Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota's natural and cultural history.

We are always working on a variety of projects in the archaeology lab. Here are just a few of the interesting artifacts that staff and volunteers have recently encountered from Deapolis Village (32ME5) and Alderin Creek (32ME4). Both sites are in Mercer County near Stanton.

This ice glider is from Deapolis Village. Mandan people lived at this village in the early 1800s. The ice glider is made from a bison rib bone and is decorated with incised marks. Ice gliders are used to play a game of dexterity. (To learn more about ice gliders, check out Archaeology Collections Manager Ashenafi Zena’s blog.) This object was photographed and cataloged in preparation for an upcoming exhibit loan.

An ice glider with many line marks on it and an X

An ice glider from Deapolis Village. SHSND AHP 2000.1.503

These gunflints are also from Deapolis Village and would have been used with flintlock muskets or rifles. The gunflint on the far left looks like it was reused, possibly as a scraper for processing hides. If you look closely, you can see that someone worked (chipped away) part of the edge to shape it. These were photographed by one of our volunteers who is helping us document artifacts from many collections. Artifacts from Deapolis Village were collected in the 1950s.

The left image shows three gunflints that look like rock cubes. The right image shows a closeup of one with red arrows pointing to three of the sides..

Left: Gunflints from Deapolis Village. SHSND AHP 86.226.14578-14580
Right: A close-up of the reused gunflint. The red arrows point to areas where it has been reworked, possibly for use as a scraper for processing hides.

Most of our volunteers are currently helping us repackage artifacts from Alderin Creek. The artifacts were excavated in 1968 as part of a state highway project. We are rehousing the artifacts in preparation for future study—this collection has not yet been completely analyzed.

Alderin Creek is likely either a Hidatsa or Mandan village and was occupied sometime between 1525 and 1600. We have finished rebagging and reboxing most of the bone tools and ornaments, like this bead.

A small, cyllindrical bead made out of bone

A bone bead from Alderin Creek. SHSND AHP 16000 X109 Fill

These two items are wrist guards used by archers to protect their arms.

Two bone wrist guards with lines going across them horizontally. the top one is a rougher texture. The bottome one has holes at the ends of the lines.

Bone wrist guards from Alderin Creek. SHSND AHP 16000 X105 F200 & X104 Fill

Bone awls like this one were used to puncture hides and leather so that thread or sinew could be sewn through the holes to make clothes, shelter (such as tipis), and containers (like parfleche bags). There are many bone awls in this collection that are still quite sharp.

A piece of bone with one end sharpened to a point

One of many sharp bone awls from Alderin Creek. SHSND AHP 16000 X103 F212

This bone fishhook is quite impressive—someone was ready to catch a good-sized fish.

A piece of bone that has been carved into a fishhook

A large bone fishhook from Alderin Creek. SHSND AHP 16000 X114 Fill F132