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by Clark A. Dobbs

Table of Contents

A Brief History Of Archaeology In Minnesota:
Alfred Hill, Theodore Lewis, and
the Northwestern Archaeological Survey

Jacob Brower, and Newton Winchell
Archaeology at the University of Minnesota
Post-War Archaeology Outside the University
References Cited


In this brief overview, we review the broad outlines of the history of archaeology in Minnesota and some of the major contributors to the discipline. The contributions of the Northwestern Archaeological Survey and J.V. Brower during the early years of archaeology are reviewed, as are the subsequent roles of A.E. Jenks, Lloyd Wilford, and Elden Johnson in shaping the direction of archaeological inquiry in the state. We conclude with a brief discussion of the current "state of the art." Many individual contributions to the understanding of Minnesota’s archaeology are necessarily excluded from this brief history. This is particularly true for the period after 1970 when the number of archaeologists practicing in Minnesota expanded exponentially. Rather than providing extensive but superficial lists of the names, dates, and institutions important to more recent work in the field, the focus of this treatment is on the broad events and personalities that initially shaped the direction of archaeology in Minnesota. The contributions of my many colleagues in the state are instead reflected in the extensive citations and bibliography that compose the balance of this document. These entries represent the products of almost thirty years of modern archaeology and speak for themselves.



Alfred Hill, Theodore Lewis, and the Northwestern Archaeological Survey

Much of our knowledge of the mounds and earthworks of Minnesota is due to the quiet industry and generous nature of Alfred J. Hill. Not only was Hill's archaeological labor the earliest in the state, but its duration was the longest and its conception and implementation most scientifically rigorous.

Born in London in 1833, Hill was trained as a civil engineer and emigrated to the United States in 1854. He lived first in Red Wing, Minnesota, which contained one of the largest concentrations of mounds and earthworks in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Although the details of Hill's brief residence in Red Wing are unclear, it is probable that his time there sparked his interest in the antiquities of the "Great Northwest."

In 1855, he moved to St. Paul where he worked initially as a draftsman, spending much of his career in the state land office. Hill's skill as a draftsman, his life-long interest in maps and mapping, and his position in the state land office provided him with a unique opportunity to pursue his interests in archaeology. He was in ongoing contact with United States deputy surveyors who were then surveying Minnesota, as well as with other surveyors working in Minnesota and adjacent states, and he was very early in encouraging these surveyors to provide him with information on the location, number, and size of any mounds or other archaeological materials that they encountered during their work.

During the Civil War, Hill served first in the Sixth Minnesota Infantry during the Dakota Conflict and subsequently was ordered to Washington, D.C., where he served in the office of topographical engineers. After the war, Hill joined the Minnesota Historical Society and served as a member of the Committee on Archaeology and subsequently as treasurer.

As a member of the Committee on Archaeology, Hill developed an extensive correspondence and distributed a printed circular calling attention to the mounds and other antiquities throughout the state, and requesting information on them. This circular, in several different versions, was widely distributed over a period of years. The information that he subsequently obtained was carefully organized in a series of large notebooks which formed the basis for at least some of his later investigations.

In the 1870s, the Historical Society discontinued the Committee on Archaeology. Hill was unwilling to see an end to the archaeological research in which he had become deeply interested and he continued his individual studies, liberally interspersed with geographical and historical information. Yet despite his deep commitment to archaeology, Hill never viewed himself as an archaeologist. After a visit to a mound group near St. Paul, he commented that:

This was the last attempt I made to survey or personally note any mounds. The job was too large for much impression to be made by getting only a group at long intervals, as the leisure of an employee only could permit. After this, I told my friends that I was only keeping the place warm until a real archaeologist should turn up. (Hill, unpublished correspondence, Minnesota Historical Society).

In 1880 Hill met Theodore Hayes Lewis and quickly concluded that the "real archaeologist" that he had been waiting for had finally arrived. Although Lewis was almost twenty years younger than Hill, his passion for archaeology was equally intense.

For some years, Hill had been hoping that an extensive survey of the ancient earthworks of Minnesota and adjacent states could be conducted. Funds for such a survey were not available from public sources and obtaining an appropriate person to conduct the survey was even more difficult.

In an unpublished prospectus for the survey (Hill 1881) he observed that:

In carrying the scheme into execution, certain difficulties are presented. A competent surveyor could probably be easily found to work for a moderate compensation and traveling expenses, and would doubtless do the best he knew how, but his operations would be apt to be merely perfunctory and his collected information defective . . . and he would have no special taste or enthusiasm to keep him to the work whenever a fully compensated place in the regular line of his profession should be offered him. To find by inquiry the right man for the right place in this respect, would be a work of much time and trouble, and this paper would not have been written were it not that such a man is now living and procurable. Theodore Hayes Lewis, a young man yet under 30 years of age, has from his boyhood had a special predilection for the subject of American Antiquities . . . a generation has passed since the time when investigations and surveys of the kind here urged should have properly commenced, but they seem to have had few friends and no patrons. Should this opportunity be taken advantage of and a reasonable arrangement be made with Mr. Lewis, the archives of the Minnesota State Historical Society will in future years have much more valuable information to boast of than mere fragmentary knowledge collected by a dilettante of its former archaeological committee - otherwise most probably that will be all.

Funding for the survey did not materialize, but in 1881 Hill and Lewis entered into an agreement whereby Hill would devote up to ten percent of his financial resources toward the survey and Lewis would conduct the field portion of the project (Lewis 1898). Late in 1881, Hill entered into a formal contract with Lewis to begin the Northwestern Archaeological Survey. Shortly thereafter, Lewis made his headquarters at Hill's home at 406 Maria Avenue in St. Paul and for the next fifteen years, the house on Maria Avenue was the center of the most extensive archaeological activity ever privately initiated and supported on the American continent.

The plan for the Survey specified that the study area was to include all of the north-central states insofar as they lay north of the Great Mound of Cahokia opposite St. Louis, Missouri (e.g. Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, and Michigan; as well as the province of Manitoba). Within this broad area, Lewis used the information gathered by Hill during the previous decades, along with his own inquiries, to delineate the areas he would examine during a specific season. Travel was often difficult and was generally restricted to train or foot transportation. During the fifteen years of the Survey, Lewis traveled more than 54,000 miles, more than 10,000 of which be walked (Lewis 1898).

