Wisconsin Children Try Out Archaeology

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Indian Agency House
There are a lot of "eureka" moments in a simulated archaeological dig during the Historic Indian Agency House's archaeology camp. Isaac Severson, 11, of Rio, and Madison Hinton, 11, of Oxford, happen upon some shards that could be significant artifacts. (Photo: Portage Daily Register)

Last week a small group of Portage, Wisconsin children received hands-on experience on what it’s like to conduct archaeological research and the importance of recording details during excavation.

12 youngsters, all going into sixth or seventh grade in the fall, won the opportunity to be part of this camp by writing an essay title “Why Archaeology is Important”. The simulated dig-site took place at the Historic Indian Agency House. Desinee Udelhoven, exectutive director of the House said that they set up a raised bed of dirt where she and Stieve, the camp’s leader and mentor, hid 1830’s artifacts from the Ho-Chunk people when Indian Sub-agent John Kinzie and his wife Juliette lived and worked in the house, from Fort Winnebago, and from the modern era.

The campers worked in pairs and were assigned a one-meter square of dirt where they were instructed to record the depth of each level as they dug, and to retain the soil in buckets so they can sift through it later.

Ryan Suchow, 12, of Pardeeville, rattled off just some of the things that the students had found in the dirt.

“We’ve got buttons, pottery, arrowheads, dolls…”

“Magnets,” chimed in Lydia Tomlinson of Pardeeville, who was working with Ryan at the “wash” area, writing down what was found, and where.

Ryan said that as of late Thursday morning the young archaeologists had found most of the pieces of a porcelain sugar bowl – in different spots in the digging area – and had glued some of them back together. The bowl’s bottom, or pieces of it, had not yet been found.

Udelhoven said the camp participants couldn’t have done a real dig on the site even if they’d wanted to, because archaeological exploration of a known burial site is strictly regulated. There was a dig at the site in the spring of 2012, just before the house was closed for a major restoration project.

Read More: Digging history

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