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McKean Archaeological Site



Read All About It:

The McKean Site (48CK7) was originally recorded by the Missouri River Basin Survey of the Smithsonian Institution in 1951. Extensive excavations were conducted at the site in 1951 and 1952. Large quantities of lithic artifacts were recovered, predominantly from two cultural levels which are now designated Middle Plains Archaic. More than 100 projective points recovered from these levels became type specimens for the McKean Lanceolate, Duncan, and Hanna point types.

In subsequent years the McKean Complex became an important subject of controversy in Plains archaeology. Numerous papers, articles, and reports discussed the temporal and cultural significance of the McKean Complex. There was little argument that these artifacts were diagnostic markers of the Middle Plains Archaic Period. However, there was a great deal of debate over whether the distinct types, which co-occurred in some sites and not in others, represented distinct temporal periods or distinct ethnic groups.

In the summers of 1983 through 1985 crews from the University of Wyoming returned to re-investigate this important site. Recovery of diagnostic artifacts by these investigations was much lower than in 1951 and 1952, but excavations were also much less extensive. One of the new results was the identification of a Late Prehistoric component in the soils above the Upper Late Plains Archaic Level.

The McKean Site is an extensive multiple component stratified site spanning approximately five millennia of aboriginal cultural development. Evidence recovered from the site indicates that it was probably never a single large campsite, but the accumulation of many small events over many centuries. It continues to be recognized as the major type site in formulation of the Middle Plains Archaic cultural period. The site is also widely recognized as important in the development of professional archaeology in the Northwest Plains as well as the adjacent regions. This site was a significant element in the careers of William T. Mulloy and Richard P. Wheeler, important pioneers in the archaeology of the Northwest Plains and other regions, and world renowned archaeologists who figured prominently in the early formulation of typologies and chronologies in the Plains region.

National Register form available upon request.



Date Added to Register:
Friday, April 05, 1991
Crook County
Crook County
Smithsonian Number: 


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