MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) — Students from England are uncovering history in KELOLAND.
This is the 20th year the University of Exeter and Augustana University have partnered for a field school at Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.
Travel and archaeology are both dreams for University of Exeter student Ben Rondeau.
Now, he’s living both of them as he digs into the past at Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.
“Lots of bone fragments,” Rondeau said.
Recently, he unearthed something that has never been found at the site over the past two decades: a shell fragment carved to resemble a bird.
“Usually a shell has been worked into an instrument that can be used to scrape something or scoop, but it’s really interesting finding such a well-preserved, decorative, fragile item from a piece of shell,” Rondeau said.
Other rare finds include a bone plaque, possibly used as a wrist guard for archery.
“Not seen one of these at all on this site before, but there is one from northwest Iowa that looks a little bit similar,” University of Exeter professor of archaeological science Alan Outram said.
“There’s such amazing things coming out of this hole that we’re like, ‘Oh my God, we’re so lucky,'” University of Exeter student Holly Rockell said.
The objects are shedding new light on the people who lived here about 1,000 years ago.
“I think it’s telling us a lot more about the artistic traditions, which we probably don’t see quite so often. We see it in the ceramics, but the bone material and the shell material of this type is much rarer to see the artistic depictions,” Outram said.
“Even though we’ve done this for 20 years there always seems to be some artifact we recover that we haven’t previously seen here. That doesn’t mean they aren’t seeing it at other sites of a similar time period up here in the northern plains,” Augustana professor emeritus of anthropology Adrien Hannus said.
12 University of Exeter students and one Augustana student are working at the site.
With the last field school day set for later next week, there’s plenty of time for students like Rondeau to make new discoveries.
“Every day you’re coming in and you’re picking something up and it’s always keeping you on your toes, really interesting stuff,” Rondeau said.
It’s Archaeology Awareness Days at Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village this Saturday and Sunday.
People can watch the students work at the site.
There will also be activities such as a kid’s dig, pottery, and Native American games.