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Getting Their Hands Dirty at UMD's Archaeology Field School

Students dig for ancient artifacts
July 14, 2016

UMD students study archeology in the Northland.

Students in UMD’s Archaeology Field School have a unique opportunity studying in the Northland. They get to perform actual archaeological digs, unearthing artifacts up to 10,000 years old. 

The program, overseen by Dr. Susan Mulholland, takes student to the banks of the Cloquet River to excavate ancient campsites. “The Archaeology Field School teaches students what to do as an archaeologist,” Dr. Mulholland said, “Which you cannot learn from books.” 

The class allows students to leave the campus and learn firsthand how to excavate sites and properly interpret findings, all while working in the scenic beauty of northern Minnesota. 

“My focus is is prehistoric, or pre-contact archaeology, the Native Americans who’ve lived here for 13,000 years,” Dr. Mulholland said. “We mostly find broken pieces of rock that they left behind when they made stone tools.” 

“It’s a great opportunity that students have here,” said Amanda Hass, an anthropology and English major at UMD and participant of the field school. 

The students unearth artifacts daily, from remnants of stone tools to charcoal from ancient campfires. All of these findings have contributed to the greater understanding of human history in the area. “What we’re trying to do is interpret what people were doing here on the landscape,” Dr. Mulholland said, “What areas they were living in, what activities they engaged in and how they made a living.”