North Dakota archaeological site might be historic Pottery Pit find

Stanton, North Dakota (AP) June 2010

Researchers say they have found what might be the only pottery firing pit ever discovered along the Missouri River.

Tests must confirm what archaeologists suspect after investigating the remains of a 500-year-old fire pit that was revealed by flooding on the Knife River last year. The Knife is a tributary of the Missouri.

Archaeologists and students from the University of North Dakota and the Midwest Archaeological Center in Nebraska who looked into the site say that rather than a simple ancient fire hearth, the blackened layer could be where women dug out an area to build a hot fire to be used to harden pottery.

“It’s an awesome find,” said Brian McCutchen, superintendent of Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, where the river is digging into an old earth lodge village site identified in previous archaeological digs.

Further analysis will be done on the pottery and fire remains to see if the researchers’ theory is correct, said Kacy Hollenback, a doctoral degree student from the University of Arizona studying at the site.

Confirmation of a firing pit would be significant, said Jay Sturdevant, National Park Service archaeologist at the Midwest Archaeological Center.

“It would be one of the only instances of prehistoric pottery manufacturing in the Northern Plains,” he said.