The Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village

Professor Alan Outram, Professor Bruce Bradley and Dr Adrien Hannus

Professor Alan Outram and Professor Bruce Bradley are both involved with the research and excavation of the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village in South Dakota, in collaboration with Dr Adrien Hannus and his team at the Archaeology Laboratory at Augustana College, Sioux Falls.

The site is a 'Plains Indian' village dating to about A.D. 1000 and is situated on the banks of a creek (now a lake) in the James River Basin in Mitchell, South Dakota. As many as a thousand people may have lived at the site, making their living from tending gardens of maize and hunting the plentiful bison that roamed the plains. The villagers lived in sizeable earth lodges. These were semi-subterranean, rectangular constructions.

Bradley is on the Scientific Board of the site's trust and advises on the analysis of stone artefacts from the site. Outram has been studying the faunal remains. It is a distinct possibility that the villagers may well have been producing very large quantities of 'pemmican', a mixture of dried meat, berries and bone fat and possibly trading this commodity. He is looking at the patterns in the faunal remains to establish if bone fats were being exploited on a large scale.

Outram has been leading groups of Exeter students in excavations at the site since 2004. The site is very unusual in that much of the excavation is carried out inside a specially constructed building called the Archeodome. This facility provides controlled conditions for excavation and there are excellent laboratories integrated into the design. The Archeodome also allows the public to gain a great view of the work in progress, both on the excavation and in the labs.