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30 August 2004
Ancient campground found in South Dakota

About 9,000 to 12,000 years ago, on the banks of a creek southeast of the Black Hills (South Dakota, USA), ancient hunters found themselves a good place to camp. "My impression was that this place was ideally suited for access to water, game animals, stones suitable for working into tools, and had good visibility over the surrounding region," Jim Donohue of the state Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City said.
     It is not known how many people camped here or how long they stayed. But they left behind enough evidence - bones, flint chips and an intriguing piece of a broken stone dart point - to offer archaeologists a rare glimpse into the lives of some of the Upper Great Plains' earliest known residents.
     Few archaeological sites this old and this intact have been found, Donahue said. This one was discovered during a routine cultural resources survey that preceded construction of the Heartland Expressway. The archaeologists dug down nearly 12 feet and at various levels, they found stone artifacts buried at the same level with campfire charcoal and burned animal bones that could be carbon dated. And one artifact, the dart-point base, has Donohue very excited. Its style of manufacture is similar to the Goshen type, an age of tool-making known as the Paleoindian Goshen-Plainview cultural complex. Goshen is a point style first defined in the Hell Gap area of southeast Wyoming. It is generally believed to have been a style of tool-making point that was made 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.
     At the Heartland site, radiocarbon dating of the soil and charcoal puts the age of the artifact find at 10,000 to 12,000 years old, which confirms that this is indeed evidence of the region's earliest known human activity. More research into the artifacts here will also fill in some of the wide gaps in the archaeologists' portrait of Paleoindian life.

Source: Rapid City Journal (28 August 2004)

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