Mar
08
2007

Walker Minnesota’s “Stone Tools”

This artifact was the first of the about 50 found near Walker, Minnesota.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
This artifact was the first of the about 50 found near Walker, Minnesota.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
During a routine survey of a road construction site near Walker, Minnesota in 2005, archeologists discovered a flake of stone that appeared to have been intentionally chipped from a larger rock. Over the next couple of months digging continued at the site, and some 50 artifacts, thought to possibly be crude stone tools used for chopping, cutting, or scraping, were found.

Initial studies on the stones indicate they are between 13,000 and 15,000 years old. This is potentially significant, as humans are not thought to have populated the Americas until 9,000 years ago.

(Listen to an MPR story on the discovery from January.)

Could humans have lived in Minnesota 13,000 years ago?

If the artifacts are 13,000 year old stone tools, it would be the first indication that humans lived in North America during the Pleistocene – from 1.8 million years ago to 11,500 years ago. Some researchers have suggested that the part of Minnesota where these artifacts were found may have been an "oasis" at the time—an area free of ice cover, with an access route to the southeast making human habitation possible.

Features of this stone might suggest that it could have been a crude knife.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
Features of this stone might suggest that it could have been a crude knife.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
Not everyone agrees

Not everyone who has had a chance to study the artifacts agrees that they are ancient stone tools. Several Minnesota state archeologists argue the stones are the result of natural causes such as glacial movement and flowing water. They argue that Minnesota 13,000 years would have been extremely cold and covered by glaciers and therefore too inhospitable a location for humans to live, and that insufficient time has been spent accurately dating the artifacts.

This has not changed the minds of the archaeologists who originally made the finds. They argue that the analysis of the artifacts is still in too early of a stage to make a definitive decision on their authenticity. They plan further excavation at the site this summer and hope to uncover more artifacts to further solidify their claim.

(Listen to an MPR story from February on whether the artifacts are in fact stone tools.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Regarding "Not everyone who has had a chance to study the artifacts agrees that they are ancient stone tools." Nobody, aside from the researchers, has actually "studied" any of the artifacts. A few of the artifacts were presented to other archaeologists at the CMA conference, and "analysis" consisted of cursory examination, not scientific analysis. Those who dismiss the site have done so without conducting the necessary steps in of the scientific process. If they want to demonstrate that the site is not really a site, they need to prove it scientifically. The researchers are reserving judgement until the scientific analysis is complete; others should do the same.

posted on Thu, 03/08/2007 - 12:04pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

This is an awfully interesting site, and potentially very archaeologically valuable.

As I understood it, though, the issue there wasn't so much whether people were in North America during the Pleistocene - Chile's Monte Verde site and the Meadowcroft rockshelter in Pennsylvania are both pretty widely accepted now as being genuine pre-Clovis sites (that is to say, they place people in North America before the end of the last ice age).

The thing about the Walker site is that nobody thought people were in Minnesota, specifically, before the end of the ice age. So if the site is for real, it would push the horizon for Minnesota archaeology further back (but not for all of North America).

I'm interested to see if anything else is happening with the Walker site.

posted on Thu, 06/07/2007 - 4:49pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This is not the only site where similar crude stone tools have been found. Ohio, New England, Ontario,Georgia and others come to mind.Archaeologists have to re-think their position in light of these other finds and particularly in light of Dr. Al Goodyear's successful carbon dating of the Savannah River artifacts.Unfortunately long held beliefs die hard.This has always been the case through human history. M. LaMarre

posted on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 2:00am
Kendell Dickinson's picture
Kendell Dickinson says:

It seems reasonable to me that glaciers and stream erosion can create rocks that suggest use as human tools. But, why would the glacier or the streams put 50 such "tools" at one site, as at the Walker, Minnesota site. Also, one critic stated that the climate was to cold and inhospitable for human occupation. But, maybe the humans were members of hunting and fishing parties that were only there for brief periods, perhaps in the summer. Maybe they came for the "sucker" run in the spring or migrating grazing animals in the fall. In my opinion study of the site should run full course. Maybe I am biased, as a child I played there.

posted on Sun, 11/30/2008 - 10:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I HAVE A SPEAR HEAD DATED 10000 YEARS OLD I WAS TOLD?A FEW OTHER STUFF FOUND IN SOUTHERN MN

posted on Fri, 01/21/2011 - 9:27am

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