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Newsmakers: Students Dig Up History in Mitchell

The following story aired on KELO-TV on Wednesday, July 10:

British Students Dig Up History In Mitchell
By Sammi Bjelland

MITCHELL, SD - For the tenth year now, a group of archaeology students have traveled all the way from England to Mitchell, South Dakota. They're working alongside local experts, to unearth some prehistoric treasures.

Mitchell might be best known for the Corn Palace, but it's what's happening under the soil that's getting international attention.

"It's been amazing to dig here for an entire 10 years. It's such a wonderful facility, and as we are getting down in the levels a bit more we're getting much more exciting finds," Alan Outram, PhD., head of Archaeology at University of Exeter, said.

The Prehistoric Indian Village is South Dakota's only public dig site. And for the past decade, they've opened their grounds to a group of students from the University of Exeter in England.

"It's really interesting. We learn about pottery styles, and in terms of the pit we just dug there's been loads of small bone fragments so we're learning about grease rendering. And the fact that they were using the grease and the fat from the bones. So we're learning things about the sort of the culture in that way. Probably not a modern sort of activity," Exeter student, Sarah Hagger said.

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"It's a whole feature where they were bashing bones up into tiny little pieces and then boiling them up to get the fat out. And it's all there as if they just walked away from it," Outram said.

Students from Augustana College have also been taking advantage of this collaboration. Each year students are sent to England to dig sites with Exeter on their home turf.

"Looking at the sites in England and through Europe, and then they get a chance to look at the sites out here on the Northern plains and can see very clearly that human adaptations where ever you were in the world were very similar," Adrien Hannus, chief archaeologist at Augustana College said.

While they've already made some exciting discoveries and published papers on their finds, there is still more to uncover in the Mitchell dirt.

"There's an awful lot more of the site to go yet. There's several more meters of pure archeological deposit. So it will last us many more decades," Outram said.

The Exeter students will be exploring more of South Dakota when they head out West soon to see the Black Hills.