While Lewis conducted the field portion of the Northwestern Archaeological Survey, Hill was the patron of the project and provided funds for Lewis' support, contributing $16,200 over the 15-year period. Apparently, Hill's enthusiasm for the Survey never diminished, and in later years he may have provided money for Lewis to travel in the southern states as well as within the Survey area proper. In all, the Survey painstakingly documented more than 2,000 mound and village sites containing more than 17,000 individual mounds and earthworks. Although some of the results of the Survey were documented in the more than 35 articles published by Lewis in Science, American Anthropologist, and other journals (see Winchell 1911:576-577 for bibliography), the plan of both men was to publish the Survey as a comprehensive study on the mounds and antiquities of the Great Northwest.

Hill died suddenly of typhoid pneumonia in June of 1895, bringing an abrupt end to the Northwestern Archaeological Survey. His death was unexpected and no will could be found to govern the disposition of his rather large estate. Although Lewis protested that Hill had planned to leave funds to complete and publish the Survey, no tangible evidence of this desire surfaced. After a rather lengthy probate process, which included a law suit and a mysterious fiancé who was to have married the elderly Hill, the Ramsey County Probate Court ruled that because Hill had died intestate, all of his estate was to be given to his nearest living relatives, two elderly cousins in Ontario and England.

Another major figure in Minnesota archaeology, Jacob Vrandenburg Brower, recorded some of the details of this unfortunate situation in his journals, particularly his own outrage when it was learned that the heirs would not donate the Survey records to the Historical Society but rather required that they be purchased for several thousand dollars. Although Brower attempted to convince the Society to purchase the Survey records, the funds could not be found and the records were in danger of being shipped off to England where they would have been lost forever. Ultimately, it appears that Brower purchased them himself with the intention of incorporating them with his own records into one master work on the archaeology of Minnesota.

Theodore Lewis continued to publish articles on archaeology between 1895 and 1898 and for several years was a partner in a publishing business in St. Paul. After Brower's death, he left Minnesota and his subsequent whereabouts and ultimate fate remain unknown.

Because the Survey was never published, it has remained largely unknown to scholars outside the Midwest and has been overshadowed by the Smithsonian Institution's landmark publication on the mounds of eastern North America (Thomas 1894). While the tremendous intellectual importance of the Smithsonian's work cannot be understated, the fact remains that while the Smithsonian documented some 5,000 mounds throughout eastern North America, the NWAS recorded more than three times as many, often in far greater detail. However, one of the most valuable aspects of the Survey is that it can be used to reconstruct detailed drawings of sites which have since been damaged or completely destroyed. Theodore Lewis was visiting sites at a time when many of them had never been plowed or had only recently been opened for cultivation. He had an opportunity to see and record them at a time when the world and the land were very different than they are today and in a very real sense, the Northwestern Archaeological Survey records a landscape that has since vanished forever.




Jacob Brower, and Newton Winchell

Jacob V. Brower became interested in Minnesota archaeology in the late 1880s and quickly became an influential figure in the history and archaeology of the state. Brower had moved to Minnesota and enlisted in the First Minnesota Mounted Rangers in 1862. After participating in several battles with Indians during General Henry H. Sibley's campaign in that year, he continued his government service, first as a civilian and then as a seaman with the United States fleet on the lower Mississippi River. Returning to Minnesota after the war, Brower married in 1867 and was elected auditor of Todd County at age 23. For the next twenty years, Brower built a very successful career as an attorney, legislator, and elected official and at various times exercised considerable political power at both the county and state levels.

Brower’s interests in both geographic exploration and archaeology were initially focused outside of Minnesota. He became well known in Kansas for his research on the route of the 1541 Coronado expedition and the location of Quivira, and he was later involved in a survey to locate the ultimate source of the Missouri River in Montana. Brower’s involvement with the Minnesota Historical Society began in 1889 when he became interested in the rumored claim of Captain Willard Glazier to be the actual discoverer of the source of the Mississippi River. Brower’s research and explorations, particularly around Itasca Lake and its basin, effectively discredited this claim and his report was published by the Society as Volume VII of its collections. When the Itasca State Park was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1891, he was appointed as its first commissioner and for the next nine years labored under a variety of difficulties to bring what was only a "park on paper" into reality.

Newton H. Winchell described Brower as "a man of unique and even picturesque personality, and in his makeup included a vast fund of energetic efficiency" (Winchell 1911:xiii). Both aspects of his character are clearly visible in his archaeological investigations. He had been an industrious collector of archaeological specimens, maps, and books for many years prior to his active involvement in Minnesota archaeology. Between 1889 and 1892 he worked in loose collaboration with Hill, but thereafter increasingly went his own way, expanding and testing theories and ideas about the origins of the Mississippi River and about the Indians who had peopled Minnesota.

In December of 1896 a fire in St. Paul destroyed the large collections of archaeological specimens, maps and field books, and library that Brower had amassed. Sadly, the records and collections of others who had loaned material to him were destroyed as well. However, with characteristic energy, Brower started a "New Series" of notebooks and embarked on an ambitious project to publish the results of his years of studies in an eight-volume series entitled Memoirs of explorations in the valley of the Mississippi(Brower 1898-1904). The first two volumes of the series dealt with Kansas and were largely geographic and historical in nature. Volumes 3 - 7, respectively entitled Mille Lac , Kathio, Kakibikansing, and Minnesota, presented the results of Brower’s investigations in Minnesota. The final volume, entitled Mandan , dealt principally with North Dakota and was delivered to the printer shortly after Brower’s death in 1905.

Brower was a forceful and dynamic individual. As Winchell (1911:xiii) observed, "His grasp of individual topics was direct and immediate, often bold and commanding, and his publications were striking, readable, and weighty, although somewhat sketchy." Brower’s work was not as meticulous and detailed as the records maintained by Hill and Lewis, despite its importance in other respects. However, Brower was ahead of his time in perceiving the relationship between archaeology and other disciplines and applying these interrelationships to specific problems.

