SD 2017 Finds of the Week [1]

We’ve found some pretty cool stuff already at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village! Read on in this weekly roundup of our favourites. This is week one!

This pottery fragment with the Cahokian “weeping eye” motif is surely at the top of the list of most interesting finds! It was make of local materials, suggesting local copying of Cahokian imagery and connections between the two sites.
This arrowhead was the first we found this season, we’ve had four or five more since then.
This shaped disc is made of shell, measuring just over 1cm in diameter and a few millimeters thick. It could be a gaming piece – it sure was pretty!
This is a bone tool, probably smoothed out from a rib fragment

SD 2017 Day 11

Another day of digging today, puncuated as ever with some mild and occasionally intense excitement. Most people are just heading down layer by layer, but in a few squares we have features evolving, including pits and burn zones.

Normally when students come up to me clutching some unidentified piece of material it’s either nothing at all (i.e. a rock or pebble) or it’s a rim sherd, which we plot the exact location of and draw. Occasionally we’ll get stone and bone tools, but 90% of the time it’s not anything of significance of it’s a rim sherd. Today, Vicky came up quietly behind me and handed me a beautiful shell bead, and I practically freaked out! It was so untriumphantly handed over that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and I full on brought both hands up to the side of my face like the Scream. Even Alan proclaimed it to be a “very nice” piece – praise indeed.

Unassuming perhaps​, but still a lovely shell bead, drilled from one side.

It was pretty cold today, and so I once again decided to attempt to run home from the dome. It’s just over 4 miles, and by the time we were done on site the temperature had risen considerably and the sun was shining happily, unobscured by the clouds that had been hanging over us all day. I was a little apprehensive, as last time I attempted that run it was one of the worst runs of my life! Hot, shadeless, and very straight. However, thanks to a very brisk tail wind I got home in record time, at 8.5 minutes per mile consistently, and was very very happy about that!

Tomorrow is our last day digging this week, then we’re off to Sioux Falls on Sunday. Looking forward to it!

SD 2017 Day 10

Is it day 10 already?! I can hardly believe how fast the time is going. 

Today for me started with a quick run that I kept under a mile in maximum distance from the hotel, so in the case of storms I could get back sharpish! There had been thunder, wind and golf ball sized hail in some areas, but nothing luckily hit Mitchell. 

After breakfast and a shower we all piled into the two minibuses that take us to site each day. I’m always the last to get in as I have to count us all to make sure we’re all present! Construction work on Burr street means we’ve started going a different way to the site. The construction in Mitchell this year is pretty prolific and horrific.

On site today a few cool finds came to light. There was a rodent partial skeleton, found by Ollie, which we think was likely a poor ground squirrel that burrowed into the site and died. So, not archaeological, but still interesting from my perspective! We also found this amazing bone tool, which has a sharpish edge on the outside of the small curve but is smooth aside from this. We’re not sure what it was for yet.

A partial rodent skeleton – the cranium, and left pelvis, femur and tibia.

A mystery bone tool found today!

Also today we had someone filming us on site, and as I was here 7 years ago they interviewed me! I don’t know where the footage will be or if it will even be used, but watch this space. I hope I didn’t make an arse of myself!

SD 2017 Day 9

Happy Wagon Wednesday! I’m writing this from my bed, smelling equally of woodsmoke and bugspray, and on the whole feeling perfectly content. We’ve had a lovely day today, mainly due to a tour around an old fashioned wheel and wagon workshop and a barbecue!

Today at the dig started pretty chilly after some thunderstorms last night (yes yes yes, I know you’re having a heatwave in Britain, no need to shout), but soon warmed up into the early 90s F or 30s C. One of my favourite things today was finding a pit that contained fish, bird and rodent bones all in the same place. Some very meticulous excavation resulted in the recovery of much of this material!

We were also quite excitable today because we made the local front page! There was also a video of us on the Daily Republic website. Both of which were enjoyable snapshots into seeing how we are represented and seen in the media – although the archaeology is certainly of interest, perhaps more exciting was the fact we came from Britain.

Our evening was spent at Hansen’s Wheel and Wagon, an amazing place where old stagecoaches and the like are built and restored. I’ve taken many, many photos of the place, but here are some of my favourites.

SD 2017 Day 8

Today’s dig was more like a nature program than an archaeological dig! Well, not really, but we did see some pretty cool animals today. There are lots of ground squirrels living on the site (and digging through the archaeology sometimes, the little buggers), and we’ve seen a rabbit or two, but today we saw a deer and what we think was a bald eagle! The deer was placidly eating grass on the path from the museum to the Archeodome, and the bald eagle flew out from a nearby tree while we were eating lunch and circled the lake. All very cool!

As for my own personal day, it started with a 3 mile run this morning (all the doughnuts are getting to me big time, despite the swimming) and ended at Walmart. I needed body scrub for removing the prehistoric dust from my skin, and I wanted to buy a plastic plate I could reuse. The amount of waste generated just by me every day is breaking my heart, and there are no recycling facilities anywhere – I’ve been eating off paper plates and bowls and drinking from paper cups at breakfast and lunch each day. Now I’ve got my own plate, bowl, spoon and cup that I can take and reuse! Isn’t it nice to save the planet?

In terms of archaeological finds today, a couple of nice pit features started to become apparent from soil colour changes. We also found a few nice rim sherds, although nothing as spectacular as yesterday’s weeping eye motif, and some flaked stone tools. We also had one very ingenious archaeologist use medical tape to keep her glasses from falling off her face whilst digging! Commitment to the cause right there.

SD 2017 Day 7

After our day off on Sunday, yesterday’s digging was undertaken with renewed vigour. We had some really exciting finds coming from the archeodome! Sadly the motel internet couldn’t handle this excitement last night so I’m blogging from the Archeodome this morning – it’s tea break, I had a peanut butter doughnut, and life is good!


A flake from flintknapping – just look how transparent it is!
A bone tool
A beautifully laid out context, freshly washed. Students sort items by material.
The finds washing crew – Esther, Sophie and Emerald
Our find of the day was this pottery sherd. It features the ‘weeping eye’ of Cahokia, but is made locally.

SD 2017 Day 5

Today was our last day of work for the week before our day off tomorrow! We’re all absolutely shattered, with archeodome dirt ingrained into our fingernails and brains. I think a lot of relaxing may happen tomorrow!

5 o’clock shadow…

On the dig floor today we had to first move the total station. Its previous position meant that one square was too close to be able to take measurements, so it has been moved and recalibrated (by me, I have certainly gained a skill there!). In other dig site news, many people were planning, checking soils against Munsell charts, and generally getting a little dripped on thanks to a heavy downpour this afternoon. Some interesting stone tools were uncovered today, including two more arrowheads! Here’s some other pictures from the day!

Izzy, Chloe and Hannah dig away in their squares, which we have referred to as the Western Front as they are the westernmost squares currently being excavated
Ollie and Levi working hard in the lab, washing and sorting finds

No blog tomorrow as there’s no dig! Back to work bright and early on Monday morning.