Stories tagged Sheffield Site

KAYSC has a new crew on the block! The Heritage Crew is going to be working in the Archeology department in the museum and will be working out at an archeological dig site called Sheffield Site.

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During our interview with Mary Mclaughlin and Jasmine Koncur, they shared some things on what they did before getting this job. Check it out!

Mary and Jasmine are Sheffield Research Associates whom we worked with at the expedition.


Heritage Crew member teaching about excavation levels.
Heritage Crew member teaching about excavation levels.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
Kids at North Dale screening dirt with Heritage Member Elias
Kids at North Dale screening dirt with Heritage Member EliasCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
December 2013 through February 2014, Heritage Crew went out to do outreach activities at North Dale Rec Center. For six days we taught elementary school aged kids about archaeology and the Sheffield Site. Some activities were learning Oneota pottery, identifying animal bones in archaeology, and stone tools. We created excavation boxes allowing the kids to get a an idea of what an archaeological dig is like. The kids measured a unit, and then dug down layer by layer until they found "artifacts" and "features" that we had set up. Archaeologist, Dr Ed Fleming, let us use copies of the level sheets that were used at Sheffield Site, so the kids could record their findings. We taught them about mapping each level to record artifacts and features, and why archaeologists use this method in the field. We had fun during this experience, and hope to do more outreaches like this in the future.

The Heritage Crew did an interview with the Sheffield Site research associates. Check it out!


North Dale Rec Center
North Dale Rec CenterCourtesy City of Saint Paul
Come join us on Saturday, Feb. 8, noon to 4 p.m., to talk to the KAYSC Heritage Crew about the Sheffield Site at Northdale Recreation Center! We will be joined by Rod Johnson from the Minnesota Archaeology Society, and Dr Ann Merriman from Maritime Heritage Minnesota. North Dale Rec Center is located at 1414 Saint Albans Street, Saint Paul, MN.

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At the Sheffield site we encountered many different kinds of lithic material that the Oneota used at this site. As we sort through our findings there are multiple different types of lithic material that have been identified. Lithics are stone artifacts and it consists of items such as stone tools or stone flakes. There were fragments of all different colors and luster and density to them. Going through all these different kinds of tools and flakes may lead someone to think: “Where did these rocks come from?”
Prairie Du Chien Chert
Prairie Du Chien ChertCourtesy SMM
Tongue River Silica
Tongue River SilicaCourtesy SMM
Hixton Orthoquartzite
Hixton OrthoquartziteCourtesy SMM

The most common lithic we found at Sheffield was Prairie Du Chien Chert, which makes sense because quarries can be found throughout the southeastern part of Minnesota. Another kind of lithic material we found was Tongue River Silica and this rock can be found on the western side of Minnesota. One stone that was particularly interesting to me though is Hixton Orthoquartzite since it is sparkly. We believed the lithic material made of Hixton came from quarries in west Wisconsin.

These are just three of the many lithic materials we found at Sheffield, these lithic materials are significant because of where they originate from. The Sheffield site is located along the Saint Croix River which acted as a means for transportation. Did the Oneota move from place to place and collected these rocks in their travels?

Lithics are an important part in archaeology and not just because the tools made from them look cool. The material that makes up the stone can have as much information as how the lithic material was made into a stone tool. We are not just looking at rocks, but the more we know about what types of material were being used the more we might know about the people who lived at Sheffield.


Pit Oven
Pit OvenCourtesy
Hey there! Do you know that food can be cooked in the ground? Well it can! We learned about the process at the Archaeology Festival in Mille-Lacs Kathio State Park. This method of cooking was used by cultures over hundreds of years ago. Here are the steps that are similar to what we learned at Mille-Lacs Kathio State Park:

1.) Dig the hole on flat land and make sure there are no low hanging tree branches. Sandy areas work too. How big the hole will be is determined by size of the fire, and what you are going to cook. The hole should be about 3 feet deep.

2.) Line up the hole with medium or flat rocks on the sides and on the base.

