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Red Wing Locality








The Burnside School Site         
Site Number(s):   21GD159, 21GD33  
County:   Goodhue, MN  
City Township:   Red Wing  
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The Burnside School site consists of a small village with several adjoining mounds. It is near Spring Creek, where several mound groups were discovered in the 19th century. Although the mounds surrounding the Burnside School site were mapped by T.H. Lewis in 1885, the village area remained unknown until the 1980s, when the village and mound sites were mapped during an Institute for Minnesota Archaeology (IMA) survey.

During the 1995 summer field season, the IMA conducted an archaeological field school at the Burnside School site. The site was chosen for the field school for two reasons: (1) the area of the Spring Creek Valley was expected to undergo considerable development in the near future and (2) while much is known about the larger Mississippian and Oneota sites that occur on the terraces overlooking the Cannon and Mississippi Valleys, very little is known about the smaller outlying sites on the streams in the area.


Excavation in 1995
Excavations at 21GD159 in 1995.

Excavation of the Burnside School site would provide a practical education for future archaeologists while, at the same time, revealing valuable data about the site in order to possibly better understand the local cultural traditions.


As part of the field school, students learned how to excavate a unit and to analyze artifacts. The students conducted a small excavation at the Burnside School site and discovered several food storage pits and a large midden (refuse pile). Soil samples detected possible features underground. These types of features are recognized by unnatural changes, caused by disturbance, in the color of the soil.

Working  at the Burnside School Site
Excavation at the Burnside School site. Field school students trowel the unit to ensure the floor is level and the depth of the unit is equal on all sides.

Excavation photo
Excavations at 21GD159 in 1995. These excavations were part of a field school for instructing interested students in archaeological method and theory.

Maps and notes in the field
Maps and notes are recorded in the field.


Excavation unit at the Burnside School Site
Excavation unit at the Burnside School site.

Ceramic sherds, lithic tools and materials, and a bison scapula hoe were recovered from the site. Analysis of the materials has shown that the ceramics closely resemble Oneota ceramics from the Bartron site on Prairie Island, and from sites in the Blue Earth River valley in south-central Minnesota, like the Vosburg site (21FA0002).


Artifact analysis continued after the end of the field school. Preliminary ethnobotanical analysis of the plant remains from the Burnside School site indicates that the inhabitants were growing corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. Additional plant remains include sunflower, marsh elder, and wild plum.


Artifacts excavated at the Burnside School site suggest the area was a small outlying village, possibly relating to the much larger Bryan site to the north. Archaeologists believe that the Burnside School site was occupied around 1300 CE, slightly later than the main occupations of the larger villages in the Red Wing Locality.

Ceramics from the Burnside School Site
Oneota pottery sherd from the Burnside Site.



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Updated 30 June 1999