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Archaeologist explains techniques of exploring for artifacts

Staff writer

The art of excavating historic sites and analyzing artifacts was presented Friday by Kent Sallee of Hutchinson at a Lifelong Learning session at Tabor College.

“I came by this archaeology thing naturally,” he said.

He grew up at Larned and spent time as a youngster at Fort Larned. He and his father often collected Indian artifacts together.

Sallee is one of 300 volunteers associated with Kansas State Historical Society and has been involved in archeological excavations for many years. He specializes in petroglyphs, Native American stone carvings that exist at various sites in Kansas. Sometimes they are found in caves.

As a research analyst, people contact him to examine new finds to determine their history and usage.

He explained how a site is prepared for a dig and what they look for, such as a concentration of debris from arrow making, evidence of an Indian site.

“We look for things that shouldn’t be there,” he said.

Using the modern technique of magnetic resonance, diggers can more easily locate areas that could yield historic treasures. Magnetic resonance also shows how deep artifacts are.

At a village site, often marked by a mound of earth, a big dark spot could indicate a food hatch, where Indians stored food for the winter and then threw their garbage.

“When you find that, it’s gold,” he said.

Pottery is important, Salle said, because each Native American family had its own method of making it, and the technique was passed down from mother to daughter.

The best thing Sallee has ever found was a tiny clay pot that was used for mixing ochre, a natural clay earth pigment, with fat for face decoration.

Sallee distributed a map of Kansas showing where Kansas Archeological Association has done digs.

Mary Olson wanted to know why it showed no digs in Marion County. Sallee said the digs in Marion County probably were done by another group.

He said anybody could take part in a dig by going to kshs.org, learning about scheduled events, and signing up.

“People of all ages are going,” he said. “All you need is a trowel.”

Erwin and Delia Goossen of rural Hillsboro were among the people who attended the session. Delia, a Native American, was interested in the stone arrowheads and tools that Sallee displayed.

Delia grew up in Texas. She was given away as a baby but was returned to her family at 9 years of age. Her parents were trying to make a living running a grocery store. She helped her father learn how to make correct change when making sales.

The family spent one summer picking grapes in California.

“It was a terrible experience,” Goossen said. “My back ached, and it was awful.”

That’s when she decided she was going to do what she could to provide a better future for herself.

She was the first of her family to go to college after graduating from high school. She became a teacher.

“Every time I went home, I told my family and all my cousins to get an education,” she said.

She met Erwin when he was working in Houston.

They moved to Kansas in 1979, taking over the family farm between Hillsboro and Goessel. They farm a few acres and have a small cowherd and goatherd.

Last modified Feb. 8, 2018

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