Digging up the truth about our past at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village


Archaeologists excavate around the world, and some of that work is happening right here in South Dakota. In tonight’s eye on KELOLAND Whitney Fowkes digs up the importance of understanding our past through these excavations.

“It’s like a jigsaw in which some of the pieces are actually missing but the more pieces we find and put together the more we understand the past,” dig co-director, Alan Outram, said.

A pot, or pieces of bone, mean more than just finding things to these archaeologists.

“If you just find an arrowhead and just take it out, it’s not associated with anything. All you know is that there was an arrowhead in the past you don’t really know anything more about it, but if you find it in association with other things then you can begin to associate what type of arrowheads those different people in different cultures used establish what sort of date they came from and begin to put together a full story of peoples of the past,” Outram said.

Archaeology students are using many different tools to piece together the past.

“There’s a grid there which is divided into 10 centimeter squares and they’ll be drawing it on graph paper exactly where things come from and they’ll be reducing it to 1 to 10 ratio ad then we wind up with a plan where everything came from,” Outram said.

“We’ve all learned a couple of practical excavation skills so we’re taught about it in our lectures now we’re putting it to use.” archaeology student, Fabian Dsilva, said.

During this excavation the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village coordinates its archeology days as well.

“Why not? It’s a great educational opportunity, it’s a great opportunity to allow folks who only know archaeology from the big screen movies to come and see for their selves what our archaeologists are doing and the results of the archaeology,” Indian Village Executive Director, Cindy Gregg, said.

People of all ages are welcome to join in various events.

“There will be activities like making your pottery, learning how to throw an atlatl, grinding corn with an monoemanatatay, just all sorts of things going on here during archaeology days,” Gregg said.

You can also ask questions about the dig.

“Nobody had yet ever excavated areas between the lodges so we specifically set this building in such a way that we’re looking at the area outside the lodges between four different lodges because actually the activities people did day to day year to year basically were outdoors,” Chief Archaeologist, Adrien Hannus, said.

Understanding what these people did in the past may seem meaningless, but Alan Outran believes it helps contribute to our future.

“It’s fairly simple to say, It’s important to understand our past to understand our future, archaeologist say that a lot and its true that we need to understand where we come from to understand potential future trajectory.,” Outram said.

“I think that the past is important that’s why it’s good to excavate the sites so that we can learn more form our past and to see how things have changed and how our culture and ourselves evolved over time,” Fabian Dsilva said.

But the past isn’t the only reason archaeologist dig.

“One needs to understand archaeologists don’t do excavation for entertainment there has to be a set of questions that you’re asking,” Adrien Hannus said.

Questions that these students hope to answer here, and around the world.

The Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village Archaeology days are this Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5.

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