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Kansas History

Native American Storage Pits

[drawing: Native American storage pit, KSHS] To safely store annual harvests for later use, native people dug storage pits. These underground "bins" ranged from cylindrical to bell-shaped. Some were shallow, while others were deep enough to require a ladder. The walls were lined with hides or cured grass, and clay plaster sealed the mouths.

Over time, these pits outlived their original purpose. They became unusable due to mold, groundwater seepage, or rodent and insect invasion. Once abandoned as a storage space, a pit became a handy place for the trash of everyday life, filled with hearth and dwelling sweepings, broken pottery, and worn-out tools.

Today, prehistoric storage pits are time capsules that archeologists study. Once layers of ash and trash are removed, scientists often find gouges in the pit walls made by bone hoes and other digging implements of native farmers. Prehistoric tools of cultivation were also the tools of construction. Agriculture and architecture lived side-by-side.

From: Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas Archeology Week Poster
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Site maintained at the University of Kansas. Posted: 02 December 02