For six generations, the children in our family have looked for adventure down in the pasture along Kanaranzi Creek. And, they’ve found it: fishing and hunting, building rafts and shacks, picking up unique rocks and shells, and picking wild plums and asparagus. But, for all six generations one of the enduring motivations has been the search for arrowheads.
My brother found this arrowhead in the 1960s and it later became the basis for designating a formal archaeological site registered with the state of Minnesota. In 2018, another site was formally registered in an area that had lots of artifacts and a possible location for a dwelling. These formal designations don’t directly impact any of the farming operations, but they do provide professional archaeologists with useful information. However, kids looking for bones or arrowheads don’t care.
About five years ago, increased erosion on channel high banks started exposing lots of bones and some artifacts. Since then our four grandchildren have found more exciting “treasures” than all the previous generations combined. One of the kids “specialized” in bones. A lot of the bones were probably from cattle or sheep or deer. But, we found several skulls that were definitely from buffalo.
Two of the grandkids were exceptionally lucky (or skilled?) at finding artifacts. More than half a dozen arrowheads showed up on sand bars and then these two kids found these two gray blades. Technically, these beautiful artifacts are called bifaces. I was with both kids at the two separate times when the discoveries were made and I was definitely more excited than they were!
The bones and artifacts on sand bars in the Creek may have come from cache pits (which were essentially storage areas) eroding out of the channel high banks. This high resolution air photo is available online from the county. The numerous small circular vegetation anomalies may be the tops of cache pits and the two large circles may mark a dwelling outline. Although excavation is the only way to really confirm these ideas, there are some modern high-tech tools that can add a lot to the story. And, that’s where the fourth grandchild got involved.
Our oldest grandchild has been interested in archaeology for several years. She’s been on field trips to several local sites and has met several archaeologists. But, the possible cache pits along the Kanaranzi provided a really unique opportunity. We had a geophysical survey done by an archaeologist who worked at a museum located nearby in northwest Iowa. She provided a great role model and mentor for our teenager.
The archaeologist has since moved on to a new Federal job and our granddaughter will be starting college this fall. Even if she doesn’t decide to major in archaeology, her experiences will be valuable. Not only did this kid meet and interact with a scientist who is a woman, she was also part of the most recent generation to find adventure “down at the Creek”.