Like Hill, Brower was intrigued by the relationships between geography, history, and archaeology and attempted to articulate these in his series of publications, using what would later emerge in a somewhat different form as the direct historical approach in archaeology. More to the point, Brower articulated specific questions and problems that he wished to address and pursued them with vigor. For example, the question of the relationship of the Indian groups to the earthen mounds of North America dominated archaeological thought during the last half of the nineteenth century. In Minnesota, Brower translated this broader question into a specific one relating to the mounds and earthworks of the Mille Lacs region of north-central Minnesota. In his volume on Mille Lacs (Brower 1900:133-135) he spells out the problem and his conclusions in some detail:

It is now stated as an ascertained fact that the flint implements and pot shards recovered from explored mounds at Mille Lac, resting in contact with bundled skeletons on the original surface under the mounds explored, are identically the same in every essential particular as the flint implements and pot shards recovered from the adjacent village sites. That ascertained fact concludes an identification of the builders of the mounds as the people who occupied the ancient settlements. Now, to perfect an identification of the ancient villagers, there is only one certain, undeviating, narrow and beaten path to follow: Who were first found there and what were they doing when discovered? What customs and habits and artifacts were observed as characterizing the nations of men who were originally discovered at Mille Lac? History discloses an indisputable answer . . . [Brower here reviews the narratives of Radisson, Duluth, Hennepin, Carver, Catlin, and Franquelin's map in some detail as well as the distribution of sites he has studied and their contents] . . . The ancient M'de Wakan people bundled the bones of their dead, placed them upon the surface of the ground at Mille Lac, and there constructed the mounds which cover them.

Almost a century later, Brower’s initial formulation remains largely unchanged and stands as a tribute to his pioneering work in this region.

As discussed above, in addition to his own work, it is largely because of Jacob V. Brower that the records of the Northwestern Archaeological Survey are still extant and were, at least in part, published in Newton Winchell's Aborigines of Minnesota. Brower’s own death in 1905 prevented the completion of his grand plan and ultimately funds were found to purchase the Survey records from Brower’s estate and to prepare the comprehensive document he envisioned. This massive task fell into the capable hands of Winchell.

Like others of his day, Winchell had a broad-ranging interest in the natural and cultural history of Minnesota. As the first director of the Minnesota Geological Survey (1872 - 1900), he was directly responsible for many pioneering studies of Minnesota's geology and published 24 annual reports that are notable for their length and thoroughness. While Winchell is primarily known to archaeologists as the author of Aborigines, his annual reports are often overlooked and contain a variety of archaeological information on quarries and other matters.

It is unclear precisely how Winchell became involved with the preparation and publication of Aborigines, but his earlier connections with Warren Upham, an executive officer of the Historical Society, undoubtedly played a key role. In any case, Winchell assumed this task with efficiency and in 1911 produced Aborigines of Minnesota, a 761-page volume that remains the most comprehensive published collection of information on the mounds, earthworks, and other early archaeological information from Minnesota, as well as the ethnography of the Ojibwe and Dakota.

Winchell was modest about his own role in the publication of this important volume and states in his preface to the volume:

Mr. Hill's archeological labor in Minnesota stands preeminent . . . his contribution to archeological science will stand always as a monument, aere perennius, to his name, ranking in value and permanence with the names of many others whose labor was better known by their contemporaries and was emblazoned on many printed pages. Mr. Hill plowed the field where Mr. Lewis sowed the seed, the fruit of which Mr. Brower garnered. It is simply the putting of this fruit into the current markets of archeology which has fallen to the writer. (Winchell 1911:ix).

The publication of Aborigines brought to an end an important chapter in the history of Minnesota archaeology. The relatively undisturbed archaeological landscape that Aborigines records was, by 1911, almost gone and the tradition of independent scholarship was giving way to the more formalized tradition of academic archaeology based in colleges and universities. For the next six decades Minnesota archaeology would be driven by this academic model of inquiry, guided primarily by Albert E. Jenks, Lloyd A. Wilford, and Elden Johnson, all of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota.


Archaeology at the University of Minnesota

Born in 1869, Albert E. Jenks was trained in economics and had received a B.S. degree in 1896 from Kalamazoo College, a B.A. degree in 1897 from the University of Chicago, and his graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin. While at Wisconsin, he conducted his dissertation research on the American Indian utilization of wild rice in the Great Lakes region and through this research, he became a self-taught ethnographer. Jenks subsequently published a revised version of his dissertation through the Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington (Jenks 1900) and the contacts Jenks made at the Bureau were to stand him in good stead throughout his career.

Jenks founded the University of Minnesota Department of Anthropology in 1918, when the joint sociology/anthropology department was split into two separate entities (see Johnson 1990, from which much of the following discussion is drawn). The department was initially named "Anthropology and Americanization Training Course," reflecting both the nature of American society at the end of the first World War and Jenks’ own interests (Johnson 1990:16). Many of the first courses were designed to foster the integration of immigrants and Native Americans into mainstream American society and reflected Jenks’ belief that anthropology should provide not only scientific data and theory but must use these to take an active role in social change. However, by 1922, the Americanization emphasis had disappeared. In 1923 Wilson D. Wallis joined the faculty, bringing a broader cross-cultural perspective to the University, and he and Jenks constituted a two-person department until Jenks’ retirement in 1938.

For reasons that remain unclear, Jenks’ career interests shifted to archaeology toward the end of the 1920s. Through his contacts at the Bureau of American Ethnology, he learned of a site in New Mexico that needed excavation and in 1928 took a group of students to the site to begin work. One of these students was Lloyd A. Wilford who served as Jenks’ assistant.

Wilford was 35 at the time and had already worked in several different careers, including teaching at rural public schools, service in the Navy during World War I, employment with the Veterans Bureau, and work as an attorney. He had returned to the University of Minnesota for graduate work in political science and, needing a minor field, had chosen anthropology because he had heard that Jenks was a good lecturer (Johnson 1974:1). His work in 1928 as Jenks’ assistant was the beginning of a career that would transform Minnesota archaeology and last until his retirement 31 years later.

