Archive for Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Unlocking underground secrets

KSU prof leads students on archaeological dig in Stranger Creek valley

June 21, 2006

Buried underground for thousands of years are the pieces to a puzzle of one society's existence. These pieces are a part of history that has remained a mystery.

But this summer, 16 Kansas State University students and their professor are attempting to solve part of this puzzle and piece together clues as they unearth artifacts that date back between 500 A.D and 1,000 A.D.

The Kansas Archaeological Field School has returned to Stranger Creek valley for a fourth time to study the artifacts left by Plains Woodland people.

Brad Logan, associate research professor at KSU and instructor of the field class, said the data and the knowledge the project would provide would continue, for many years, to reward those who participated.

Logan asked that the exact location of the site not be published.

Last Thursday, red flags dotted the site, marking the locations where artifacts had been found. When the class first arrived at the site on June 5, they found hundreds of artifacts scattered about after they were uncovered when the creek flooded.

"My gosh, I had never seen that much just lying out in the open," Logan said. "It was a no-brainer that this was the place to dig."

Proper techniques

The students have been picking, digging and sifting through dirt looking for the buried treasures ever since. As they go, Logan instructs them on the proper techniques of conducting an archaeological dig.

Arrow-points, dart-heads, pieces of pottery and chip-stone debris have already been found at the site.

"Being the first person to touch an artifact that hasn't been touched for 1,000 years is cool," said Adam Bohannon.

The KSU senior, majoring in anthropology, said he had always been interested in the way history was discovered.

"I just like the fact that we're learning how to excavate history," he said. "I like to imagine the people who were standing right here."

Logan said this type of field class was important for students because it would give them a glimpse into the life of a professional archeologist.

"For students interested in archeology, a field school like this can tell them quickly whether this is something they want to do," he said.

Having fun, adventure

Even if they decide it's not right for them, most of the students who participate still enjoy their experience.

"They really bond and just have a lot of fun together," Logan said. "I think they will also look back on it as this adventurous thing they did."

Bryan Frye, KSU junior, said the most interesting part of the class was "learning about the variety of different cultures that lived in Kansas a long time ago and actually touching what they made."

Piece by piece, and artifact by artifact, these 16 students will continue their search for a glimpse into the life of a past society. There's no telling what else the group may discover before their last day, June 30, but one thing is for sure; it's not going to be easy work.

"It's like finding a needle in a haystack," Logan said.

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