The Science Museum of Minnesota’s head of archaeology and anthropology will be leading a five-week field school studying historic sites on the St. Croix River and the surrounding area in June and July.
Dr. Ed Fleming has done extensive work at the Sheffield Site, a 700-year-old Oneota village in May Township, previously hosting a field school there.
This year the focus will expand, with students searching sites on both sides of the St. Croix, testing soil for signs of human activity, surveying for possible habitations, and doing small excavations.
“We will be testing a couple National Park Service properties, including a small excavation at the Rice Lake Flats site. We will also do some survey and testing at Warner Nature Center, Pine Needles, and along the river and Spring Creek at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station,” Fleming said.
In addition to Oneota people, there is also evidence of Woodland people in the area, which went back to about 1000 B.C.
Of course, Dakota and Ojibwe people lived here when Europeans arrived, and still do. But, the river’s human history goes back almost to the moment glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago, and meltwater carved the river.
As demonstrated in the video about the Harvey Rock Shelter last week, the St. Croix was an important travel route, hunting grounds, and area for settlement going back thousands of years.
The Sheffield Site, on the banks of the St. Croix a couple miles south of Marine, was occupied around 1300, the same time France and England were fighting the Hundred Years War, and the Renaissance was just getting going in Italy. The first white men wouldn’t visit the area for centuries.
Excavations over the decades have revealed distinctive pottery, hearth areas, shell fishing lures, and bones from bears and domestic dogs.
At the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, archaeologists have found an approximately 5,000-year-old bison kill site, evidenced by rocks and rock shards in a prairie. A creek cutting through peat soils has revealed animal bones that show signs of butchering dating back to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.
The field school work will include testing an area near the Harvey Rock Shelter, Fleming told St. Croix 360. With the rock shelter’s soil, artifacts, and rock art degraded by modern visitors, other likely areas for a camp or a village nearby could turn up more answers about how humans lived along the St. Croix long before Columbus set foot in the Caribbean.
St. Croix 360 will provide more coverage in the future of this opportunity to discover a few more details.
- Dates: June 10 to July 5, Monday to Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Cost: 6 University of Minnesota credits + course fee of approximately $350.
- Contact: Dr. Ed Fleming with question and for an application: firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-221-4576.