Heavy research is underway by the nonprofit PaleoCultural Group into the lifestyles of the Mandan American Indians of half a century past.

An excavation taking place at Chief Looking's Village comes on the heels of a previous dig, which unearthed the remains of Mandan living quarters.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mandan lived primarily inside structures called earth lodges, which were made of mud hard-packed around a skeleton of sturdy tree branches and sticks. The hole in the top of the mound that allowed smoke from cookfires to escape could be covered to keep the harsh North Dakota winters at bay.

PaleoCultural's research director Mark Mitchell says there is evidence that around 20,000 Mandan lived in the region during that time, and that they utilized a healthy trade network. Significant amounts of pottery and stone from southern Canada, northern South Dakota and the surrounding areas have been found as a result of the digs.