1,000-year-old corn cobs, kernels found at Mitchell site

Farm Forum

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — Archaeologists in southeastern South Dakota have uncovered corn cobs, corn kernels and sunflower kernels that are more than 1,000 years old.

The discoveries at the Prehistoric Indian Village in Mitchell show that people who lived in the region at the time had a diverse diet, according to officials.

The village is the only active archaeological site open to the public in South Dakota. The site features a facility known as the Thomsen Center Archeodome and sits along Lake Mitchell.

Students from the University of Exeter in England and Augustana College in Sioux Falls work every year at the site, which holds dual status as a National Register and National Historic Landmark site. The team has found as much carbonized plant matter in the last two weeks than it had in the past 11 years, said Alan Outram, who’s in his 12th year of brining students from London to Mitchell.

“Of course, it’s important to this area,” he said. “The thing is, this is an agricultural area and this is the history of that agriculture.”

Archeologists got an idea of where the best deposits at the site would be when the Thomsen Center Archeodome was being built, said Augustana archaeology professor Adrien Hannus.

“It showed at the time that there was probably 12 feet there, and we’re really just scratching the surface,” Hannus said. “This village isn’t the origin of prehistoric agriculture, but it is one of the key sites in understanding what was done here.”

The new discoveries indicate the village dwellers weren’t exactly primitive, Hannus told The Daily Republic (http://bit.ly/1MhusfG ). It was a successful village of farmers, hunters and foragers, he said.