94a. Archeological Investigations at Jewel Cave
National Monument Custer County, South Dakota 2000-2003
Bruce A. Jones
Midwest Archeological Center personnel undertook limited evaluative
test excavations at nine recorded historic and prehistoric sites
in Jewel Cave National Monument as part of a three-year field project
conducted in 2000-2002, followed by a written synthesis that was
begun in 2003. The sites which were examined in the Monument included
nine with prehistoric components, and three with evidence of both
prehistoric and historic occupations.
The nine prehistoric sites included five that lay in springside
settings, one that lay atop a high ridge overlooking a canyon, one
rock shelter, and two sites on a canyon floor. None of the prehistoric
sites in the Monument produced large quantities of cultural material.
Instead, they reflect repeated short-term occupation and use of
specific settings that ensured success in food and other resource
exploitation, and appear to reflect part of a long-lived seasonal
round by small groups of hunter-gatherers. The presence of non-local
lithic materials at several of these sites further documents the
movement of these populations throughout the Plains. The prehistoric
components studied thus far at Jewel Cave range in age from as early
as the Middle Plains Archaic to as recently as the Late Prehistoric.
Based upon four radiocarbon assays of charcoal collected from these
sites, the Monument occupations date from 4500-4200 BC until roughly
The major historic site in the Monument is that of 39CU844, the
Jewel Cave Hotel, the location where a complex of structures was
built to accommodate visitors to the cave in the early twentieth
century. Testing at the hotel site produced artifactual material
that both predates and post-dates the probable time span of its
use, but is completely consistent with the general time period
of occupation. The site has been heavily impacted by cleanup efforts
that were undertaken in the 1930s by Emergency Conservation Work
Act (later Civilian Conservation Corps) personnel and by the construction
of U.S. Highway 16.
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