Gaining Insight Into Ancient Cultures

"An understanding of the past is crucially important to facing the present and future," says Dr. Adrien Hannus, professor of anthropology and director of Augustana's Archeology Lab.

On Sunday, students and community members had a chance to do just that.

More than 100 people were on campus to attend the Third Sunday Archeology Program, "Banking Bifaces, Cache or Cash," an event that offered the chance to examine and learn about early stone tools called lithic bifaces, and hear from Michael Fosha, assistant state archaeologist at the Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City.

The following article about the event appeared in the Monday, Jan. 16, edition of the Argus Leader:

Tool Caches Give Insight Into Ancient Cultures
Augustana event highlights discoveries of lithic bifaces in the Dakotas
By Jill Callison, Argus Leader

Harlan Olson views archaeology as a jigsaw puzzle.

That’s why the Lake Poinsett man came to Sioux Falls on Sunday for a pres­entation on lithic bifaces, or early Paleo­indian stone tools.

“In archaeology, you ask 'how does this fit,' and 'who was walking on this ground before us,'” Olson said.

“There are a lot of footprints before ours.”

Olson and his wife, Carol, came to Augustana College for the first of three Third Sunday Archeology Presentations for 2012. This is the 30th year the presen­tations have been offered, said Adrien Hannus, director of the Archeology Lab at Augustana College.

An understanding of the past is cru­cially important to facing the present and future, Hannus said.

“Everything we do and, I’m not exag­gerating, every single decision we make as humans is based on the past,” he said.

“That’s how human culture works.”

Sunday’s speaker, Michael Fosha, shared information and slides on several caches of lithic bifaces found in what is now South Dakota and surrounding states.

One cache in Clark County, for ex­ample, contained nothing but mauls, or heavy stone weights. The cache was found at the edge of Dry Lake.

“Clearly, it was a seasonal cache,” said Fosha, of the Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City.

He suggested that the mauls were kept at the lake’s edge so when the muskrats built their huts, the mauls could be used to break apart the mix­ture of mud and vegeta­tion, then clobber the animals, valuable for their pelts and as protein. “Most caches were located in isolation, pos­sibly so they are not plun­dered,” Fosha said.

Caches could have several functions. Ritual caches were used to store tools to be used in the afterlife or for special ceremonies. Utilization caches included insur­ance, the exchange of loads or seasonal needs.

Another cache in South Dakota is located near Lost Hat on the Missouri River. Two­-hundred bifaces were discovered in the Lost Hat cache.

The stone for those bifaces transported on the river from a site in what is now North Dako­ta.

The North Rhind Butte cache north of the Black Hills was known for years but, after a sand storm, Fosha and others found themselves summoned to the site quickly by landowners.

The wind had scoured the fine grains of sand protecting the artifacts, allowing them to emerge from the ground.

Those arrowheads and scrapers possibly could be dated to the Clovis culture. That would place their age at about 12,000 years.

Kelly Sprecher
Communications & Media Relations