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Old Wadena dig starts

University of Minnesota student Laura Conger works to clear a hole for survey work during a field study class that began at Old Wadena Park on Monday.1 / 2
Manila Khounchaleun, front, and Gary Hsu help survey the area known as the Little Round Hill.2 / 2

Archaeology students from the University of Minnesota began a field study class at the Little Round Hill in Old Wadena Park on Monday. The area, located where the Partridge River joins the Crow Wing River, is known for the legend of a battle between the Dakota and a group of Ojibwe and fur traders.

Students will learn archaeological excavation techniques, artifact recovery and mapping during their nearly one month stay, said Kat Hayes, assistant professor of anthropology.

"In essence ... they should have learned enough by the end of this field school if they wanted to go to work for a contract archaeology firm they would have the skills to do so," Hayes said. They have already studied previous surveys and learned about the oral history of the area, she said.

The students won't only be learning during their class, they will also share their knowledge during a training day scheduled for June 29.

Adults and young adults are invited to sign up for two sessions from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m. where they will learn the basics of excavation, Hayes said. They will get to do some actual work, too.

"They will get dirty," she said.

Trainees will get a better idea of how actual archaeological field work is done by experiencing it for themselves, Hayes said.

"Not the Indiana Jones version but the slow and steady meticulous version of it," she added.

Those interested in signing up can contact Wadena County Historical Society Board Chairman Richard Paper at (218) 631-2617. The training day is limited to four people per session, he said. If there is enough interest they are considering another training day.

Hopefully, the training day will help people become more interested and supportive of the historical project they're working on, Hayes said. It will also make them more aware of the need to protect archaeological resources.

The archaeological students and educators also hope to learn some things themselves through the experience.

"You ... think a lot differently about the sites by the kinds of questions that the nonprofessional public asks," she said.

In addition to being a scholarly project the field study is being put forth as a public engagement exercise, Hayes said. They are doing research that involves the community.

Hayes is interested in finding out if there was a fur-trading site at the Little Round Hill in the early colonial period.

She did some previous survey work and some geochemical testing with a group of graduate students a few weeks ago, she said.

"We're just getting started," Hayes said about the dig. "Hopefully we'll have something more definitive to say about the place in about a week or so. [We'll] see what we can find in there."