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Digging up clues to the past

Photo by Brian Hansel University of Minnesota archaeology graduate students Jammi Ladwig, left, and Amelie Allard will be will be giving tours and demonstrating the type of work they do June 29-30 at the Little Round Hill site in Old Wadena Park.

Jammi Ladwig and Amelie Allard are detectives hoping to gain insights into a world four centuries in the past.

The University of Minnesota archaeology graduate students are part of a team on site at Little Round Hill in the Old Wadena Park. Located on the Crow Wing River 15 miles east of the 21st Century Wadena, the park is on the site of the original community of Wadena.

Ladwig and Allard will be taking kids of all ages and accompanying adults on two tours of the dig site Wednesday, June 29.

The first tour will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the second one scheduled at 1:30 p.m. The tours will leave from the parking lot at Old Wadena Park and artifacts from the site will be on display.

According to a mid-19th Century account given by an Ojibwa brave, around 1783 a band of 200 Dakota warriors were decoyed into attacking the fort or settlement that became the original Wadena by the Ojibwa, who inhabited the country around the spot. The trick worked as the Dakota vented their anger and their arrows against trappers and traders armed with rifles and then retreated.

The settlement was a busy place at the time and a jumping off spot for passage down the Partridge and Leaf Rivers to Otter Tail Lake and the Otter Tail River. Later, ox carts were used to transport goods through Old Wadena. When the railroad came through central Minnesota in the 19th Century the original settlement of Wadena was moved from the Crow Wing to its present site.

Thursday, June 30 a training day for students interested in digging alongside of the archaeologists at the Little Round Hill site will be held. The first session starts at 8:30 a.m. with the second one slated for 1:30 p.m. The training will be for those 15 years old and up.

Pre-event reservations are necessary for the program. Call Rich Paper (218) 631-2617 for details.

The archaeologists will be demonstrating "total stations," which they use in setting up a grid for their digging. The object is not just to find artifacts but to determine their context in recreating the entire scene.

"Context is everything," Ladwig said.

It is in the summer months that archaeology students visit most of the dig sites. Soil samples and artifacts are often taken down to the University of Minnesota for testing.

It is not what is on the surface that counts most to archaeologists. These scientific digs are usually conducted only 50 centimeters (1.5 feet) under the surface in Minnesota according to Allard. The passage of time covers the clues that Ladwig, Allard and their team are hunting.

Visits to dig sites are excellent ways to spark an interest in archaeology and youth that Allard has worked with show a genuine curiosity about them.

"They are usually pretty interested and they ask pretty smart questions," Allard said.

The events are being sponsored by the Wadena Historical Society and the Old Wadena Society.