Pawnee Research Project

Primary Researcher: Mary Adair

This project, initiated in 2007, focuses on the contextual arrangement of material culture remains and the depositional characteristics associated with a Pawnee occupation at a site located in northcentral Kansas.  The Kansas Monument site (14RP1) represents the remains of a late eighteenth – early nineteenth century village occupied by the Kitkahahki band of the Pawnee tribe.  The original village may have once consisted of about 75 lodges, although today only 26 lodges are protected within 6 acres owned by the State of Kansas. Remnants of a fortification ditch are also visible, suggesting that some level of protection was necessary.

The site was once believed to be the village visited by American Lieutenant Zebulon Pike in 1806, where the Spanish flag was lowered and replaced by the American flag, signaling the American presence and forthcoming influence in the mid-continent. Although subsequent research overwhelmingly supports the identification of the Hill site in Nebraska as the remains of the village Pike visited, the thought that Kansas Monument might be the site Pike visited led to the erection of a large monument commemorating the historic visit. Hence, the name of the site is associated with this monument.

Current excavations focus on House 13, one of the many visible depressions that identify the location of an earthlodge.  Measuring about 25 feet in diameter, the lodge was once home to an extended family group.   Four comprehensive themes continue to guide our excavations and subsequent research.  The themes include chronology, subsistence, trade and interaction, and social organization and consist of sub-categories for research from which more work can be generated.

Also part of this project is a comprehensive analysis of artifacts recovered from earlier investigations at this site. Carlyle Smith of the University of Kansas excavated 2 lodges and part of the fortification trench in 1949.  Tom Witty, former State Archaeologist of Kansas, excavated 9 lodges in the 1960s.  In 1968, a museum was constructed over an excavated lodge, offering an interpretative display of Pawnee life.