Historic Archaeology of the Upper Missouri River Fur Trade

On the morning of July 19, 2012, at the Fort Clark State Historic Site on the western side of the upper Missouri

W. Raymond Wood and others at the Fort Clark historic archaeological dig on July 19, 2012.

River in North Dakota, Mark Mitchell took time to describe the archaeology and systematic excavations that had taken place up to that point in time. Due to advances in technology — geophysics, and more specifically remote sensing, geomagnetic, electrical resistivity, electromagnetic induction, ground penetrating radar, among others — contemporary archaeology, or “techno-archaeology,” allows for archaeologists to garner a glimpse of what had gone on underneath the ground surface before they punch holes in the said ground. It takes an art and artist, though, to manipulate the controls of these devices and read and interpret the results. The results, in turn, allow archaeologists to drop excavation units down on focused areas, and some of the interpretive results of that are below.

The goal of this project is to discern whether or not the anomalies reflected by the geophysics are part of the broader North American fur trade that characterized much of the first half of the nineteenth-century. Mark explains how this archaeology may be the Fort Clark fur trading post built by James Kipp (note: temps on July 19, 2012 reached 101° F, or 38.3° C — nonetheless, the archaeology pushed on-ward):


2 responses to “Historic Archaeology of the Upper Missouri River Fur Trade

  • Carl F. Kraenzel, “The Great Plains in Transition” (1955) « The Edge of the Village

    […] Within The Great Plains in Transition, Kraenzel’s initial chapters outline the physiography of the Great Plains, and some early explorers from the Spanish, British and French empires. This includes Villazur’s (1720) and Coronado’s (1540-42) incursions onto the central and southern Great Plains, as well as the Mallet Brothers (1739-40). The first European to record their journeys at length on the northern Great Plains took place in 1742-43 with La Vérendrye and company, and five decades later with the Mackay and Evans expedition. After the founding of the American nation, though, and in the first half of the nineteenth century, mountain plainsmen had established themselves, and they started cultivating a set way of doing things — or a regionalism — throughout the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. Individuals such as Jim Bridger, John Colter, Jebediah Smith and Kit Carson brought about a common Euro-American culture between 1803 and 1846. Mountain plainsmen would hunt, kill and harvest furs and pelts throughout the Rockies and Rocky Mountain basin, and then bring the items into the fur trading forts established along the river networks (such as this one linked to here). […]

  • Applied Archaeology Updates by and for the American West | The Edge of the Village

    […] week I received an update from the PaleoCultural Research Group. It is a great outfit (here is a link to some Fort Clark historic archaeology from last summer), and if you haven’t already, you should consider joining. If you’re interested in […]

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