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Artifacts being unearthed at Paul Bunyan Park

BEMIDJI -- A survey group hired by the city to examine Paul Bunyan Park and the surrounding area has found multiple artifacts underneath the popular tourist destination.

The 106 Group, the professional archaeological survey group that previously investigated indigenous sites in Diamond Point Park, discovered artifacts ranging from ancient pottery fragments to objects used to make tools since it began investigating Paul Bunyan Park on Sept. 3, said Marcia Larson, parks and recreation director.

"I don't think anyone was surprised that they found artifacts," she said. "Our job now would be to plan around the artifacts in some ways if they find other sites within the park as we move forward with park planning."

The next step in the project is "data recovery," or excavating the artifacts and sending them to the Minnesota Historical Society for curation, Larson said. The 106 Group will submit a proposal by the end of the week to go into "Phase II", she said. Data recovery is planned to begin in October.

The 106 Group will focus its efforts around the Carnegie Library and the future Chief Bemidji statue platform as those areas may see construction work in the coming months. Construction of the platform is now postponed pending future study of the site, Larson said.

Archaeological human remains were previously discovered in Diamond Point Park in 2007, but Larson confirmed no human remains have yet been found in Paul Bunyan Park in the recent survey.

Larson said underground radar imaging was considered as a survey tool at one point but the idea was scrapped because of the potential for false positives from the areas in the park that already have been disturbed.

Jim Jones, cultural resource director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, said the resources and layout of the area around Lake Bemidji and the mouth of Mississippi River made the area an ideal living site for indigenous peoples for hundreds of years, but it was difficult for him to speculate on what specific indigenous group the artifacts may have belonged to without seeing the objects.