Uncovering the past at Camp Ripley

By Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey
Camp Ripley Public Affairs

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. (Nov. 16, 2016)Archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group out of Milwaukee, Wis., concluded phase I inventory surveys Nov. 4, 2016, at Camp Ripley.

The surveys help to identify lands possibly used as settlements on the Camp Ripley reservation, how they connect to the surrounding areas and if they hold any significant historical value.

“Some of the same lands that Camp Ripley uses for the training of our Service members and inter-agency partners, were once settlements dating back hundreds of years,” said Patrick Neumann, Cultural Resources manager at Camp Ripley.

The land that comprises Camp Ripley has a long history of use and habitation by many different groups of people. Encompassing just over 53,000 acres of training land, Camp Ripley rests along the west bank of the Mississippi River, the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline from the headwaters to the Gulf.

Progressing since the early 1980s, the environmental staff at Camp Ripley took on the role of consulting with federally-recognized tribes, the state historic preservation office and state archaeologists to investigate, preserve and protect the cultural resources and archaeological sites at Camp Ripley. These projects help to determine what sites are historically and culturally significant as some sites may date as far back as 4,000 years ago.

“This is done with the best interests for preservation or scrutiny during modernization and improvements,” added Neumann.

The team of archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group were under contract with Camp Ripley and the Minnesota National Guard to conduct surveys in several areas of the post for artifacts which could be used in the first step to identifying possible sites for inclusion as part of historical preservation.

“We identified a number of possible sites and were excited about the diversity of the terrain,” said a spokesperson for the archaeologist’s team in the northern part of Camp Ripley’s training area.

“The archaeology projects on Camp Ripley are governed by federal regulations and the National Historic Preservation Act,” said Neumann. Federal law requires the Army to protect historic properties under its control and to consider the effects of Army actions on those properties. The law further defines the need to find historic properties, including archaeological sites, and determine their importance.

After a week of field work along lowlands in the Northern part of the installation, numerous smaller artifacts led to the theories of possible early settlements as well as various modern sites dating as recent as the 1930s.