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Summer Archaeological Dig

Graduate student Jason Reichel will lead dig at site along Blue Earth River, south of Mankato.

Tim Krohn, Mankato Free Press, 6-1-2014

Mankato, Minn. -- About 1,000 years ago, Woodland Period people made their home at a site along the Blue Earth River, south of Mankato.

Now, thanks to a state grant, archaeologists from Minnesota State University, Mankato hope to uncover more evidence from the site to see if it is worthy of possible inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s an important Woodland site, a multi-component site, which means over time several Woodland groups lived there,” said Ron Schirmer, associate professor in Minnesota State Mankato's Department of Anthropology. “It’s important to evaluate these sites to see if they should be nominated for the National Register.”

The Nelson Site was discovered in the 1970s by former Minnesota State Mankato professor Mike Scullin.

“Some excavation was done but not to modern standards and not in all the areas we wanted to look at,” Schirmer said.

What Scullin did find were pottery shards and remnants of maze cobs.

“It’s the earliest radiocarbon- dated maze in the the state,” Schirmer said. Specifically, what was carbon dated were the indentations left after the corn kernel is pulled out of the cob.

The dig this summer, which will last several weeks, will be led by graduate student Jason Reichel, who is doing the work as part of his thesis. The $10,000 grant, which will fund support staff for the dig, comes from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Schirmer said the 7-10 acre site was a permanent living site because several storage pits — used for storing things like refuse or other items — were found.

“We’re pretty sure they had permanent (wood) structures out there, too, we’re just not sure what kind. They wouldn’t have built pits unless it was a permanent (living) site.”

He said they aren’t sure if the Woodland people lived their year around or seasonally. Different groups would have occupied the site from about 900-1050 A.D.

The Minnesota State Mankato group is also hoping to uncover more pottery pieces and better evaluate the pieces from the site already in the Minnesota State Mankato collection.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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