At the Sheffield site we encountered many different kinds of lithic material that the Oneota used at this site. As we sort through our findings there are multiple different types of lithic material that have been identified. Lithics are stone artifacts and it consists of items such as stone tools or stone flakes. There were fragments of all different colors and luster and density to them. Going through all these different kinds of tools and flakes may lead someone to think: “Where did these rocks come from?”
The most common lithic we found at Sheffield was Prairie Du Chien Chert, which makes sense because quarries can be found throughout the southeastern part of Minnesota. Another kind of lithic material we found was Tongue River Silica and this rock can be found on the western side of Minnesota. One stone that was particularly interesting to me though is Hixton Orthoquartzite since it is sparkly. We believed the lithic material made of Hixton came from quarries in west Wisconsin.
These are just three of the many lithic materials we found at Sheffield, these lithic materials are significant because of where they originate from. The Sheffield site is located along the Saint Croix River which acted as a means for transportation. Did the Oneota move from place to place and collected these rocks in their travels?
Lithics are an important part in archaeology and not just because the tools made from them look cool. The material that makes up the stone can have as much information as how the lithic material was made into a stone tool. We are not just looking at rocks, but the more we know about what types of material were being used the more we might know about the people who lived at Sheffield.
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 SMMOn November 15, the Heritage Crew got to talk with Paul from Flat Rock Geographics. Paul spoke about how GPS works, what GIS is, and how people use GIS and GPS. GPS stands for "Global Positioning System." GPS is a network of satellites, used to find a position on the Earth within 5-10 feet. GPS triangulates your location by using 3 or more satellites that it can "see" by sending a message to them and receiving a location. GPS is a big factor in GIS.
GIS stands for "Geographic Information System." GIS is a combination of GPS and LiDAR, which is an imaging process that takes a laser and scans the ground, timing how long it takes to reach the point where it left the emitter, like sonar does underwater, or radar in the air. Paul and his company used GIS to map the site that we went to this summer. Flat Rock (who is helping us manage our data from Sheffield) can scan the data from the LiDAR and remove things that we don't need, like birds, trees, and even buildings! LiDAR is incredibly accurate, and has even been used to map all the burial mounds in the entire state of Minnesota!
Courtesy Sheffield Site Facebook pageThe Oneota and the Woodland traditions have different pottery and different ways of making pottery. The Oneota used ground up shells as a tempering agent, allowing them to make pots that were thinner than the Woodland pottery. Tempering is adding ingredients to clay to reduce the likelihood of cracking when the clay is fired. The Woodland tradition had thicker pots because the tempering agents they used (rocks and stones, known as grit tempering) did not allow for thinner walls; the pots would break when they were fired if they had thin walls and grit temper.
Another distinctive sign that the pottery belonged to the Oneota tradition was the decorations on the shoulders (just below the thinner part) of the pot. Oneota decorations were usually star-shaped.
Written by Bilir and Elias
The Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center
Courtesy KAYSC has a new crew on the block! The Heritage Crew is going to be working in the Archeology department in the museum and will be working out at an archeological dig site called Sheffield Site. They'll be digging up artifacts belonging to the Oneota along the St. Croix River. In August, they will also excavate the sites and process the artifacts back at the museum. Currently, they are learning about the different types of stone used at the site that the Oneota used for stone tools (lithics), the pottery at the site, and bones (faunal material). Most of the material dates to around 2000 years old. Follow us on Facebook at The Sheffield Site!