaeologist’s site file with regard to the status of known archaeological sites, and find through field survey unrecorded prehistoric and early historic sites. The cost of the survey should not exceed $95,000.” 

Follow this link to the current issue of the State Register for more information:


Minnesota River Valley Survey

A survey report recently posted by the Office of the State Archaeologist details the results of an archaeological and geomorphological study of the Minnesota River valley, The Minnesota River Trench:  An Archeological and Geomorphological Study of its Prehistory and Settlement by Austin A. Buhta, Rolfe D. Mandel, Michael G. Michlovic, Eric C. Grimm, and L. Adrian Hannus.  The primary goal of the study was to determine where prehistoric archaeological sites are located within the valley and to determine whether there are settlement patterns present among the primary prehistoric cultural traditions that are present in the valley.  The second focus was to evaluate a known, possible, paleoindian site (21LP0011) in the river trench.  Excavation at an intact paleoindian site within the valley could help understand some of Minnesota’s earliest occupants and would also provide information on the timing and character of Glacial River Warren, which formed the Minnesota River valley as Glacial Lake Agassiz’s southernmost outlet.

The geomorphological study helped to determine what landforms within the river trench would have been available for habitation at a given period in time and also explained how erosion and channel migration would have modified or destroyed any archaeological sites present.

The archaeological study used information from previously recorded sites along with field survey of 1,446 acres to ascertain site locations within the river valley.  Erosion and sedimentation have resulted in a low probability of surficial sites within the valley.  Recent work has documented that colluvial and alluvial processes have buried sites in the lower Minnesota River valley under meters of sediment.

This technical report will likely be of more interest to professional archaeologists rather than avocational archaeologists, however the section regarding the excavations at site 21LP0011 is an interesting read.  At this site the archaeologists try to determine the age of the major component of the site without the advantage of diagnostic artifacts or datable material recovered from their excavations.

Follow this link to download the report (it is a 13 MB file):

Stone Tools of Minnesota

The Office of the State Archaeologist recently posted a digital version of a new stone tool identification guide for Minnesota.  The publication titled “Stone Tools of Minnesota” was authored by Toby A. Morrow with contributions by Scott F. Anfinson, Kent E. Bakken, Guy E. Gibbon, Michael D. Giller, John H. Hahn, Daniel K. Higginbottom, and Craig M. Johnson.  The project was funded by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the Minnesota Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment as part of the Statewide Survey of Historical and Archaeological Sites.
The book is more than just and identification guide to Minnesota’s stone tools, but a textbook on lithic materials and lithic technology in Minnesota.  For example, the introductory chapter includes sections on; objects commonly mistaken for stone tools, facts about fakes (modern reproductions), how we have learned about stone tools, and lithic use wear and residue studies (plant residues including starches and phytoliths and animal residues like blood).
Besides the Introduction, chapters include; A Brief Primer in Geology; History of Lithic Analysis in Minnesota (Anfinson); Chipped Stone Tools; Projectile Points; Chipped Stone Raw Materials (Bakken); Ground Stone Tools; and a chapter on Future Directions which suggests the directions future studies to understand and analyze stone tools should take.
The book is heavily illustrated with excellent color photographs showing the artifacts full size and is over 400 pages in length.  It has something for both the avocational and professional archaeologist.  Due to the size of the digital file it was posted as two downloads.   Part 1:    (14MB) and Part 2:   (17MB).  At this time there are no hard copies of the report available, the Board of the Statewide Survey of Historical and Archaeological Sites is working on getting it published.

Job Opening

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service is looking for a part time archaeologist (20 hours a week, based in St. Paul) to help with the backlog of field survey projects.  The position is through the National Older Worker Career Center so you must be at least 55 years old to apply.  Follow this link for additional information:

MAS Annual Dinner Meeting

The 2016 Minnesota Archaeological Society (MAS) annual dinner meeting will be held Friday, April 22 at Hamline University.  Dr. Ron Schirmer of Minnesota State University Mankato will be the after dinner speaker.  His discourse is entitled “Well, We Dug it All Up….Now What?”  Schirmer will discuss using modern technology to make historic archaeological collections and data available to researchers and the interested public.  Tickets for the event are $25.  You do not have to be a member to attend.   Follow this link for additional information.

Field School Opportunity

The University of Minnesota Duluth will once again be offering a 6 credit Field Research in Archaeology course during the 2016 summer session.  The course is scheduled for June 6 to July 29.   Classroom activities will include an orientation to archaeology, Federal and State laws, and identification of archaeological materials.  Lab analysis will focus on artifact identification and interpretation.  The course will require 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday.  Students are responsible for their own living arrangements while in Duluth.   Follow this link for additional information.

Lake Superior Basin Workshop

The 2016 Lake Superior Basin Workshop (LSBW) will be held on Friday/Saturday March 18 and 19 at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.  The LSBW has a long tradition of informal displays and discussions of archaeological interest.  The attached flier has more information and a map; to reserve tables for displays or other information, contact Scott Hamilton at or by phone 807-343-8742.