Courtesy Scott AnfinsonHey there! Do you know that we have a State Archaeologist here in Minnesota? Meet Scott Anfinson the 3rd State Archaeologist of Minnesota. Scott came to visit us and while talking to him, we’ve learned some interesting things about the burial mounds in Minnesota. We’ve learned about the Lidars (shots of lasers that are use to scan the ground from above, used to detect mounds) that are used to detect the mounds and the importance of his job of protecting them. We’ve interviewed him with some questions and will like to share some of his answers to you about his job experiences.
What inspired you to become an archaeologist?
When I was 8 years old, I received a book for Christmas, that was all about dinosaurs. It showed mainly these guys who were digging in China in the Gobi Desert… That sparked my interest in digging and archaeology… However, at that time I didn’t know that paleontology and archaeology are different.
What is exactly a State Archaeologist? What is the significance of the job you do?
One of the jobs that I do for the state is, I’m in charge of all ancient burials that were made 100 or 12,000 years ago in Minnesota...
Some people would probably say to me “Why do we need an state archaeologist?.
First of all, I’ll say to them is, “Well who do you want to be in charge of all those 3,000 pioneer cemeteries and 12,000 Indian burial mounds? Who would be in charge if they asked,
“Can I disturb them?”, “Where are they?”
“What are the disturbance?”. I can help them find a solution.
I also help state agencies... It’s against the law to disturb any archaeological site on public property. So they need my help to figure out how to build their road, their trail, or their new visitor center by reducing the harm to the site.
How long have you’ve been the state archaeologist?
Started in 2006. So it’s been 7 years now.
What places you excavated?
I’ve never done archaeology in another country. I do almost all of my archeology right in the Midwest.
Have you ever misidentified anything or changed your mind about something you found?
Happens all the time... When you create a hypothesis, basically it is saying is “I think this what happened”. But you can never prove for sure if that’s what exactly what happened, but you can prove something that didn’t happen... What you do is, you can start eliminating the possibilities until you are left with possibly what probably caused it… Science proves the truth, it is just getting closer to some kind of truth, and that truth can change. For an example, one time when I was working on a site in western Minnesota and I found some burnt bones, which looked very much like hand bones from a human. I thought I had found a cremation burial, but then I noticed that the bone that I found must be a very big guy. I went over to the Bell Museum in the University of Minnesota and took the bones with me to look at them a little more carefully. And they were are actually a paw of a black bear… So I was wrong on my first conclusion.
As you can see the job of the an State Archaeologist is very important to the state. Meeting him, was a great opportunity because just learning what he does, really draws you closer to the importance of archaeology. It’s more than digging, it’s science!
Courtesy Captain Budd Christman, NOAA CorpsHow does Minnesota factor into the recent judgment against political genocide actions in Guatemala? The findings that have brought justice in the case relied on "The Minnesota Protocol." The full report on how the protocol was used in Guatemala can be found in this article in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
Work on the protocol started in Minnesota 30 years ago by a team of lawyers concerned with growing international strife. They created a format for neutral scientific third parties to investigate claims of assassination and genocide after it was becoming apparent that in many offending countries, those investigations were being done by groups sympathetic to the leaders being accused of the crimes. The concepts were adopted by the United Nations in 1989 as a global standard to use to investigate such situations.
In the Guatemalan case, former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt was recently found guilty of ordering actions that claimed the lives of at least 1,700 indigenous people during the 17 months after he seized power in a military coup in 1982. A key pieces of evidence were found in a mass grave of 50 bodies found underneath a soccer field that were eventually examined by Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala using principles of the Minnesota Protocol.
Similar investigations using the Minnesota Protocol have led to genocide convictions in other corners of the globe such as Rwanda and Bosnia.