Thursday, July 18, 2013

Project Archaeology at the Rosebud Battlefield

Written by: Courtney Agenten, Project Archaeology and 2012 Rosebud Field School Student
After taking part in the Rosebud Battlefield Archaeological Field School during the 2012 season as a volunteer, I knew I had to bring fellow teachers to the site to share my passion for the history of this place and the amazing knowledge to be gained from the archaeological research. That same summer I received training to facilitate Project Archaeology teacher workshops. I had found my inspiration! Rosebud Battlefield offered a unique and exciting opportunity for teachers to investigate archaeology at a current archaeological site and learn how to incorporate the study of archaeology into their classroom. Ten teachers from Montana and Wyoming signed up for a week-long adventure which included two days of instruction in the award-winning curriculum Project Archaeology Investigating Shelter, followed by two days of field survey work under the supervision of professional archaeologist, Chris Merritt.

"The Rosebud Battlefield is a small piece of Montana land compared to the whole state, but it tells a significant story about the people and how they used the land." –Librarian, Montana

"Investigating Shelter really gives history a chance to come alive for kids. They are investigating real evidence and looking at “real” artifacts and sites to discover more about the past and understanding people and their ways of life based on the dwelling in which they live. This will be a powerful tool for helping my students to interpret the past in a way that is engaging and will yield more meaningful learning." - 4th/5th grade Teacher, Wyoming

After two days of instruction the teachers were prepared to apply their knowledge of archaeology to a real archaeological site. We explored three prominent features at the Rosebud Battlefield State Park: a buffalo jump with rock art, the historic Kobold Homestead, and finally the battlefield. We had a surprise visit from world-renowned rock art expert and archaeologist, Dr. James Keyser which was a treat for our prehistoric enthusiasts. Teachers observed, mapped, and classified artifacts from the Kobold family historic dumpsite. Once the information was recorded, teachers debated whether information about the Kobold family could be gleaned from their dumpsite and whether it should be studied, preserved and protected.

My favorite parts were 1) The Buffalo Jump. I love the historical perspective of thousands of years of usage at a site. The rock art was an extra bonus. 2) The second day of field work. The way Chris walked us through the battlefield, explaining the time and where things were happening, put a concrete awareness of the entire battle.- Teacher, Montana
I really enjoyed the visit to the buffalo jump and the surveying at Rosebud Battlefield! I think that there is a lot of power in visiting the place and utilizing the strategies and tools in a real, practical setting.This same practice would be incredibly engaging for students. - Teacher, Wyoming

The next day in the field, Chris gave a tour of the battle site, pointing out warrior and soldier positions based on artifacts recovered in previous field seasons. He weaved the story of the battle into the landscape as we hiked across the battlefield to Crook’s Hill. Once at the top of Crook’s Hill we could observe the entire battlefield and visualize the movements of the military and warriors as they fought. Teachers learned how to conduct a pedestrian survey using metal detectors and record battle features such as rifle pits. Overall, the experience for the teachers was hands-on, engaging, and worthwhile!

"…there was a disagreement here and both perspectives are valid." - History Teacher, Montana

"This course dispels stereotypes." - Teacher, Northern Cheyenne Reservation

Why teach archaeology?

Studying the past gives us a rare chance to examine our place in time and forge links with the human continuum. Everyone can touch the past, but sadly our opportunities are disappearing. The number of sites that have not been disturbed or looted is dwindling at an alarming rate. Rosebud Battlefield is among the sites that have experienced looting and is still subject to damage in the future due to interest in the land for natural gas extraction. Through Project Archaeology and visiting archaeological sites, educators can help the schoolchildren of today know and experience America’s rich cultural heritage as the adults of tomorrow.
Project Archaeology is a national heritage education program dedicated to teaching scientific and historical inquiry, cultural understanding, and the importance of protecting our nation’s archaeological legacy. It is a national network of archaeologists, educators, and concerned citizens working to make archaeology education accessible to students and teachers nationwide through high-quality educational materials and professional development. It was founded by the U.S.Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for educators and their students. The WyomingBLM supported the Rosebud Workshop by generously granting scholarships to teachers. If you would like to learn more about Project Archaeology please visit the website at

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Threat of Coalbed Methane to the Rosebud Battlefield State Park