3.) Next, it’s time to build the fire! Collect some dry wood. Put the larger branches on the base which will be the main fuel for the fire, and place smaller ones, like twigs or sticks, on top of it.

4.) When you fire it, let it sit for 2 hours so the stones can get hot and ready for cooking. If you run out of wood, you can use charcoals to keep the fire going.

5.) During those 2 hours, you can go prepare and season the food that you’re going to cook in your pit!

6.) Wrap the food with layers of aluminum foil, enough so that dirt won’t be able to sweep through. You can also use an oven pan or any other pots that are oven safe.

7.) After 2 hours, and the stones are heated up, remove half of the burning coals out of the pit and put them on the side for the next step.

8.) Place your food on top of the coals in the pit and then put coals that you took out around its sides.

9.) After that you cover it with dirt. Make sure to make a mound on the top, so you won’t lose its location.

10.) Depending on what you’re cooking, it’ll take awhile for it to get fully cooked, including vegetables. Depending on the size, it can take up to 12 hours. Look up the time it’ll take for the food to get cooked before doing this!

11.) When it’s time to take the food out, carefully dig the dirt and rocks out and make sure not to hit the food by accident or it’ll probably get ruined! It’s also very hot!

12.) Enjoy your food!

13.) Also remember to clean up the pit the next day by removing any scraps of aluminum foil and fill in the pit back with dirt. It’s very important!

If you plan to do this, stay safe!

If you want to check out on upcoming archaeology events. You can find the calenders on the Minnesota Archaeological Society website:


Sheffield Site
Sheffield SiteCourtesy The Science Museum of Minnesota
Join us on December 14th, from 12-4pm, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, to talk to the KAYSC Heritage Crew and the Archaeology staff in the Archaeology Lab! Get a behind the scenes look at the artifacts from the Sheffield Site, an Oneota Site along the St Croix River! Learn about Minnesota Archaeology, and the research the Archaeology Department has been working on with the Heritage Crew! Dr Ed Fleming will be available to talk to the public about the Sheffield Site and his other projects at the Science Museum of Minnesota!

The other labs on Level 3 will be open as well! Visit the paleontology lab, ethnobotany lab, and biology labs! Visit with the other scientists who work hard to preserve the collections in the museum, and learn about their research too!


Scott Anfinson
Scott AnfinsonCourtesy Scott Anfinson
Hey there! Do you know that we have a State Archaeologist here in Minnesota? Meet Scott Anfinson the 3rd State Archaeologist of Minnesota. Scott came to visit us and while talking to him, we’ve learned some interesting things about the burial mounds in Minnesota. We’ve learned about the Lidars (shots of lasers that are use to scan the ground from above, used to detect mounds) that are used to detect the mounds and the importance of his job of protecting them. We’ve interviewed him with some questions and will like to share some of his answers to you about his job experiences.

What inspired you to become an archaeologist?
When I was 8 years old, I received a book for Christmas, that was all about dinosaurs. It showed mainly these guys who were digging in China in the Gobi Desert… That sparked my interest in digging and archaeology… However, at that time I didn’t know that paleontology and archaeology are different.

What is exactly a State Archaeologist? What is the significance of the job you do?
One of the jobs that I do for the state is, I’m in charge of all ancient burials that were made 100 or 12,000 years ago in Minnesota...
Some people would probably say to me “Why do we need an state archaeologist?.
First of all, I’ll say to them is, “Well who do you want to be in charge of all those 3,000 pioneer cemeteries and 12,000 Indian burial mounds? Who would be in charge if they asked,
“Can I disturb them?”, “Where are they?”
“What are the disturbance?”. I can help them find a solution.
I also help state agencies... It’s against the law to disturb any archaeological site on public property. So they need my help to figure out how to build their road, their trail, or their new visitor center by reducing the harm to the site.

How long have you’ve been the state archaeologist?
Started in 2006. So it’s been 7 years now.

What places you excavated?
I’ve never done archaeology in another country. I do almost all of my archeology right in the Midwest.

