Saturday, March 15, 2014

Minnesota Woman Roadside Parking Area

US Highway 59
Near Pelican Rapids

The Minnesota Woman Roadside Parking Area is located a couple of miles north of Pelican Rapids along the east side of US 59. It consists of a wayside rest area and historical marker.The marker commemorates the discovery of a prehistoric human skeleton, referred to as Minnesota Woman.

Monument text::
Minnesota Woman

Minnesota Woman -- the skeleton of a girl about 15 years of age -- was discovered at this point in 1931 by a highway repair crew. Although the skeleton has not been dated exactly, based on the site geology scientists believe it to be perhaps 10,000 years old. This would make Minnesota Woman one of America's oldest human skeletons.Two artifacts -- a dagger of elk horn and a conch shell -- were discovered with the bones. Archaeologists believe that the girl drowned in Glacial Lake Pelican, which had joined Glacial Lake Agassiz, a huge body of water that covered much of northwestern Minnesota at the end of the last ice age.Erected by the Minnesota Historical Society 1992.[Seals of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Historical Society]
The original historic plaque contained the same text but referred to the skeleton as "Minnesota Man" (see link above).  The 1992 plaque corrected that to read "Minnesota Woman."

Brief history of the Minnesota Woman:
During the summer of 1931, a highway construction crew unearthed a human skeleton while excavating a roadway along the eastern shore of Prairie Lake. The skeleton was found nine feet below the surface and was encased in laminated glacial clay. Archaeologists examined the bones and determined they were from a 15-year-old and dated back at least 10,000 and perhaps 20,000 years. To many scientists, the discovery of this skeleton is proof that a prehistoric people occupied this region of North America, arriving from Asia by the Bering Strait land bridge. An elk antler knife and unusual conch shell were discovered near the skeleton. - (Susan Granger, Scott Kelly, and Kay Grossman. (1998, December). Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways. Minnesota Department of Transportation.)

The marker was preceded by a small white metal sign which had been placed on the T.H. 59 right-of-way near this location. The text of that sign read: "The bones of The Minnesota Man of Pleistocene Age were found in this road cut June 16, 1931."

The parking area and marker were built by the Minnesota Highway Department in 1959. A hand-pump well was added in 1973.