One Year After Wildfire, Archeologists Unearth Indian Artifacts

By KBJR News 1

August 17, 2012 Updated Aug 17, 2012 at 6:10 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northlands Newscenter)
-- It will be one year ago tomorrow that lightning ignited one of Minnesota's largest wildfires.

The Pagami Creek Fire covered 93,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildness. Now, scientists are finding a goldmine of clues to the region's past unearthed by the fire.

"This is what folks used to make stone tools out of in what's now known as the boundary waters."

Thanks to the Pagami Creek Fire, Archeologist Lee Johnson's job is a lot easier.

"A landscape that is usually covered in vegetation is open," said Johnson.

Johnson, and his team are finding stone tools that could be nine-thousand years old from the Palo Indian Era.

"It's easy to see things like lithic artifacts, debitage for making stone tools, pottery and other artifacts that can tell us something about the folks that were living here before the Boundary Waters was designated."

These stone tools are leftover from some of the first inhabitants of the Northland; people who lived in the region after glaciers receded more than 10,000 years ago.

"It's interesting because you see that landscape similar to what it was like after the glaciers receded; really open landscape and you can image what it looked like as a tundra," said Johnson.

A landscape that wouldn't be possible to see without the fire.

"The fire didn't turn up the ground like a plowed field but it got rid of a lot of vegetation so we could see things," said Archeologist Sue Mulholland.

"The fire happened, and my resource area took advantage of that to maximize our return," said Johnson.

It's another twist on a fire that's left surprises in its wake a year later.

If you see something interesting in the Boundary Waters that could potentially be an artifact, you are strongly encouraged to leave it alone! The archeological experts say either take a picture of it or mark it's coordinates on a GPS and contact the Forest Service. Disturbing an archeological site can be a federal offense.

Zach Vavricka

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