|21 September 2010
Dig in Wisconsin yields wealth of ancient artifacts
Archeologists have found thousands of artifacts at the Finch site on Highway 26 north of Milton (Wisconsin, USA). Archaeologists say a two-acre strip of wooded hills holds 160 identified pits where prehistoric Native American people dumped everything from deer bones to weapon shards to burnt and broken clay cookware. Experts believe this site may contain, at the very minimum, 100,000 Native American artifacts which scientists believe date from 5000 BCE to 1200 CE. However, the Finch site soon will be buried by a state highway.
Archaeologists who've been digging at the site since late last year have nearly wrapped up contract work for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Their charge: To excavate 25 percent of the site and identify its contents before the state purchases and paves over most of it with the planned Highway 26 expansion in 2013.
"What we've found here suggests extremely intense, long-term use of this site," said Ricky Kubicek, an archaeologist from the Great Lakes Archaeological Research Center, the Milwaukee-based research group the Wisconsin DOT hired for the excavation. "We're not necessarily sure that there were villages or settlements here, but it's clear that throughout time, different groups of people kept coming back over and over," Kubicek said.
Many of the items crews unearthed at the site came from the Woodland Era, a period in prehistoric Native American history 2,500 to 800 years ago. Other items, including some knife and arrow points, come from the Mississippian Era and would have been used by native hunters in southern Wisconsin 1,200 to 500 years ago, crews at the dig said. To find such a concentrated and varied cache of ancient human materials is rare, Kubicek said, and was only possible because the hilly, wooded site was left undisturbed by modern plows.
Earlier this year, while Archaeologist Katie Cera was dumping rocks that sifted to the bottom of her water tub, she found a big surprise - an 8,000-year-old spearhead known as a Folsom point. It's a rare find and one that doesn't match the chronology of other items at the dig site. Archaeologists at the dig say it's not clear how the weapon found its way there.
The items, all of which now belong to the state of Wisconsin, could end up in museums or at state-supported historical societies as part of an agreement between the state, Native American groups and scientists involved in the dig, officials said. Meanwhile, Great Lakes Archaeological Research Center plans to continue work at the site through 2012, but at a slower pace. "Anything else that we do in the coming months will be done on a volunteer basis and not at professional speed," Kubicek said.
Now that excavation work has slowed, Kubicek said his group is considering occasional public outreaches, which could include supervised digs at some of the site's existing excavation areas. To learn more about the chance to work as a volunteer alongside professional archaeologists at the Finch Site archaeological area, email the Great Lakes Archaeological Research Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited from Gazette Xtra.com (4 September 2010), Wisconsin State Journal (12 September 2010)
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