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Unit 1: Set 3: Ancient Villages - Menoken Archeological Studies

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The first archeological study was carried out at Menoken Village in 1938. The site had generated a lot of interest and was purchased by the State Historical Society of North Dakota in 1937. In the late 1990s, some excavations have been conducted as well as magnetometry investigation. Magnetometry allows archeologists to “read” subsurface structures or features without disturbing the site and aid in the placement of excavation units where maximum information might be found. The following questions and answers will help you learn more about archeology at the Menoken Village site.

  1. How do we know how many houses were inside the palisade?

Magnetometry measures magnetic properties that occur in the soil. Burned houses, hearths, and iron artifacts are highly magnetic and easily located by this method. Though surface investigations revealed the remains of several houses, magnetometry identified several more houses that had burned.

  1. How do we know that the people of Menoken did not practice horticulture?

There is very little in the way of charred remains of corn, squash, or beans, so archeologists have concluded that this was not a horticultural village and that the people of Menoken had not taken on the cultural characteristics of later Mandan villages. Archeologists have not found any garden tools which would indicate that the people of Menoken were planting and harvesting crops. In addition, there is only one storage pit (at House 17) which suggests that there was no need for a place to store dried vegetables.

  1. How do we know that bison meat dominated the food sources of the people of Menoken?

Bison bones, showing evidence of butchering through precise cuts on the bones, were found in the remains of the houses. Many of these were buried in the houses when the roofs collapsed. Bison bones were also used as tools and were wedged into the postholes to help support the house beams. While bison was a major food source, the people of Menoken also hunted and consumed deer, pronghorn, fish, beaver, and other animals of the region.

  1. What do we know about why the people of Menoken chose this site for their village?

Charred wood in the fire pits or hearths, indicate that they used elm, box elder, oak and willow for fire wood. They used the same woods as well as ash in building their houses. The banks of Apple Creek were covered with these trees that provided fire for cooking and warmth and support for their houses. The steep banks of Apple Creek provided protection from outsiders, and put the village high enough to avoid flooding.

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