Friday, September 23, 2016

A Brief Exegesis on Inventorying Field Stone Piles (North Dakota)

Posted on January 23, 2012 by admin
“I’m just wrapping up a report on some field stone piles, and thought it might be worth a brief post.

Field stone piles are, of course ubiquitous in cultivated fields.  Sometimes they are obviously of recent origin, sometimes it is hard to tell.   The problem out here on the Plains is that Native American peoples have built and used cairns for a variety of reasons (including burials).  When we do an archaeological survey, we want to be carefully not to write a cairn off as a field stone pile.  Aggravating this issue has been the mixed rigor and accuracy of field stone pile identification in standard archaeological surveys. Universities don’t teach seminars on field stone piles, and in fieldwork (by necessity) we record them pretty quickly. I have seen cases where piles that were obviously made with a bulldozer are identified as prehistoric cairns, and I’ve seen cairns written off as field stone piles.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is now requiring a survey of field stone piles that have been sold for use as road fill [this happens fairly frequently].  A few times in the recent past, construction equipment has revealed that what everyone assumed was a field stone pile was a cairn (and a burial).    Much of this re-evaluation is being driven by Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (especially at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)..."

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