Since neither Jenks nor Wilford had any training in excavation methods, they and their students served a brief apprenticeship under Wesley Bradfield at Cameron Creek, New Mexico, before beginning three years of excavation at the Galaz Site on the Mimbres River (Johnson 1974:1). In the spring of 1930, Jenks and Wilford joined a group from Beloit College under Alonzo Pond and excavated a Capsian site, shell midden number 12 at Ain Beida, in Algeria. The group included a number of Wisconsin students who were later to become professional anthropologists and discussions with some of these individuals, like Lauriston Sharpe and Sol Tax, shaped Wilford’s interest in pursuing professional anthropology as a career.

Jenks' work in archaeology had been supported by gifts from prominent local businessmen and he had received an annual budget of $2,500 per year for his work in New Mexico. However, while in Europe following the Algerian project, Jenks purchased a large paleolithic collection of material, as well as several smaller collections. When his patrons learned that he had used his field research funds to buy artifacts, they were understandably upset and the University Board of Regents promptly prohibited Jenks from soliciting private funds (Johnson 1990:20). While this unfortunate event put an end to Jenks’ international endeavors, it resulted in the formation of a local field research program in archaeology in 1932, supported by a modest research grant from the regents of $600 per year. This research program marks the beginning of serious scientific archaeology in Minnesota and the remaining six years of Jenks’ career were spent conducting excavations in the state, assisted by Wilford (Johnson 1990).

A review of the sites excavated during this six-year period (Johnson 1974:6-7 [Table 1]) reveals that the new field program investigated a wide variety of sites throughout the state, establishing a pattern that would characterize Wilford’s approach to archaeology for the next two decades. Undoubtedly most of these excavations were conceived by Wilford and were used as material for his doctoral dissertation since Jenks’ attention seems to have been focused on a series of human skeletons that appeared to him to be of great antiquity.

The first of these skeletons was discovered by highway construction workers near Pelican Rapids in west-central Minnesota (Johnson 1974:2). Jenks was called to the site and learned that the skeleton appeared to have been found in clays associated with a periglacial lake which was of considerable antiquity. Jenks obtained the skeleton and associated artifacts and subsequently published a monograph describing the find, entitled Pleistocene Man in Minnesota (Jenks 1936). It should be noted that most of the analysis, description, and writing was in reality prepared by Wilford.

A second major discovery of an ancient skeleton was made near Browns Valley in western Minnesota in 1933. Jenks was able to obtain the skeleton and artifacts on loan and his monograph on this find appeared as an American Anthropological Association Memoir in 1937 (Jenks 1937). Again, Wilford was instrumental in preparing the monograph which, because of the associated artifacts now recognized as Late Paleo-Indian (Plano), was particularly significant. In 1938 a brief third study appeared, designed to further Jenks’ view that very ancient humans had lived in Minnesota. For the first time Wilford was listed as a co-author (Jenks and Wilford 1938).

During this period Wilford decided to pursue a career in anthropology and enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Harvard in 1932. After three semesters of residence, he passed his qualifying examinations and began work on his doctoral dissertation which was completed in 1937. Although it was never published, Wilford’s dissertation (Wilford 1937) marked a significant turning point in the study of Minnesota archaeology. Based on materials he had collected during his years as Jenks’ assistant, Wilford prepared archaeological site summaries for Kathio, Howard Lake, Blackduck Lake, Laurel, Round Mound, and the Tudahl Rock Shelter. The dissertation was also one of the earliest attempts to apply the new Midwestern Taxonomic System.

When Jenks retired in 1938, Wilford continued on the University of Minnesota staff with a civil service appointment as an archaeologist assigned to the Department of Anthropology. He began teaching classes in the department during the second World War and was appointed as an associate professor in 1948. Shortly thereafter he was promoted to professor, a rank that he held until his retirement in 1959.

Throughout most of the period from 1938 to 1959, Wilford was the only professional archaeologist working in Minnesota and during this time he followed the pattern of research he had developed during his early work with Jenks. Because he did not have any teaching duties during spring quarter, his annual round began at this time, when he made a scouting trip though the state, making new contacts with landowners, amateur archaeologists, and collectors, checking on the condition of sites (particularly those listed in Winchell), and making arrangements for the excavations he would conduct that summer. After each scouting trip, Wilford had his notes transcribed and these were placed in files organized by county along with correspondence and other information that he collected over the years.

Each summer Wilford took a small group of students out to conduct excavations at the sites he had selected during his spring trip. He was particularly conscious of the environmental diversity in Minnesota and attempted each year to excavate sites in different environmental areas and of different archaeological cultures. Excavation at each site lasted about two weeks and then, after the units were carefully backfilled, Wilford and his students moved on to their next site. The budget for each season was quite small, amounting to $300 per year in the 1930s and subsequently growing to $600 per year at the time of his retirement (Johnson 1974:5). Of necessity, Wilford and his students camped throughout the season, enjoying the fine weather and enduring the rains, bugs, and heat which can also characterize Minnesota. Evenings were spent completing and copying field notes and, when the sky was clear, Wilford would sometimes bring out his star charts and provide the students with elementary astronomy lessons.

After the field season was completed, Wilford spent the fall and winter months carefully cataloging and describing the materials he had excavated. A typed report was then prepared on each site. These reports following a standard format that included the site location, excavation procedures, feature description, artifact analysis, and a brief comparative analysis. Although few of these reports have ever been published, they remain available for study at the University of Minnesota, along with Wilford’s carefully catalogued artifact collections from each site, county notes, and photographic archives.

Wilford viewed culture content and the spatial/temporal relationships between sites and complexes as fundamental to all archaeological research and reporting. His own careful fieldwork reflected this view, as did his detailed descriptions of the materials from each site he studied. In 1954, he articulated his own goals and the theoretical framework within which he worked, observing that the inclusion of detailed description and analysis of site data is a necessary prerequisite to the interpretation of archaeological information. Presenting inferences and interpretations without the data to support them was simply bad science (Wilford 1954; Johnson 1974). These views are reflected in the numerous site reports and manuscripts prepared by Wilford and the smaller number of synthetic professional publications based on the data he gathered over almost three decades.