Currently the Rosebud Battlefield State Park sits atop a small portion of the Powder River Basin, one of the United States' largest coal and coalbed methane reserves. Development of this resource for natural gas extraction is a constant concern for the land managers, researchers, and those who deeply appreciate the pristine beauty of the State Park. Use of Geographic Information Systems allows a digital construction of what the visitor can see of the landscape when visiting the State Park, and illustrates how the introduction of coalbed methane facilities would be a significant intrusion. Please read more about this here in a draft publication called "Assessing Threats before Risk: Viewshed Analysis of Coalbed methane Development to the Rosebud Battlefield State Park and National Historic Landmark"

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Godfather of Battlefield Archaeology in Missoula for the Rosebud!

Dr. Doug Scott is coming to Missoula to present findings of his ballistics analysis of artifacts recovered from the 2011 and 2012 University of Montana Field School! Tom Milter, UM Graduate Student, will set the stage for Doug by providing a short synopsis of the history of the battlefield, our fieldwork there, and other fascinating tidbits to tickle the mind.

Coverage in the Missoulian! (CLICK HERE)
See the flyer for all the details!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Battle of the Rosebud Bibliography

Here are some of the significant references for those in understanding the history and limited archaeological  investigation of the Rosebud Battlefield.

Gray, John S.
1976   Centennial Campaign: The Sioux War of 1876. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Kammen, Robert       
1992   Soldiers Falling Into Camp: The Battles At The Rosebud at the Rosebud and Little Bighorn. Encampment: Affiliated Writers of America, Inc.

Mangum, Neil C.
1988   Battle of the Rosebud: Prelude to the Little Bighorn. Upton and Sons.
McDermott, John D.
2000   Gen. Crook’s 1876 CampaignSheridan: Frontier Heritage Alliance.

Schmitt, Martin F.
1986   General George Crook His Autobiography. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Vaughn, J.W.
1956   With Crook at the RosebudMechanicsburg: Stackpole Books.

Werts, Keith and Stevan Booras
2011  The Crazy Horse and Crook Fight of 1876: New Discoveries at the Battle of the Rosebud. Werts Publishing.

White, Thain
1961   Artifacts From The Battle Of The Rosebud. The Thain White Papers, Special Collections, Mansfield Library , The University of Montana, Missoula, Mt.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

History Continues To Echo Today....

It is possible to sometimes place past historic events into a type of vacuum, where all the people and events were simply plot in a story. History, however, does not live solely on the shelves of historians or archaeologists it reifies cultural identity, challenges accepted narratives, and serves as a nexus of pain, grief, triumph, glory, nationalism, traditionalism, and the whole host of human experience.

Perhaps in no more direct way the legacy of the Indian Wars of the late 19th century continues to shape current politics and society, and at all times the past pain and injustice flow in a ceaseless river into the present.

On December 26, 1862, 38 members of the Dakota tribe were hung in Mankata, Minnesota at the conclusion of the U.S.-Dakota War that swept through the Upper Midwest in the early days of the overshadowing Civil War. Only direct intervention by President Abraham Lincoln lowered the number of potential hangings from over 300 to the 38 comprising the largest mass hanging in U.S. history.  Since 2005, current members of the Dakota brave the frozen terrain of Minnesota in honor of their ancestors in a 300 mile horseback trek.

Past events not only shape the way our current life plays out through a domino chain of cause and effect, but deeply affects the very core of people who live personally with the consequences of history. This is a reminder to all of us who practice history, or archaeology, to never lose sight of the direct impact of history on current peoples of all backgrounds.

Please read more about this event and the history surrounding it here:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Archaeological Investigation of the Battle of the Rosebud

In 2009, the University of Montana's Department of Anthropology was approached by Montana State Parks Heritage Resources Coordinator Sara Scott, to initiate intensive archaeological investigations of the Rosebud Battlefield State Park. Graduate Student Thomas Milter, working with his advisor Dr. Kelly J. Dixon, began working on plans to conduct fieldwork at the site.

