Artifacts found at Glendalough [UPDATED]Published 10:52am Tuesday, July 17, 2012 Updated 10:54am Tuesday, July 17, 2012
What looked like an ordinary pile of rocks at Glendalough State Park was actually a major archeological finding, park manager Jeff Wiersma said.
Before construction could begin on the Glendalough bike trail, the land had to be inspected by archeologists to ensure building would not occur on any archeological sites.
Holes had to be dug every 50 feet along the originally designed bike trail. Around 600 holes were dug in all, but because of 16 holes, the process was worth it. Found in these holes were Native American artifacts including ceramics, projectile points, flakes and tools.
The process was only supposed to last a few weeks, but because of their findings, they ended up staying for most of last summer and into the fall.
While many of the findings were obviously interesting, the most important finding came when one of the archeologists noticed something very small that turned out to be very big.
One hole revealed what appeared to be a couple of fire cracked rocks. It didn’t look like anything too important at first, but inspectors decided to dig it up just in case. As they dug, the rocks kept getting bigger and bigger. When it was all uncovered, it turned out to be one of the largest rock hearths in the U.S.
The Native Americans used these hearths to cook food. They knew which rocks could withstand and hold the heat the best, so each one had to be carefully selected. Hearths were typically only for one-time use, so this one was likely created for an important ceremony, Wiersma said.
The hearth was found on the northeast side of Annie Battle Lake, but its exact location will not be revealed to the public to prevent the site from being tampered with.
After samples were taken and careful documentation and measurements were made, the rocks were covered up again so they could be preserved.
Several rocks and bones found in the hearth were taken to a lab for radio carbon dating. It is estimated that they are more than 700 years old. They were likely used by the Oneota Natives who moved around the area during the 1300s.
The 16 archeological sites will require some minor rerouting for the bike trail. Wiersma said he hopes to put up interpretive signage along the path where the archeological sites were found to teach guests about the history of the area.
“Most of the artifacts were taken to the Minnesota Historical Society, but we hope to have reproductions made to display at the park,” he said.
The findings last summer have raised the status of the park significantly in how it is viewed in terms of cultural history, said Wiersma.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It certainly helps justify us as a park because we don’t just preserve natural resources but cultural resources as well.”