Although some archaeological complexes have been added and others modified, Wilford’s description and analysis of archaeological cultures still forms the classificatory basis for much of the work conducted in the state. Wilford’s first technical paper appeared in American Antiquity in 1941. This paper (Wilford 1941a), like his dissertation, applied the Midwestern Taxonomic System to Minnesota. In this publication, he defined a number of archaeological complexes within Minnesota including the Oneota, Effigy Mound, Mille Lacs, Headwaters Lakes, Rainy River, Red River, and Southern Minnesota Aspects. A number of foci were also defined and described. These included Orr, Blue Earth and Humphrey for Oneota and Kathio, Howard Lake, Blackduck, Laurel, Arvilla, and Lake Traverse for the Woodland Pattern. A revised classificatory system published toward the end of his career (Wilford 1955) remained much the same, adding the Malmo Focus and deleting the Lake Traverse Aspect.

In the years to come, he published several additional papers in which he refined his initial formulations and added additional archaeological units. In 1945, he described three new Mississippian cultural units - Great Oasis, Cambria, and Silvernale (Wilford 1945a) and in several other papers during this period expanded his definitions of the Mille Lacs Aspect (Wilford 1944), the Headwaters Lakes Aspect (Wilford 1945b), and the McKinstry Mounds of the Rainy River Aspect (Wilford 1952). In addition, he published several shorter papers describing specific sites and artifacts from sites around the state (e.g., Wilford 1941b; 1943).

Wilford’s original papers remain required reading for any serious student of Minnesota archaeology. His formulations are clear and are an original application of the Midwestern Taxonomic System. The absence of absolute dating techniques during most of his career are obvious, and a careful reading reveals some of the weaknesses of the Midwestern Taxonomic System. Nonetheless, the overall chronology and delineation of cultural units provided an important base for the types of problem-oriented approaches that are more common today. This is particularly obvious when one considers that many of the units described by Wilford - particularly Kathio, Blackduck, Laurel, Arvilla, Howard Lake, Blue Earth, and Orr are still of significance in the larger context of both Minnesota and western Great Lakes archaeology.

Wilford retired from the University in 1959 and was succeeded by O. Elden Johnson. Like Wilford, Johnson came to archaeology with a rich and diverse background. He was born in South Dakota, though his mother was from Minnesota. His father worked for the fish and game division of South Dakota and later joined the United States Fish and Wildlife Service where he spent the remainder of his career. After graduating from high school in Albuquerque, Johnson entered the pre-med program at the University of New Mexico. World War II intervened, however, and he joined the United States Army Air Corps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During the war, he flew numerous missions as a P-38 pilot with the First Flight Group in North Africa and Italy. After being discharged in 1945, he came to Minnesota where his father was now regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and he enrolled in the University of Minnesota. A chance course on acculturation taught by Richard Beardsley, a temporary instructor from the University of California/Berkeley, stimulated his interest in anthropology and he graduated in 1948 with a double major in anthropology and zoology (Streiff 1990).

As an undergraduate Johnson had begun working at the St. Paul Science Museum (now the Science Museum of Minnesota) sorting and cataloging a variety of ethnographic specimens. Because of his experience, the Science Museum sent him to Browning, Montana to catalog the Great Northern collection of ethnographic material, reinforcing his interests in cultural anthropology and the Indians of the Great Plains. This experience undoubtedly led to his master’s thesis entitled "Kinship in a contemporary Yanktonai-Dakota Indian Community," completed after four quarters at the University.

In the fall of 1950, Johnson entered Yale for further graduate work. To support himself, he worked first at a local hospital and then for the remainder of his stay at the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) project under George P. Murdock and Chellan Ford. His initial dissertation topic required fieldwork in Chile, but financial support fell through at the last minute and Johnson found himself traveling to Thailand and Cambodia on a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Fellowship, in part a result of his work with the HRAF project. Although his goal was to study the socio-economics of a small market town, illness and the outbreak of the French Indo-China War disrupted his work. After a number of frustrating months in the field, he returned to Minnesota in 1953 where he began to work at the Science Museum and taught a course or two each quarter at the University of Minnesota. In 1955, he was hired as a full-time instructor at the University while remaining a part-time curator at the Science Museum. During the 1958-1959 term, he accepted the position of Director of the Science Museum on a part-time basis. Johnson found that constant fund-raising was not to his liking and he returned to the University as an Associate Professor.

Although Johnson’s primary interests had been cultural anthropology, he had taken a few archaeology courses at the University, where he had participated in Wilford's 1948 field school, and at Yale with Irving Rouse and Wendell Bennett. During his time in southeast Asia, he spent part of his time, when unable to enter his study area, looking for artifacts along local rivers, thus laying the groundwork for a life-long interest in the archaeology of Asia. After his return to Minnesota, he became more deeply involved in archaeology and as his first major project, directed a two-year study by the Science Museum of the archaeology and ethnography of Spring Lake Park south of St. Paul on the Mississippi River. During this project, which began in 1954, he examined the Lee Mill Cave, Sorg, Schilling, Hamm, Renelius, and Bremer sites, a complex which had until then been poorly known (Johnson 1959). From 1953 until 1959, he also worked on Wilford’s projects and excavated with him at sites throughout the state, including Barton, Gillingham, Roseau River, Nett Lake, and the Christenson Mound. During Wilford’s last field season, they also excavated at the Franz site and in Roberts County, North Dakota. After Wilford retired, Johnson assumed his teaching schedule and curatorial responsibilities for the University archaeology laboratory.

During the next decade Johnson dramatically expanded the archaeology program at the University and, as was happening in many parts of the country, shifted its emphasis to a problem-oriented and regional focus. His own training in ethnography was particularly apparent in the emphasis on ethnohistory that he brought to archaeology. Further, he recognized the importance of inter-disciplinary and environmental studies in archaeology and developed links with the strong glacial geology and paleo-ecology programs at the University guided by H.E. Wright, Jr. This interdisciplinary approach is apparent in the work of many of Johnson’s graduate students of this period (cf. Shay 1971) and other projects that he developed, particularly several involving the fluctuation and movement of the prairie-forest border in northern Minnesota. The series of papers in the memorial volume for Lloyd Wilford (Johnson, ed. 1974) clearly demonstrate the breadth and depth of interests that Johnson fostered in his students during this period.

