Archaeologist Says Knife Lake Site Could Be Earliest Minnesota Settlement

Knife Lake siltstone tool
Knife Lake siltstone tool (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service)

A researcher from St. Cloud State University who has been studying ancient quarries on Knife Lake for the past several years says new tests indicate humans could have been here 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. If so, Mark Muñiz says that would make it the oldest such site known in Minnesota.

Soil from areas where remnants of tools were found date the site at points just after glaciers receded from the area, the St. Cloud Times reports. It was previously thought that the area was flooded during that time and humans first lived in Minnesota’s southern regions.

The paper reported that soil samples were collected at night, with researchers only using red light, to protect the samples from daylight which could interfere with results. The samples were collected from the same depth as artifacts, and should indicate the age of the human occupation.

The quarries were first found by a group led by the Superior National Forest in 2009. Searching areas recently exposed by prescribed burns, they found sites where stone was both quarried and shaped into tools.

Muñiz is applying for additional funding to test additional samples and pinpoint the date. In a 2011 news release, the University stated, “Paleoindians at Knife Lake likely used antlers and granite stones to shape siltstone into knives, scrapers, spear points and adzes, a process called flintknapping.”

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