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UW-L Archaeology Students Unearth 1,500-Year-Old Artifacts

June 21, 2008

By Autumn Grooms, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jun. 21–ONALASKA, Wis. — Kassie Praska got the attention of her classmates Thursday with a loud shriek.

She’d struck an animal bone while lightly scraping the soil with a shovel in a trench about 25 yards from Sand Lake Road in Onalaska and wanted classmates in the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Archaeo-logy Field School to see it. “Everyone usually goes to take a look when someone screams,” said Wendy Holtz-Leith, site director and an archaeologist with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center.

The excitement quickly subsided and Praska, 19, and David Faust, 20, were left to use a trowel to clear the area.

The 21 archaeology majors have spent the past four weeks working on a site just north of VCA Sand Lake Animal Hospital, 1480 Sand Lake Road, that is part of the larger Sand Lake Archaeological District, Holtz-Leith said. They will start the final week of the five-week course Monday.

Students have found small broken rocks, charcoal, arrowheads and stone tools during the dig that is being done in anticipation of roadwork and development next summer. A large pot’s rim that dates back 1,400 to 1,500 years to the Oneota culture was also unearthed.

“There is no way to learn this without doing it,” said Shaheen Gutierrez, 21. “I’m graduating in December … and I’m just learning so much more doing this dig.”

Gutierrez has wanted to study archaeology since she was a young girl. She loved history and wanted to help gather the information.

“I want to find … history rather than read about (it),” she said.

Participating in the field study reminded 19-year-old Edward Quinn why he is an archaeology major.

“We’ve found some really cool things,” he said, mentioning part of a copper necklace. “It’s exciting. When someone finds something really big, people stop and crowd around.”

And the excitement, Quinn said, makes the students work that much harder.

Autumn Grooms can be reached at (608) 791-8424 or agrooms@lacrossetribune.com.

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