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.

A variety of things are always happening in North Dakota’s archaeology collections. Here are just three highlights from the past few months.

In November, I went with several other staff to help deinstall the Scattered Village display at the Mandan Public Library. Scattered Village (32MO31) was a Mandan village. Part of the current city of Mandan is now located on top of this archaeological site. Some of the village was excavated during street work in the 1990s, and the artifacts on display are from that project. The ceramics are a lot of fun to look at up close. For instance, there is an animal effigy on this large pot fragment.

A dark brown piece of broken pottery with horizontal lines at the top and angled lines throughout the rest of it.

A reconstructed straight rim pot with an animal effigy from Scattered Village (32MO31). SHSND AHP 99.10.V9.302.2740

This vessel fragment below is elaborately decorated—you can see the marks from the paddle used to shape the vessel on the lower part, while the top part is decorated with cord-and-tool impressions.

A dark brown piece of broken pottery with thin horizontal lines surrounding thicker vertical lines at the top

A reconstructed Knife River ware rim with cord-and-tool impressions from Scattered Village (32MO31). SHSND AHP 99.10.V2.278.2935

I also can’t help but like the tiny face on this rim sherd pictured below.

A close up of the top of a piece of broken pottery. It is dark brown with angled lines and a face.

Detail of a face-like effigy on a Le Beau ware rim from Scattered Village (32MO31). SHSND AHP 99.10.V6.256.2932

Another highlight was a donation of Paleoindian projectile points from a site in McLean County (32ML1350). The points in this collection are around 9,000 years old. They are very finely made, and the edges are still rather sharp. This kind of point is called an Eden point; it is made from Knife River flint.

An amber and brown colored projectile point

An Eden projectile point, made of Knife River flint, from 32ML1350. SHSND AHP 2020A.3.47

This Eden point, below, is made from porcellanite.

A tan colored projectile point with a dark brown section spanning the width of it in the upper middle portion

A porcellanite Eden projectile point from the McLean County site (32ML1350). SHSND AHP 2020A.3.44

This is a Scottsbluff projectile point. It is also made from Knife River flint.

A dark brown projectile point that looks quite short

A Scottsbluff projectile point made of Knife River flint from 32ML1350. SHSND AHP 2020A.3.41

Another fascinating donation came from southeastern North Dakota. We were excited to receive it since we don’t have many collections from that part of the state. It includes several large trays of projectile points, drills, and other objects.

A dark gray drill made out of stone and a tanish colored point that looks similar to a long tooth

This copper point and stone drill are from southeastern North Dakota. SHSND AHP Maercklein Collection

Many of the points, including the one above, are from the Archaic period, which lasted from approximately 5500 B.C. to 400 B.C.

Six projectile points are lined up in a row. The first three are similar in height with the next two being taller and the last one shorter. The colors in order of the points are gray, tan, tan, tan and gray, tan and gray, and gray.

Here are a few of the many projectile points from this donation. We so appreciate the generosity of these donors. SHSND AHP Maercklein Collection