One of the first tasks Johnson began was to expand Wilford’s strategy of regional spot excavation into statewide regional surveys. His initial surveys in the Red River Valley and northwestern Minnesota were funded by the National Science Foundation, and additional regional work, beginning in 1960, was funded by the Minnesota Resources Commission (MRC). Much of the seminal work conducted during the 1960s was funded by MRC and a thoughtful plan for working with the state’s archaeological resources was developed. Unfortunately, because of various political and institutional developments, this funding source was short-lived.

Perhaps the survey that had the most lasting effect on Johnson’s career was Leland Cooper’s test excavations in the Mille Lacs area. Although Wilford and Will McKern had identified the Kathio-Clam River foci as protohistoric Dakota, Johnson doubted this relationship and sent Cooper (who had worked with him on the Spring Lake Park project) to test the Cooper, Sawmill, and Petaga sites along the Rum River outlet of Mille Lacs Lake. Cooper discovered a wealth and complexity of material that prompted Johnson to initiate a long-term research project in the Mille Lacs area which lasted until 1976. Excavations were concentrated on the Cooper, Wilford, and Petaga sites but many other smaller sites in the area were excavated or tested to provide an in-depth investigation of changing lifeways of ancient Indian people in one specific area of the state. Theses, monographs, and papers based on these excavations appeared regularly for two decades (Streiff 1990).

In 1963, Johnson was instrumental in the passage of the Minnesota Field Archaeology Act, which replaced a 1939 statute devoted to prehistoric archaeological sites. This earlier law was the result of efforts by Lloyd Wilford and the Rev. Henry Retzek, who had discovered the Sauk Valley skeleton. It prohibited excavations without a permit, named the Minnesota Department of Conservation as administrator, and required that a professional archaeologist employed by the University of Minnesota be given the responsibility of certifying applications for excavation. Although funds were never appropriated and enforcement was spotty at best, the law provided some measure of protection for sites. The new Field Archaeology Act specifically designated a state archaeologist in the University and shifted administrative responsibility to the Minnesota Historical Society. Johnson was appointed Minnesota’s first State Archaeologist and served in that (unpaid) capacity until 1979. Unfortunately, the 1963 act did not appropriate funds for the position, a fact which has continued to create numerous difficulties.

As State Archaeologist, Johnson was instrumental in developing several other critical aspects of archaeology in Minnesota. He strongly believed in publication of professional results and, in cooperation with the Minnesota Historical Society, began the Minnesota Prehistoric Archaeology Series, which served as an outlet for a number of key reports and publications including several based on Wilford’s earlier work. Firmly committed to public involvement and education, he prepared two editions of the popular Prehistoric Peoples of Minnesota, as well as developing a series of public programs both at the University and later at the Institute for Minnesota Archaeology. He also felt it was essential to involve the living descendants of those native Americans whose remains archaeologists were investigating. He was one of three anthropologists to meet with Native Americans to discuss the management of archaeological resources at the important Airlie House seminar in the early 1970s, and he remained active with this issue throughout his career. Finally, Johnson believed that professional communication and interaction were essential components of research and founded the Council for Minnesota Archaeology to promote and facilitate communication among professionals working in the state.

In 1972, Elden Johnson became Chair of the Anthropology Department and served in this position from 1972 to 1975 and again from 1977 to 1984. As Chair, he continued his efforts to strengthen archaeology in the department, with Janet Spector and Guy E. Gibbon joining the faculty and providing expertise in ethnohistory/historic archaeology and midwestern prehistoric archaeology respectively. Spector focused most of her interest on ethnohistory and the Dakota. Gibbon’s wide-ranging interests contributed significantly to the department, as did his subsequent (and current) leadership of the Inter-disciplinary Archaeological Studies program.

During the mid-1970s, Johnson recognized the emerging importance of cultural resource management and began to devote an increasing amount of effort to compliance surveys with his students, most notably in the Headwaters Lakes area, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and on Prairie Island near Red Wing. He also instituted course work in cultural resource management and developed opportunities for many of his students in this field as well as in more traditional academic careers. When Johnson retired from the University in 1987, he immediately accepted the position of Executive Director of the Institute for Minnesota Archaeology, on whose Board he had served since 1982. He guided the Institute through a critical period of its development, at the same time continuing his own research and expanding public education programs. He stepped down from this position in 1991, a year before his untimely death.




Post-War Archaeology Outside the University

While Johnson was developing prehistoric archaeology at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society began expanding its efforts in historic archaeology. Four distinct areas of activity emerged during the 1960s and 1970s: underwater archaeology, excavations at Fort Snelling, historic sites archaeology, and the Statewide Archaeological Survey. In addition, the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office was established at the Society, and it developed a large contracting program for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources.

The development of underwater archaeology at the Society was largely due to the efforts of Robert C. Wheeler. Wheeler had been hired at the Society for the 1958 centennial of statehood and, while not an archaeologist, was a diver and strong proponent of taking archaeology to the public. In due course, Wheeler met Dr. Edward W. Davis whose professional work with taconite had taken him throughout northeastern Minnesota. Davis discussed with Wheeler his emerging ideas about the potential for finding fur trade era artifacts at rapids or portages where trade canoes had been upset or lost, and the underwater archaeology program at the Society was born. Diving expeditions to several rapids in northeastern Minnesota were undertaken in 1960 and 1961 with spectacular results, including nested trade kettles, trade gun parts, and a plethora of other materials. In 1963, the First International Underwater Archaeological Conference was held in St. Paul, initiating a new field in archaeological research in North America. With support from various sources including the Hill Foundation of St. Paul and the National Geographic Society, and working jointly with the Royal Ontario Museum, Wheeler continued the underwater program, exploring numerous sites and portages in the northeastern part of the state and along the Canadian border in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The program ended in 1976, but its results have been documented in several volumes including Holmquist and Wheeler (1964); Wheeler, et. al. (1975), and Birk (1975).

