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):  http://mn.gov/admin/assets/minnesota-river-report-public-b_tcm36-247477.pdf

Stone Tool Handbook RFP

Today the State Register (Monday, 2 February, 2015, Volume 39, Number 31, Pages 1141 – 1162) includes a request for proposals from the Minnesota Historical Society and the Oversight Board of the Statewide Survey of Historical and Archaeological Sites for assembling a Handbook of Minnesota Stone Tools.  Here is a pdf of page 1157 with the request.  I hope this project comes to fruition, it would be great to have a stone tool guide for Minnesota.

Legacy Project Reports

The Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) has recently made a couple of additional Legacy funded project reports available for download.  The first is titled MINNESOTA’S CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS CAMPS AND CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS-INDIAN DIVISION CAMPS AS ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROPERTIES: REPORT OF DATABASE DEVELOPMENT, CAMP DOCUMENTATION, NATIONAL REGISTER ELIGIBILITY CONSIDERATIONS, AND PROPOSED MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES and was completed by the Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group, Inc. (CCRG).  CCRG developed historic contexts, visited and documented 10 Civilian Conservation Corps camps, and then developed proposed strategies for camp documentation, evaluation, preservation and interpretation.  Click here to download.

The second report, ON THE PERIPHERY?: ARCHEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS OF THE WOODLAND TRADITION IN WEST-CENTRAL MINNESOTA was prepared by the Archeology Laboratory at Augustana College.  The primary goal of the investigation was to expand the breadth of knowledge concerning west-central Minnesota’s Woodland tradition.  The project conducted limited test excavations at three previously identified Woodland sites and obtained a lakebed sediment core, all in Kandiyohi County.   The study also examined a series of Woodland-period ceramic collections from both the west-central Minnesota study area and the broader region.  Results of the study suggest that the occupants of west-central Minnesota during the Woodland period had closer ties to peoples in eastern, rather than southwestern, Minnesota.  Click here to download.

Both reports are heavily illustrated, however these public versions have been edited to reduce their file size to make them faster to download.  Editing removed some of the appendices and exact site location information.  Complete versions are available from the OSA.

Request for Project Proposals

The Oversight Board of the Statewide Survey of Historical and Archaeological Sites through the Minnesota Historical Society has recently issued two requests for proposals for archaeological surveys in the state of Minnesota.   The requests for proposals were published in the Minnesota State Register, Monday 16, June 2014, Volume 38, Number 51.  This link should take you to the online version.

The first is investigating the Prehistoric Archaeology of the Minnesota River Trench.  The goal is to determine where prehistoric sites are located within the Trench, to determine what statewide historic contexts are present, and to suggest productive directions for future archaeological research within the Minnesota River Trench.

The second is to examine the Archaic Tradition in Central Minnesota.  The purpose is to provide a summary of what is known about the Archaic in Central Minnesota, to intensively investigate one or more known archaic sites in order to obtain datable material associated with diagnostic artifacts, and to produce a report summarizing current knowledge about the Archaic in Minnesota, findings of the project and suggestions for future research.

Proposals for both projects are due July 2, 2014.

Latest Legacy Project Reports

The OSA has posted reports from two of the latest legacy funded archaeology projects on to its web page.  These are Documenting Minnesota’s Nineteenth-Century Masonry Ruins by Two Pines Resource Group, LLC and Evaluating Minnesota’s Historic Dams a Framework for Management completed by Archaeo-Physics, LLC.  The objectives of the masonry ruins study were to create an inventory of nineteenth-century masonry ruins in Minnesota, to develop a framework for evaluating their NRHP eligibility, and to develop strategies for their stabilization, management and interpretation.  The historic dam study was charged similarly with creating an inventory of known historic dams, developing a contextual framework for evaluating and interpreting the historical significance of these properties and to suggest strategies for their documentation.

Both are well illustrated and informative documents and will be useful for cultural resource managers and those interested in interpreting these types of historic properties in Minnesota.

Prehistoric Village Cultures of Southern Minnesota

George Holley and Michael Michlovic, both of Minnesota State University Moorhead, recently completed a survey of the late prehistoric ceramics of southern and western Minnesota.  The Prehistoric Village Cultures of Southern Minnesota is the first focused assessment of prehistoric ceramics in this part of Minnesota in over 30 years.  Pottery is the main tool archeologists use in identifying or recognizing Woodland and later cultures in Minnesota.  As archaeologists our understanding and interpretation of the ceramic sequences in Minnesota have changed, but our professional literature has not kept up with our current knowledge.   This is the second Legacy Amendment funded project to focus on Minnesota prehistoric pottery.  The Age of Brainerd Ceramics completed last year focused on Brainerd Ware a type of pottery found in north-central Minnesota.  A third study is currently underway focusing on sequencing the Woodland pottery of west-central Minnesota.  Beyond just characterizing the pottery Holley and Michlovic look at the interaction between the plains and woodland cultures discussing their influence on this region.  The heavily illustrated report can be found on the Minnesota Office of the State Archaeologist web site (here).

New County Survey Reports

The Minnesota Office of the State Archaeologist has just posted public versions of two new County survey reports on its web site.  These surveys were completed for McLeod (click here) and Steele (click here) Counties in Minnesota.  The McLeod County Survey was completed by archaeologists from Bolton & Menk, Inc. and the Steele County Survey by 10,000 Lakes Archaeology, Inc.  Both projects were supported by Funds from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.  These counties were chosen for survey based on the limited number of previously recorded archaeological sites within their boundaries, their environmental settings, and while still mainly rural in character both have seen increasing development.  These surveys will enable public officials to better manage cultural resources and will help to educate the public and professionals alike about the prehistory of these Counties and the region.

Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology

If you’ve ever wondered what is at the bottom of one of our metropolitan lakes this report will give you a glimpse of what’s down there.  Maritime Heritage Minnesota staff and volunteers donned SCUBA gear to check out some of the anomalies they located during a 2011 – 2012 side and down-imaging sonar survey of Lake Minnetonka.  Objects included a turn of the century barge, a stolen then scuttled aluminum fishing boat, a motorized ice boat and a 1955 Mercury Monterey four door sedan, among others.  Some of the anomalies turned out to be natural features including a sunken section of once floating bog and rock piles.  While most survey reports can be rather uninteresting to browse this one reads more like an issue of National Geographic with lots of pictures and interesting commentary.  Check it out here.

Red Lake County Archaeology

The Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) has posted a public version of a report completed by the Archaeology Laboratory of Augustana College on the archaeology of Red Lake County, Minnesota.  The primary objective of the study was to expand the breadth of collective knowledge concerning the location and character of archaeological sites in Red Lake County.  The survey documented 24 previously unrecorded sites and revisited 9 previously recorded/reported sites in the county.  Prior to the survey there were 8 recorded sites in the OSA sites inventory.   Local artifact collectors were interviewed and their collections documented.  The study was also augmented by a geomorphological investigation.  The county survey 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.  Here is a link to the report.   It is a 9 MB file so it might take a while to download.

Minnesota’s Masonry Ruins of the 19th Century

For consulting firms and interested academics there is a request for proposals out for a study documenting Minnesota’s 19th century masonry ruins.  The purpose of the project is to create an inventory of known sites, to develop a framework for evaluating their historical significance, and to develop strategies for their stabilization and interpretation.  For more information check out the Monday September 24, 2012 issue of the State Register. (See pages 460-461)