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Florin said the site is about a half-mile long and contains evidence of multiple campsites that were on the shore of a large lake near the Minnesota River from 3,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Those who used the area were small groups of people who probably camped, hunted and fished for a few days and then moved on, Florin said. The area was rich in wild rice, turtles, muskrats, beavers, deer and bison, he said, with clear springs for drinking water and sources of raw material for making stone tools.
“It probably would have been a paradise that provided everything that one could need,” Florin said.
That is also why the area was used for so long, he said. Findings have included hundreds of items, including an 8,000-year-old fire hearth, a variety of bones from bison and other animals, pieces of chert (a type of quartz), flint and other debris from making tools, and stone scrapers, knives and spear points.
After the items are numbered, cataloged, photographed and analyzed, Florin said, they will be archived at the Minnesota Historical Society.
“One of the reasons why this site is so important is that it contains a well-preserved record of how people lived at that time,” he said.
Anfinson said only a few sites of that age have been excavated in the state, mostly camps in western Minnesota used by bison hunters. “We don’t know what people in the eastern half of Minnesota were doing at this time,” he said. More sites have not been found because the shallow ones in upland areas were plowed and disturbed by European settlers, he said. And ancient campsites in the river valley, buried by centuries of erosion and sedimentation, have been too deep and too expensive to search.
Anfinson said the state archaeologist’s office will receive about $150,000 later this year for new initiatives, and much of it may be used to explore for sites elsewhere in the Minnesota River Valley that are not facing imminent bridge or road projects.
“We’re hoping to find deep sites in great condition that could be dug some day,” he said.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388