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Fergus Falls museum holds exhibit on prehistoric woman's remains found in northwest Minn.

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WDAY2 / 2

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — It was a discovery that made headlines in newspapers around the world.

On a hot June day in 1931, on a hillside along what is now Highway 59 between Pelican Rapids and Detroit Lakes, a road-building crew made a shocking discovery: the ancient remains of a young woman.

"One of the pieces of their equipment had unearthed what ended up being skeletal remains," said Chris Schuelke with the Otter Tail County Historical Society, which currently has an exhibit on the archaeological find at its museum in Fergus Falls.

Most people knew a glacier had covered much of North America, and workers were on the edge of ancient, long-gone Lake Agassiz, but the road crew had no idea what it had unearthed. The remains were wrapped up in newspaper and sent off for analysis, Schuelke said.

It ended up being the skeleton of a young woman, are one of the oldest finds in North America — between 8,000 and 20,000 years old. Scientists soon named the skeleton the "Minnesota Woman." The story got national attention, appearing in the New York Times, and served as proof that humans lived in North America much longer than originally thought.

Now, efforts are underway to learn even more about the "Minnesota Woman" who lived in lakes country at least 8,000 years ago.

The Minnesota Woman's remains were reburied on a reservation in South Dakota in 1999, but scientists from North Dakota State University and other institutions recently took soil core samples from where the remains were found. Their hope is to learn more about other possible remains near Prairie Lake, just north of Pelican Rapids.

The "Minnesota Woman" exhibit runs through Friday, March 22, at the Otter Tail County Historical Museum in Fergus Falls.