| 8 July 2006
Find in Minnesota may be thousands of years old
For the past year, archaeologists have been unearthing pieces of history underneath Fort Ridgely Historic District and state park (Minnesota, USA), where thousands of artifacts lie below the surface. Most recently crews have been busily clearing items from areas where construction crews will soon remodel a golf course that runs through portions of Fort Ridgely.
In those areas, archaeologists have found many artifacts from the actual fort, the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 and various other American Indian artifacts ranging from tools to arrowheads. Last week, however, diggers possibly stumbled upon one of the most significant and oldest finds. They found a hearth, or fire pit, which is very likely archaic - meaning it's between 3,000 and 8,000 years old.
The pit was discovered when diggers found some fire rock below the surface. Further excavation revealed a perfect circle of rocks about 3 feet in diameter. "I've never found one that is so intact," said LeRoy Gonsior, an on-site archeologist who works for the Department of Natural Resources. Gonsior said they believe the fire pit is so old because it's almost 20 centimeters beneath the ground. Artifacts from more recent times are usually 5 centimeters or closer to the surface.
After taking samples, he'll take some rock and dirt samples from the pit back to the Twin Cities to look for bits of charcoal for carbon dating. If tests prove the hearth is archaic, it'll probably be the oldest discovery the archaeologists have found at Ridgely. An ancient group of American Indians likely built the hearth after walking up a nearby ravine from the Minnesota River to rest, hunt bison or camp.
Sources: The Mankato Free Press, MSN (6 July 2006), Kare 11, WCCO (7 July 2006)
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