A second major project at the Society was the extensive excavations at historic Fort Snelling. Site of the first permanent United States military establishment in the Upper Mississippi Valley, the fort had been founded in 1819 on a high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Many of its original structures from the early nineteenth century were still intact within the larger modern military reservation.

Highway and airport expansion as well as construction of new buildings at the modern fort began to threaten the original historic structures early in the 1960s. The Society began a campaign to save and preserve the fort, and to demonstrate that there were significant nineteenth century deposits still present, began modest archaeological investigations. These excavations were subsequently expanded and continued until 1980. During this time, excavation at the fort included studies of the barracks, stables, the sutler’s store, midden deposits outside the fort walls, the Round Tower, and other areas. The results of these investigations have been used in the living history programs developed at the Fort and in its reconstructions, but have not been published in any detail.

The growing national interest in history and historic sites during the 1960s led the State of Minnesota to evaluate and expand the State's role in historic site preservation and interpretation, and the Minnesota Historical Society was charged with this responsibility. A corollary to this effort was increased archaeology at different historic sites, and various smaller projects were conducted during the late 1960s and 1970s at a variety of sites including Fort Renville, Sayer’s Post (presently called the Northwest Company Post), and others. Ongoing investigations at Grand Portage National Monument, the origins of which dated to 1936, were conducted by Alan R. Woolworth as time was available from 1961 to 1975.

A final major effort during this period was the Statewide Archaeological Survey. Funded by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1977 and again in 1979, the survey was housed in the State Historic Preservation Office and was designed to meet four specific goals. These were: (a) to formulate models that predict the distribution of archaeological sites throughout the state; (b) to locate additional archaeological sites; (c) to update as necessary the files of the State Archaeologist (a list of currently known archaeological sites); and (d) to design and implement an archaeological site data bank that is compatible with, and takes full advantage of, the Minnesota Land Management Information System (MLMIS).

During the four years of the survey’s existence, its archaeologists developed predictive models that described the distribution of archaeological sites in Minnesota, based on 11 major surveys they conducted in all or parts of 21 counties. These surveys employed statistical methods to collect accurate, objective, and representative data about the distribution of prehistoric archaeological sites. They also located more than 900 previously unreported prehistoric archaeological sites; reviewed the State Archaeologist’s site files and field-checked sites for which records were outdated or inadequate; and created an archaeological database for MLMIS. Survey archaeologists also created a series of important recommendations designed to guide future archaeological survey and planning in the state (MHS 1981).

The survey provided a significant and important base of data about the distribution of prehistoric sites in the state. Although a very useful summary of the survey results was prepared, the complete survey was never published and many of its excellent recommendations were not implemented. The computerized site database was never fully implemented and fell into disuse.

The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was formed not long after the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and was housed at the Society. Like most other SHPOs in the country, its beginnings were modest but it has since expanded and today administers the joint state-federal preservation program, the National Register of Historic Places, and other activities.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation began its involvement in archaeological programs with a simple request to district engineers in 1951 that they report archaeological sites encountered during road construction. In 1968, the Department of Transportation established a program to conduct surveys of all proposed state and interstate trunk highway construction. In 1975, a similar program was initiated for federally assisted construction on county and municipal state aid highways. These surveys and other contract services were conducted for the Department by the Minnesota Historical Society until 1994. The Society continues to provide similar contract services for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Although the major archaeological efforts during the 1960s and 1970s were housed at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society, a number of other programs were initiated during this period. Archaeology faculty and programs developed at Hamline University quite early, and similar programs were initiated at several state universities, including Moorhead State, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, and Mankato State. The contributions of these various programs are identified throughout the following overview of Minnesota archaeology.

George R. Rapp began the Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Minnesota/Duluth to investigate and provide a number of quantitative "hard science" services to archaeology, including trace-element analysis, phytolith and macro-botanical studies, and geoarchaeology. This program has participated in a number of significant projects overseas and has also been involved in the archaeology of northeastern Minnesota, as well as cooperating with the Superior National Forest program. The laboratory is also a key part of the Center for Ancient Studies (now Interdisciplinary Archaeological Studies) which was formed at the University of Minnesota to promote and facilitate the training of students in multi-disciplinary archaeological efforts.

The Science Museum of Minnesota also expanded its involvement in archaeology during this decade, beginning with G. Joseph Hudak in 1972 and his successor Orrin Shane, who became Curator of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1978. Both individuals reinvigorated the Science Museum’s activities in Minnesota archaeology, as well as expanding its programming and exhibits in anthropology.

Because of expanding federal requirements to deal with cultural resources, a number of federal agencies hired archaeologists and began archaeological programs. The St. Paul District Corps of Engineers, United States Fish and Wildlife, and several others added archaeologists and historians to their staff and began contracting out a number of compliance projects. The Superior and Chippewa National Forests, covering much of northern Minnesota, developed archaeological programs in the mid-1970s and have been active in public programming and archaeology on forest lands.

At the beginning of the 1980s, there were several significant changes in the archaeological landscape. The recession and a major state budget crisis of 1981 caused severe difficulties for many public institutions and required significant program reductions. The Historical Society effectively eliminated its archaeology program, although continuing the State Historic Preservation Office and contract efforts for Minnesota Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources. Downsizing and budget cuts began at the University which, combined with an increasingly indifferent intellectual climate in the Department of Anthropology, toward state archaeology, diffused many of the gains of earlier decades. Other state institutions and universities also felt the effects of decreasing financial resources.

One response to these difficult times was the creation of the non-profit Institute for Minnesota Archaeology (IMA). Founded in 1982 by Doug Birk, Clark Dobbs, Ted Lofstrom, and Tom Trow, the Institute established an ambitious three-part mission that included long-term research programs, public education, and stewardship of the archaeological record. Another important, albeit unstated, goal was the creation of an organization where archaeology would be the only priority. The IMA had several immediate successes, including the purchase and preservation of an undisturbed French wintering post near Little Falls, the initiation of long-term research programs at Little Falls and Red Wing, and the implementation of other thematic research projects including the French presence in Minnesota and the application of geophysical tools to archaeological investigation. During the following 14 years, IMA would become instrumental in the preservation of several other major archaeological properties and initiate a number of public education projects under the leadership of Elden Johnson and others.

