In the News: 'Archeologist to be on PBS TV Show'

The following Q&A with Dr. Adrien Hannus, professor of Anthropology and director of the Archeology Laboratory at Augustana College, appeared in the Friday, June 15, edition of the Argus Leader:

Archeologist to be on PBS TV Show
By Cody Winchester

Adrien Hannus, professor of anthropology at Augustana College and director of the school’s archeology lab, is a busy man. Hannus is part of a team contracted to do an archaeological survey of the Blood Run Nature Area southeast of Sioux Falls — soon to be state park, if all goes well — for artifacts of the Oneota culture dating back as far as 6500 B.C. He’ll also be appearing on an upcoming season of the Public Broadcasting show “Time Team,” a sort of deadline-science reality program.

We caught up with Hannus after a recent survey trip to Blood Run.

Q. What are you finding at Blood Run?

A. We’re doing a pedestrian survey, where we walk the landscape. We’re able to see the surfaces — that’s one level of survey — and we’re also doing shovel tests in areas of deeper vegetation.

The intent is to do a fairly complete survey of the 500-plus acres so they can figure that into their planning scheme. Trails and various facilities will be developed out there, and they’ll need to avoid any area where there might be an impact to archaeological material, or at least determine what the material is. This is a preliminary study to get a basic data set in place so they know what to expect.

Dr. Adrien HannusQ. What are you looking for, exactly?

A. Evidence of past living surfaces, where the people were either camped or had part of their village. So we’re looking for flaked stone that would show us toolmaking, ceramic, parts of prehistoric pottery, bone and so on — things that would indicate human activity out there in the past.

Q. And it’s just laying there on the surface?

A. In plowed fields, it gets churned up over time. In the other case, when we’re doing our test holes, we dig through the upper soil zones, just short of a meter.

We’re looking on the ridges, the areas where there may be some overlooks eventually developed.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re getting what you’d expect to get. It’s part of the whole site complex, so we’re getting flaked stone — we haven’t gotten any ceramic material yet, but we’re getting quite a few areas in the fields showing us where people were working, making stone tools. We’re done with the initial survey of the agricultural land.

Now we’ve got a couple hundred of acres to test with below-ground shovel tests, and that’s a slower process.

Q. Once you get this material, what are you doing with it?

A. Unless we find something extraordinarily indicative of past occupancy, we’re recording it, photographing it and reburying it.

Q. You are involved with a show on PBS?

A. Yes, I’m leaving for Oklahoma to film one of the series of the “Time Team America” program.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the show?

A. It’s sort of a reality archeology program, modeled after a show that’s now in its 19th year in Britain. The idea is that a group of archeologists have three days to examine a site and try to make determinations about what was happening at that site.

In the case of the Oklahoma site, it’s of the Folsom period, about 11,000 years ago. In some ancient arroyos, people were trapping bison and killing them: They’d drive a small herd of bison up one of those arroyos, and when they got to the back of the box-end, the hunters above would spear them and then butcher them. It’s a kill site. There aren’t very many of these in North America because they’re quite ancient — they’re some of the earliest sites we have.

This is going to be a pretty deep excavation — probably around nine or 10 feet, maybe even a little deeper — so we’re going to use backhoes to strip off the upper material and get down near the bone bed. There’s a field school of students working on the site, so when we finish our several days of filming, they’ll continue the work.