UM Master's Student Tom Milter (right), and MSP Archaeologist Sara Scott (Left) investigate the Kobold Buffalo Jump. Photo by N. Boyless.
Between the 1950s and the 1980s, avocational and amatuer archaeologists and historians investigated the site themselves, finding hundreds of artifacts relating to the June 17, 1876 engagement (Such as J.W. Vaughn's "With Crook at the Rosebud"). Unfortunately, these investigators lacked the precise technology to accurately map the locations of these finds, which would have allowed a much better understanding of the battle. While the work of these early investigators proved that intact archaeological materials remained, their investigations damaged the site by removing these artifacts without exact positions. Without maintaining control of the exact location of artifacts it becomes impossible to know where they found the cartridge casings or impacted bullets, which destroys the potential for scholars to interpret movements of people and units during the course of the battle.

Modern technology like the highly accurate backpack Global Positioning System (GPS) pictured here, helps archaeologists to map all artifacts within 3-4 feet of where it was found. Photo by T. Milter.
Milter's first step in initiating the renewed archaeological investigation of the Rosebud Battle, was to attempt to locate the artifacts from the earlier investigations. Sadly, the passage of time has left the original collections in disarray, spread to several different historical societies, museums, private collections, or simply disappeared. Tom has spent years relocating as many of these artifacts as possible and analyzed them for inclusion in his Master's Thesis.

A second step, involved planning the fieldwork to be conducted by teams of archaeologists, students, and volunteers. This stage brought in the involvement of Chris Merritt, a Ph.D. Student at the University of Montana who was wrapping up his dissertation work on the Chinese in Montana, and faciliated several field projects throughout the state. Merritt, Milter, Scott and Dixon began preparations for the fieldwork that occurred in 2011.

The 2011 fieldwork was created to 1) provide college students an opportunity to learn archaeological method and theory, 2) determine if the Rosebud Battlefield State Park still contained significant subsurface archaeological remains associated with the engagement, and 3) increase public and agency awareness of the significance of the battle, park, and the potenital for partnerships.

Also in 2011, the University of Montana received a grant through the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) adminstered by the National Park Service. The grant is designed to not work solely on the State Park,  but to work with adjacent private landowners to increase protection of the entire battlefield, not only the portion managed by Montana State Parks (MSP). Thus, Milter and Dixon began to contact landowners around the park boundaries to touch base, negotiate potential fieldwork access, and to build bridges of cooperation that the MSP can use to better manage the park and battlefield.

Crew and students working with a private landowner to catalog and analyze artifacts from their land during the 2012 field school. Photo by K. Dixon.
The fieldwork accomplished by UM and MSP in 2011 and 2012 owes much to those individuals who cared and protected for the battlefield before creation of the State Park such as Slim Kobold and other families such as the Iekel, Huffman, Young, Kollmar, Lanham, and many others. In following posts I will describe the fieldwork and its results.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Brief Tour of Rosebud Battlefield State Park: Part II

After the events of June 17, 1876, the area comprising Rosebud Battlefield State Park forever transitioned from the purview of Native American tribes to homesteading and ranching by Euro-Americans. By the late 1880s, many areas along Rosebud Creek and Tongue River were claimed by homesteaders looking for a new chance in the American West. Within the bounds of what is today the State Park, several homesteaders claimed significant acreage between 1890 and 1910s. Two of these left the most indelible marks on the landscape, two German families the Kollmar and Kobold.

The Kollmar's established a homestead in the western part of the State Park, straddling a small tributary of Rosebud Creek, now bearing the name of its first white inhabitants, Kollmar Creek. A ruined homestead, fallow fields, and a solitary grave overlooking Kollmar Creek are all that remain of the Kollmar's legacy at the Rosebud. Field research in 2012, identified a small itinerant campsite just upstream from the Kollmar Homestead, and might indicate either an isolated cow camp, or more likely, the possible first area where the family lived while constructing their home in the early 20th century. Identified through metal detecting by University of Montana staff and students, the rock-lined platform and associated domestic refuse, provides researchers with a glimpse into the first white settlers in the State Park boundaries.

2012 University of Montana Crew standing on three corners of a newly discovered tent  platform along Kollmar Creek.

A large piece of a cast-iron stove found near the tent platform during the 2012 Rosebud project.

