Archive for Friday, June 20, 2008

KU to analyze Republic County dig’s finds

Artifacts uncovered decades ago will be among those studied

Workers are buzzing at the site of an archaeology dig in Republic County this summer.

Workers are buzzing at the site of an archaeology dig in Republic County this summer.

June 20, 2008


Unearthing Kansas History
Pawnee Indian Museum panorama showing site of KAA dig near Courtland, Ks. Note: this is just for Chris Metz

More than four decades ago, the burnt remains of Pawnee Indian earth lodges were uncovered. In June archaeologists - both amateur and professional - returned to north central Kansas and the site of a historic Pawnee Indian village. More


— As part of the renewed interest in Republic County's historic Pawnee Indian village, the Kansas State Historical Society has contracted with Kansas University to analyze the finds.

For each hour spent uncovering the artifacts, there will be many hours spent in the laboratory studying them. Hundreds of pieces have been cataloged from the earth lodge.

The contract, cobbled together with state money, federal grants and private donations, is for $41,000 and runs until fall 2009. A public report on the findings will be released.

Along with the artifacts unearthed during this summer's dig, KU will be taking a look at finds from four and five decades ago. Many of these - the work of KU anthropologist Carlyle Smith and former state archeologist Tom Witty - have never been thoroughly studied.

In the past, it was not uncommon for archaeologists to excavate sites and then run out of funding to do the follow-up research, said Mary Adair, associate curator of KU's Archaeology Research Center.

"That unfortunately happened quite a bit," Adair said. "We are making an effort today not to have that happen."

By looking at what was recovered and where on the site it was unearthed, the hope is to gather information on when the Pawnee Indians lived at the village, how much of their material was from European trade and how the Pawnees interaction with a new culture changed their traditions.

"This is a pivotal time for native populations before European settlement became prevalent," Adair said.

Bits of pottery, beads, bone transformed into tools, parts of guns, burned earth, mussel shells and metal littered the site.

The finds are too recent for the use of radiocarbon dating. However, researchers hope to pinpoint dates through tree rings in timber pieces.

Once the analysis is finished the artifacts will be returned to the Kansas State Historical society, Kansas State Archaeologist Bob Hoard said. Some of the more unique pieces might eventually find their way into the display cases at the Pawnee Indian Museum, which sits next door to the excavation. The rest will be housed on storage shelves at the historical society.


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