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Prehistoric site to be replaced by a freeway in Wisconsin

Archaeologists in Wisconsin have been excavating a prehistoric Native American site in anticipation of a highway expansion project running through the area in 2013.

Tentative state plans would put the northbound lanes of the new, expanded Highway 26 over about 80 percent of the site. Only the east edge of the site would remain untouched as state and privately owned property, officials said.

For now, the site is a hive of scientists in boots, floppy hats and dirt-caked jeans. They move around a growing maze of shallow pits being dug to unearth tools, weapon points, pottery and other artifacts with ages ranging at least as far back as 500 B.C. to the time of European explorations in the 1600’s.

The site is undisturbed by modern plows.

“Finding a pristine site like this is very exciting and very rare,” said Ricky Kubicek, an archeologist with the Great Lakes Archeological Research Center. “As we bring up (artifacts), most of them are as they were left off by the original (inhabitants).”

Kubicek supervises a crew of 15 archeologists who are under a tight deadline to recover as many artifacts from the site as possible. The crew will work until August and hopes to unearth about 50 percent of the artifacts surveyors believe exist on the property, department of transportation officials said.

The excavations isn’t being done willy-nilly, site archeologist Ryan Harke said. Crews are using soil analysis to find artifact deposits known as middens.

Harke said middens are recognizable because they create breaks in normal soil layering. He said they stick out like sore thumbs, and they’re chock full of artifacts.

“They’re like ancient garbage dumps,” Harke said.

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