By far, the Kobold family has played the most important role in shaping the historic landscape of Rosebud Battlefield State Park after 1900. Elmer "Slim" Kobold, first claimed 180 acres of land within the State Park in 1911-1912, and even left his name next to the centuries-old Native American inscriptions at the buffalo jump in his first year. The Kobold's constructed their frame home along the northern bank of Rosebud Creek in the 1910s-1920s, and the family lived through the hard years of the Great Depression, through World War 2, and finally abandoning the home in the 1970s when ownership was transferred to the State of Montana. During the mid-20th Century, Slim purchased and consolidated almost 3,100 acres of land adjacent to his original homestead, acquiring land claims from surrounding families including the Kollmars. Of these 3000 acres, it appears that Kobold tilled over 800 for production of hay, as evidenced by the tall grass fallow fields that dot the State Park today. Almost all of these original fields are still visible today from aerial photographs and on the ground, even 40 years after they were last tilled by Slim and his family.

Inscription of "Slim K. 1911" on the face of the Buffalo Jump in Rosebud  Battlefield State Park. Photo by N. Boyless.
 During the 2011 and 2012 field projects at the battlfield, crews continue to find more tangible remnants of the Kobold legacy, through abandoned tractor parts in and around the historic fields, and through identification of several small dumps throughout the property. A small dump on the edge of Crook's Hill, comprised of 1930s era ceramics and glass, provides a picture of perhaps a small family picnic by the Kobolds, while they enjoyed the expansive and pristine vista of natural beauty and decades of hard work. Closer to the Kobold Homestead (still in use today as the State Park's headquarters and housing for its employees and caretakers), is a massive 1920s-1940s era historic dump located on a small rise. This dump is impressive in its size, and its ability to tell researchers about the lives of the Kobolds during the mid-20th century. Historic trash within this dump includes Depression-era colorful "Fiesta-ware" ceramics, amber-colored Chlorox and Purex bleach bottles, food cans, equipment and parts from both automobiles and tractors, butchered animal bones, and any other manner of trash we would throw out today. This dump existed well before Rosebud County, Montana possessed any centralized landfill or garbage system, leading residents to take care of their  trash problem themselves. Placing the trash upon the top of this hill protected the water in Rosebud Creek from contamination, thus continuing clean drinking water for the Kobolds and all those downstream.

Domestic trash likely left by the Kobold's in the 1930s. Note the brightly colored Fiesta-ware, designed by its makers to bring a little brightness into  the depths of the Great Depression.

Within this dump there is significant information for archaeologists, historians,  and anthropologists. From the faunal (animal) bones we can determine if the Kobold's butchered their own cattle or went to a professional butcher. What types of meat cuts did the Kobold's preferred? Did they prefer beef, mutton, or  pig? Or a mixture of all three? From the bottles and cans we can see what types of foods and goods the Kobold's could not grow themselves and thus had to purchase from a store many miles away. Dozens of Mason jars and their lids scattered throughout the refuse pile reflects the common rural practice of canning and storing of foods grown themselves in a garden, an extremely common historical practice that is only now coming back into vogue during the 21st century. The distinct lack of liquor or beer bottles in this dump provides a personal image of abstinence from alcholic drinks by the Kobold family, or perhaps the dumping of these types of evidence somewhere as of yet out of view.

In 2011, archaeologists discovered a long-forgotten steel and chrome 1930s-1950s "Ford" emblem north of the Kobold Homestead in a road heading to a field worked by Kobold.
All the historic homesteading sites, whether homestead or trash dump are being recorded by archaeologists so that these interesting facets of the State Park's history can be protected alongside the materials of the 1876 engagement or the several thousand years of prehistoric occupations before that. Archaeological remains of historic homesteading can give researchers an important entrance into how the landscape of the State Park has been modified (fields, roads, ditches, etc.) and how these diverse peoples lived, and sometimes died, along Rosebud Creek. University of Montana staff and students are working on formally recording these dumps so that State Park managers can adequately protect and preserve these pieces of the area's legacy for future generations. Intentional looting or careless collection of artifacts will destroy these indicators of past peoples and hamper our ability to understand life that doesn't seem so far away (50 to 100 years ago) but in today's digital and electronic age these lives and activities are as important yet nearly forgotten as prehistoric peoples.

When you visit the Rosebud Battlefield State Park, take time to enjoy and reflect upon the entirety of the area's history from the nomadic tribes using the land for hunting and gathering, to the hardy German homesteaders who forged a life from themselves and posterity upon the rich and fertile landscape of Rosebud Creek.