Another important development was the establishment of the Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program at the Leech Lake Chippewa Reservation in northern Minnesota. This program actively involved tribal members in a variety of archaeological activities and pursued research within the reservation, the Chippewa National Forest, and elsewhere in northern Minnesota.

A third development was the increasing dominance of contract archaeology or cultural resource management. Although several private firms had been formed during the early and mid-1970s to conduct such work, the majority had been conducted through a few existing institutions with archaeology or history programs. The situation began to change during the 1980s, as more private firms were founded to conduct this type of consulting work for private and governmental clients. This development led to tensions between all of the players in the cultural resources field as traditional roles and assumptions about how archaeology was funded and conducted began to be questioned.

At this writing, halfway through the 1990s, the trends discussed above have continued to accelerate. Funding for research archaeology has become exceptionally difficult to obtain. Academic programs in the state continue to struggle under financial constraints, while tuition and costs for students rise faster than the rate of inflation. These reduced resources stand in stark contrast to the resources available for contract work and companies specializing in contract archaeology, whether as independent firms or divisions within larger engineering companies. Such firms have increasingly come to dominate the archaeological profession. As with any business, the ultimate concern of such firms is "the bottom line," and archaeological investigations are largely site and project specific with little time or leisure available for more thoughtful or expanded treatment of the materials under consideration. Quality control is variable and, while individual archaeologists may have long-term commitments to specific interests, these cannot be supported in a meaningful way by most firms.

The precarious and potentially ephemeral nature of this situation has been clearly demonstrated in 1995 and 1996, as the network of laws and regulations requiring cultural resource work have episodically come under attack. At least some archaeologists (both in the private and public sectors) are beginning to question whether cultural resource management is truly living up to its potential. More ominously, some public agency personnel who have now been exposed to the archaeological profession for more than 20 years are beginning to ask the same questions. For better or for worse, one suspects that Minnesota archaeology is approaching another watershed in its history, much like those following the publication of Aborigines of Minnesota and the retirement of Lloyd Wilford. Only time will tell how the contributions of the current generation of archaeologists compare with the work of those who have gone before them during the last 140 years.




References Cited

Birk, D.A.

1975 Recent Underwater Recoveries at Fort Charlotte, Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration.

Brower, J.V.

1894-1904 Memoirs of Exploration in the Basin of the Mississippi. 8 vols. H.L. Collins Co., St. Paul.

Hill, Alfred J.

1881 Proposal for a Survey of the Ancient Earthworks of Minnesota. Ms. on file, Alfred J. Hill Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Holmquist, J.D. and A.H. Wheeler, eds.

1964 Diving into the Past: Theories, Techniques and Applications of Underwater Archaeology. Minnesota Historical Society and Council of Underwater Archaeology, St. Paul.

Jenks, A.E.

1900 The Wild Rice Gatherers of the Upper Lakes: A Study in American Primitive Economics. 19th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for the Years 1897-1898, pp. 1013-1137. Washington, D.C.

1936 Pleistocene Man in Minnesota: a Fossil Homo Sapiens. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

1937 Minnesota's Browns Valley Man and Associated Burial Artifacts. American Anthropological Association Memoirs No. 49.


Jenks, A.E. and L.A. Wilford

1938 Sauk Valley Skeleton. Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society Bulletin. 10:136-168.

Johnson, E.

1959 Spring Lake Archaeology: The Sorg Site. Science Bulletin 3-3, St. Paul Science Museum.

1974 Lloyd A. Wilford and Minnesota Archaeology. In Aspects of Upper Great Lakes Anthropology, edited by E. Johnson, pp 1 - 7. Minnesota Prehistoric Archaeology Series No. 11, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

1990 Minnesota Anthropology to 1948. In Culture and the Anthropological Tradition: Essays in Honor of Robert F. Spencer, edited by R.H. Winthrop, pp. 15-22. University Press of America, New York.

Leverett, F.

1932 Quaternary Geology of Minnesota and Parts of Adjacent States. United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 161.

Lewis, T. H.

1898 The Northwestern Archaeological Survey. Published by author. St. Paul.

Minnesota Historical Society

1981 Minnesota Statewide Archaeological Survey Summary 1977 - 1980. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Shay, C.T.

1971 The Itasca Bison Kill Site: an Ecological Analysis. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Streiff, J.E.

1990 Biography of Elden Johnson. In The Woodland Tradition in the Western Great Lakes: Papers Presented to Elden Johnson, edited by G.E. Gibbon. Dept. of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Thomas, Cyrus

1894 Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology. Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, pp. 1-742. Washington, D.C.

Wheeler, R.C. et. al.

1975 Voices from the Rapids: An Underwater Search for Fur Trade Artifacts 1960 - 1973. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Wilford, L. A.

1937 Minnesota Archaeology with Special Reference to the Mound Area. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge.

1941a Report on Cambria Village Excavation, 1941. Ms. on file, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

1941b A Tentative Classification of the Prehistoric Cultures of Minnesota. American Antiquity 6-3.

1943 The Osufsen Mound. Ms. on file, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

1944 The Prehistoric Indians of Minnesota: The Mille Lacs Aspect, Minnesota History 25:329-341.

1945a The Prehistoric Indians of Minnesota: The Headwaters Lake Aspect. Minnesota History, 26:312-329.

1945b Three Villages of the Mississippian Pattern in Minnesota. American Antiquity 11-1.

1952 The McKinstry Mounds of the Rainy River Aspect. The Minnesota Archaeologist, 18(2):10-14.

1954 Archaeological Method in the Eastern United States. In Method and Perspective in Anthropology, edited by R.H. Spencer, pp. 171 - 191. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

1955 A Revised Classification of the Prehistoric Cultures of Minnesota. American Antiquity 21-2:130-142.

Winchell, N.H.

1911 The Aborigines of Minnesota. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.



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