Have you ever misidentified anything or changed your mind about something you found?
Happens all the time... When you create a hypothesis, basically it is saying is “I think this what happened”. But you can never prove for sure if that’s what exactly what happened, but you can prove something that didn’t happen... What you do is, you can start eliminating the possibilities until you are left with possibly what probably caused it… Science proves the truth, it is just getting closer to some kind of truth, and that truth can change. For an example, one time when I was working on a site in western Minnesota and I found some burnt bones, which looked very much like hand bones from a human. I thought I had found a cremation burial, but then I noticed that the bone that I found must be a very big guy. I went over to the Bell Museum in the University of Minnesota and took the bones with me to look at them a little more carefully. And they were are actually a paw of a black bear… So I was wrong on my first conclusion.

As you can see the job of the an State Archaeologist is very important to the state. Meeting him, was a great opportunity because just learning what he does, really draws you closer to the importance of archaeology. It’s more than digging, it’s science!


Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is: Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is and how it works.
Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is: Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is and how it works.Courtesy SMM
On November 15, the Heritage Crew got to talk with Paul from Flat Rock Geographics. Paul spoke about how GPS works, what GIS is, and how people use GIS and GPS. GPS stands for "Global Positioning System." GPS is a network of satellites, used to find a position on the Earth within 5-10 feet. GPS triangulates your location by using 3 or more satellites that it can "see" by sending a message to them and receiving a location. GPS is a big factor in GIS.

GIS stands for "Geographic Information System." GIS is a combination of GPS and LiDAR, which is an imaging process that takes a laser and scans the ground, timing how long it takes to reach the point where it left the emitter, like sonar does underwater, or radar in the air. Paul and his company used GIS to map the site that we went to this summer. Flat Rock (who is helping us manage our data from Sheffield) can scan the data from the LiDAR and remove things that we don't need, like birds, trees, and even buildings! LiDAR is incredibly accurate, and has even been used to map all the burial mounds in the entire state of Minnesota!


When someone tells you about your nice features you should tell them how fun it is to excavate. I am talking about features in archaeology, of course. A feature is information that contains a cultural importance and cannot be taken to the lab the way it was found.
Shell Midden: A group of shells all located together while we were excavating block 1 of the Sheffield Site.
Shell Midden: A group of shells all located together while we were excavating block 1 of the Sheffield Site.Courtesy SMM

Examples features are hearths and post-molds. These features are located when the soils have certain qualities in them. Since archaeologists must keep digging to learn more from their block, the feature is destroyed as you dig the feature out. Another example is when artifacts are found together or next to other features. You can see this when artifacts are given context to where they are found. A group of shells found together has more cultural value than individual artifacts by themselves in an excavation unit. Just as how a piece of bone have more meaning when it is found in a fire hearth. As I have said before, the further we excavate down into our blocks we destroy the features, so in order for features to be represented, archaeologists record the features they find as they excavate.

To record features that are a part of the soil, archaeologists draw and map out the block that they dig with each layer that they dig out. In doing so they will have somewhat of a 3-D map of where the feature was in their block. At the Sheffield site we normally dig ten centimeters per layer and record what we find on the surface. When we find a feature we start digging in five centimeters layers. We dig in smaller layers so that we can record the shape of the feature more accurately. The behavior of how we dig also changes. Sometimes we dig out certain sections of the feature in order to record how the feature looks from the side.
Fire Hearth Feature: The whitish-grey variations in the wall profile is ash from a past fire hearth. This feature was located at block 1 of the Sheffield Site.
Fire Hearth Feature: The whitish-grey variations in the wall profile is ash from a past fire hearth. This feature was located at block 1 of the Sheffield Site.Courtesy SMM

Archeology is ultimately a destructive science and keeping a good record is key for a good analysis. The features we see as we dig will not physically be there when we go analyze our data in the lab. The more data we record from our features the more chances we have of making a cultural connection with our findings. Features are one of the most important parts of archeology because it gives the artifacts and other data more meaning to why they might be there. Without features archeology would just end up as a display of objects without any cultural significance.