The Grand Meadow Chert Quarry

The Grand Meadow Chert Quarry is located northwest of Grand Meadow, where 15 acres of cultivated land surrounds the wooded lot that has stood undisturbed for 100 to 150 years with open pits dotting the wooded area. It is only a small portion of what used to be over 100 acres of land used to mine chert. The Grand Meadow Quarry Archeological District is owned by the Archaeological Conservancy and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Maynard Green, long-time resident of Grand Meadow, recognized something special about the Chert Quarry and convinced archaeologists and curators to take a look. The Chert Quarry represents a time before modern man, dating as far back as 9,000 years B.C. to 300 A.D., where prehistoric people mined for the stone using the knowledge of their time, their hands and primitive tools, gaining new techniques through the years to make arrowheads, points, spears and scrapers. 

In the latter years, Native Americans would gather in the area, camping while they dug by hand or with stone and wooden tools they had made. After gathering the stone, they would chip and flake the stone to make their points at the chert mine or they would shape them into a more manageable size and go home to finish their tool or weapon. The technique is called knapping.

To arrange a tour of the Chert Quarry, please contact the Mower County Historical Society at (507) 437-6082.

The Grand Meadow Chert Quarry Project (GMCQ)

Plans are underway to improve the Quarry site making it accessible to the public and adding educational signage. To learn more about the project and how you can get involved with its preservation, please contact the Mower County Historical Society.

Published Articles on Grand Meadow Chert

The Minnesota Archaeological Society recently published two articles about Grand Meadow by Tom Trow & Dan Wendt. The full articles are availalbe below.

The Grand Meadow Chert Quarry copyright 2020 by the Minnesota Archaeological Society. All rights Reserved.

Grand Meadow Chert: A Distinctive and High-Quality Chert in Southeastern Minnesota copyright 2020 by the Minnesota Archaeological Society. All rights Reserved.

Modeling Movement of Grand Meadow Chert from Quarry to Use copyright 2020 by the Minnesota Archaeological Society. All rights Reserved.

Mower County Historical Society Recieives Large Grant for Archaeological Site

For more than 8,000 years, Native Americans extracted a rare stone from the northeast part of today’s Mower County to use for creating arrowheads and other tools. 

Now the Mower County Historical Society in Austin is launching a multi-year project to develop the archaeological site known as the Grand Meadow Chert Quarry thanks to a $59,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. 

This is the largest grant ever awarded to the Mower County Historical Society, which is collaborating on the project with The Archaeological Conservancy -- a national group focused on preserving important sites -- and the Dakota Community at Prairie Island, Minn.

“We are very excited to be working on this unique and important site with great partner organizations,” said Randal J. Forster, executive director for the Mower County Historical Society. “There’s a lot of positive energy with everyone involved from the local to national levels.”

With the grant, the Mower County Historical Society will make the ancient Native American quarry available to the public and student visits in 2022, in the form of a self- guided, educational tour along a walking path. 

“By working in partnership with the native Dakota historical experts at Prairie Island and with archaeologists and geologists, we can be confident that we will accurately and respectfully discover and share what happened at this extraordinary place,” Forster said.

The Grand Meadow Quarry is the only known source for a particular type of “chert,” the stone used by Native Americans to make most of their everyday tools, including spear points, arrowheads, knives and scrapers. 

Chert is a hard stone valued for its ability to make a sharp edge, and this particular gray chert is now known by archaeologists as “Grand Meadow Chert.” It is one of only 20 kinds of chert from Minnesota, and it’s the only one that was acquired by digging pits by hand to reach a layer of the prized stone.  

“The open-pit mining technologies used at the Grand Meadow Quarry are impressive when you realize that they dug with tools made only of stone, wood, antler and bone,” said archaeologist Tom Trow, who is coordinating the project. “This is one of Minnesota’s most-important archaeological sites, and it deserves to be much better understood and much better known.”

Grand Meadow Chert was used throughout Minnesota and has been found at sites in 52 counties, dating back to at least 6,000 B.C. when a spear point made of this chert is known to have killed a buffalo near Granite Falls, Minn. 

This chert particularly became important after 1200 A.D. to the ancestors of today’s Dakota people, who appear to have visited the Grand Meadow Quarry often to renew their chert supplies. 

“Eight hundred years ago these Dakota relatives were living in large agricultural villages near present-day Mankato and Red Wing,” Trow said, “and with the quarry midway between those areas, it’s very likely that they met here often, possibly annually.”

Prehistoric Mower County - featuring the Maynard Green Collection

Explore the world of chert and stone tools at the Mower County Historical Society in Austin and experience their newest exhibit, Prehistoric Mower County-featuring the Maynard Green Collection.  Visitors to the exhibit learn about the first people to ever live in or travel through the area and how tools made from chert were important in their lives.

What is chert? AND who was Maynard Green?

Grand Meadow Chert, a type of cryptocrystalline quartz, was probably discovered along the banks of what was Bear Creek around 7000 years ago. Tools made from Grand Meadow Chert have been found all over Minnesota and the surrounding region. The wide variety of projectile points, knives, scrapers, and flakes made from many other materials discovered near the quarry suggests the site was part of an exchange network among prehistoric people who traveled long distances to obtain Grand Meadow Chert.

Maynard Green, long-time resident of Grand Meadow, recognized something special about the site in the early 1950’s. Finally, after thirty years of trying, he convinced archaeologists and curators from the state archeology office in St. Paul to visit the site and take a look. Green later said, “they ‘pert near went crazy!” when they saw the quarry for the first time. This visit led to a period of documenting, map-making, and studying the entire site. The Grand Meadow Quarry Archeological District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and is currently owned by the Archeological Conservancy.

The Grand Meadow site is unique in Minnesota because it was in continuous use throughout virtually the entire period of human existence on the continent. Grand Meadow Chert was used extensively for stone tools from the middle of the Archaic Period through the time of early contact with European explorers and traders. Archaeologists know this because all of the tools and flakes found around the quarry combined with the tools made from Grand Meadow Chert found in other sites across the region form a kind of stone tool technology timeline.

The Mower County Historical Society acquired Maynard Green’s collection from his family in early 2019. The collection consists of 843 chipped stone points and tools as well as several examples of scrapers, bifaces, knives, drills, and arrowheads. Prehistoric Mower County-featuring the Maynard Green Collection opened during the Mower County Fair in August 2019 and is located in the Administration Building at the Historical Society on the Mower County Fair Grounds.

Visitors are welcome to visit the collection and learn more about Maynard Green and Grand Meadow Chert year-round during regular Historical Society hours. Come see why we say “Chert Happens”!

 

© Mower County Historical Society | Austin, Minnesota