Office of the State Archaeologist annual reports from 2010 through the last fiscal year are archived in the University of Iowa Digital Library. They are viewable in PDF format.
FY 2023 OSA Annual Report
FY 2023 Annual Report Vol. 2
This PDF contains tables, graphs, and appendices that detail funding, budgets, work plans, outreach, professional service, and a summary of OSA reports.
WHO WE ARE
Veronica Mraz | Project Archaeologist | Instructor
Students explored how people made arrowheads and early ceramics through a fun, engaging, hands on class. This course explored the process of combining the scientific method with archaeological artifacts and using the results from these experiments to learn about the people that created the artifacts recovered from archaeological sites. [Fall 2022, 16 students]
Lara Noldner | Bioarchaeology Director | Instructor
Students explored the diverse field of biological anthropology and learned about many of the ways that knowledge of human biology can inform us about how people have evolved, migrated, and adapted to the many regions of the world we now inhabit. [Fall 2022, 15 students]
John Doershuk | State Archaeologist | Instructor
The 2023 Lakeside Laboratory archaeological field school included students from UI, ISU, UNI, and Oberlin College who investigated a portion of 13DK9, the Abbie Gardner Sharp Cabin Historic Site located in Arnold’s Park on the shores of West Okoboji Lake. The students discovered copious artifacts related to Abbie’s late nineteenth-early twentieth century use of the cabin as one of Iowa’s first heritage tourism locations. The Lakeside Lab Summer 2024 field school will continue work at this important site. [Summer 2023, 7 students].
OFFICE & STAFF ACHIEVEMENTS
Shirley Schermer receives Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Iowa
Shirley Schermer became a worldwide leader in the respectful treatment of ancestral remains through her work in the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist.
After a three-decade career, visits to all 99 Iowa counties (many multiple times), and a legacy that stretches around the world, Shirley J. Schermer, retired University of Iowa (UI) Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) Burials Program director, received an honorary doctorate degree from UI during spring 2023 commencement. Shirley, a native of Red Oak, Iowa, helped establish Iowa as a worldwide leader in the respectful treatment of ancestral remains, particularly those native to the region. This practice has become internationally recognized and adopted.
“I am very honored, touched, and appreciative for this recognition,” says Shirley, “There are so many memories, experiences, and projects during my career, and I appreciate the collaborations and friendships with colleagues from various UI and local, state, and federal offices and tribes and tribal members.”
Shirley attributes her success to support from Iowa’s Native tribes. The relationships laid a foundation of trust that allowed for support and close collaboration among the groups. “I was willing to respectfully listen to others and their thoughts, concerns, and beliefs…we discussed possible solutions to situations and explored opportunities for collaborative efforts with tribes and members…Maria Pearson and Don Wanatee deserve to be mentioned for their efforts serving as [founding and] longtime members of the [OSA Indian Advisory] Council.”
As part of graduation ceremonies, Shirley was honored at a luncheon held at the OSA that former state archaeologists Duane Anderson and Bill Green were able to participate in via Zoom from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and at a dinner hosted by UI President Barbara Wilson. Congratulations, Shirley!
Office of the State Archaeologist earns national recognition for outreach
In February, OSA was notified that its Strategic Initiatives Program was the 2023 recipient of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) award for Excellence in Public Archaeology Programming. Elizabeth Reetz attended the ceremony to receive the award in person at the SAA annual meeting in Portland in April.
This nomination focused primarily on the past five years of OSA education and outreach activities, which Elizabeth Reetz and Cherie Haury-Artz continued to diligently and passionately create and implement across the state despite budget cuts and a global pandemic. We also recognize other OSA staff who are enthusiastic about public engagement and interpretation and assist in these efforts!
OSA’s outreach activities have been taking place since it’s foundation in 1959, and its dedicated program has been active since the 1990s. We're really excited about this national recognition, and hope that archaeology education and outreach continues to become an institutionalized effort and professionalized across the country. