Book by Professor Emeritus, Anthropology Professor Examines 'Village on the Bluff'

In a recent feature, the Daily Republic previewed "The Village on the Bluff,’ the first book on Mitchell’s Prehistoric Indian Village authored by Ron Robinson, professor emeritus of English and Journalism, and Dr. Adrien Hannus, professor of anthropology and director of the Archeology Laboratory at Augustana College.

The book can be purchased at the Center for Western Studies on campus or at the Prehistoric Indian Village in Mitchell.

‘The Village on the Bluff’ First Book on Mitchell’s Prehistoric Indian Village

The Daily Republic
January 25, 2012

The rigorous work of excavators and educators at Mitchell’s Prehistoric Indian Village is recorded in the new book “The Village on the Bluff: Prehistoric Farmers/Hunters of the James River Valley.”

The 46-page book, written by Ron Robinson, with contributions by Dr. L. Adrien Hannus, professor of anthropology and director of the Archeology Laboratory at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, gives a detailed history of the Journey of Discovery site at the Prehistoric Indian Village’s archeodome, located along the bluffs above Firesteel Creek.

Third Sunday Archeology Event
to Discuss Pre-Incan Chavín Temple

Dr. Matthew Sayre, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Dakota, will discuss "Life at Chavín de Huántar, A 3,000-Year-Old Temple in Peru" at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19, in the Gilbert Science Center Auditorium. The illustrated lecture is free and open to the public with a question-and-answer session to follow. Learn more.

The book, published by the Archeology Laboratory at Augustana, tells the story of the original hunters/farmers of the James River Valley.

“We translated what we know about life at the village into something for the public,” Hannus said.

The site was settled more than 1,000 years ago, and Prehistoric Indian Village Executive Director Cindy Gregg said the villagers lived there for 100 to 150 years.

“We’re not sure why they left, but the general theory is they exhausted their natural resources and were forced to leave,” Gregg said.

What they left behind was a historical record in the form of artifacts and other aspects of their daily lives.

“The area was untouched. It had never been plowed,” she said. “There’s just a wealth of information here.”

The site’s well-preserved nature has allowed archeologists to learn how the early villagers got to the James River Valley, how they farmed, what they farmed and how they hunted. Gregg added they’ve learned of the basic tools the villagers used to cook and how they made pottery.

In addition to the written facts, brightly colored maps and photographs supplement the villagers’ story and their journey to a larger civilization that was near present-day St. Louis.

Hannus has been working at the Mitchell location since 1983, and is part of a team of archeologists from Augustana and the University of Exeter, in England, that works at the village each summer. The site was first mapped in 1922.

Hannus’ expertise provided a detailed background of the exhibit for Robinson.

Robinson, who was a longtime journalism professor at Augustana, was brought on board to create a more conversational writing style, Hannus said.

Robinson has always had an interest in archeology since he wrote on a project completed at the Mesa Verde site in Colorado. He said that he found the agricultural practices of these long-ago villagers at the Mitchell site intriguing.

“It’s such a strange concept for a lot of people who come into the Mitchell site and read how they had corn, but the corn wasn’t like the corn we see today all around the countryside. And they had squash and beans. They planted and cultivated them all together.

“The squash, beans and corn were the three sisters,” he said. “We today call them symbiotic. They were good for each other. The beans brought up the nitrogen the corn needed and so on. All these foods paired together for a balanced diet without meat.”

Robinson said the book is an effort pretty strong picture of the way they must have lived,” Robinson said.

“The Village on the Bluff” is the first book written about the Prehistoric Indian Village.

Gregg said visitors had been asking for a book that told in better detail what went on in the Mitchell site all those years ago.

“There hasn’t been a way to take away actual information about the site itself,” Hannus said. “People had taken away impressions and images in their mind. (The book) enhances our different presentations. This is something that is a good primer in understanding what kind of information archeology is able to tease out of the prehistoric record.”

Gregg said she expects “The Village on the Bluff” will provide more opportunities for further reading material on the Prehistoric Indian Village.

“Absolutely. I think we’re going to see a lot more. As the archeologists learn more from their excavations, they’ll be publishing more articles and those articles ultimately will lead to books,” she said.

Hannus added: “We’ll continue to add new information to the story. You work slowly and methodically. This book is a result of quite a few years of research "yo educate laymen about how people lived 1,000 years ago."

Kelly Sprecher
Communications & Media Relations