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Florin, a private archaeologist and owner of Florin Cultural Resource Services LLC, was hired by Carver County to do the initial survey. His final report is nearing conclusion. The budget for field work and analysis was about $100,000.
The native people buried their dead high on the river bluffs, but camped on the banks.
“We found evidence for making stone tools, butchering and processing animals, and we found one fire hearth,” Florin said. The crew also unearthed spear-point fragments, hide-scraping tools, and animal remains that included turtles, fish and bison.
“Since we know so little about this time period, even small campsites are very important for what they tell us about people’s diet, what their tools were and how they lived,” Florin said.
A bigger dig lies ahead
Carver County road officials are now working with the archaeologists to determine the location, scope and budget for this fall’s larger excavation.
Florin said that because of the expense of draining part of a wetland, the area to be dug will need to be relatively modest in size — perhaps about 300 square feet in total.
The excavation will essentially be a rescue operation to retrieve materials from what seems to be the area’s richest concentration of artifacts, Johnson said. The findings will be numbered, cataloged, photographed and analyzed with a written report, he said, and probably archived at the Minnesota Historical Society.
As part of the archaeological work, Florin said he has communicated with the nearest Indian tribe, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
A spokeswoman for the tribe said it “did not feel comfortable addressing the artifacts, because they could go back as far as 8,000 years and could potentially be associated with a number of tribal communities.”
Florin said there’s no possibility that the area was a cemetery — a designation that would have triggered a dramatically different response by both archaeologists and developers, as well as far more input from contemporary tribes. “We were digging on campsites, not mounds, and we found animal bones, not human bones,” Florin said.
The discovery is a reminder that native people have lived in Minnesota at least since the glaciers retreated 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, Florin said.
“There were prior occupants, and part of what archaeology does is bring that information and knowledge to the present day,” he said.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388