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Red Wing Archaeology

Red Wing Archaeology

Between 1050 and 1300 AD, the Red Wing Locality supported one of the largest populations in the Upper Midwest. The area at the junction of the Cannon and Mississippi Rivers was host to at least nine large villages - perhaps more. The river sustained the villages as the people relied on the many varied resources of Lake Pepin and the surrounding rivers, backwater sloughs, and river valleys. A new, agricultural way of life emerged as people congregated into these villages and cultivated crops of corn, squash, and other plants.

Big Pot

These farming communities were also a focal point for cultural interaction, and served as a central meeting ground for people of the Midwest and Plains during the spring, summer, and fall of each year. New and exotic ideas and trade items were brought to Red Wing, such as obsidian from Wyoming, marine shell from the Gulf of Mexico, bison parts from the prairies and plains, and copper from Lake Superior. Yet despite all this activity, by 1350 AD, the villages were abandoned. The people moved elsewhere.

An interdisciplinary team of archaeologists and other scientists from the Science Museum of Minnesota and other regional institutions are currently studying the remains of the Red Wing villages to try to understand the relationships of these villages to the landscape, to each other, and to the wider world of 700 to 900 years ago; and to understand how and why these relationships changed over time.

Much archaeological research is dependent on the good stewardship of collections. The Science Museum has taken on the responsibility to curate many collections from the Red Wing Locality. Staff and volunteers work vigorously to identify and catalogue collections from several villages in the Science Museum's Laboratory for Archaeology. It is only through well maintained and accessible collections that researchers can learn the stories the archaeological record has to tell.

For more information, contact Ed Fleming at or (651) 221-4576.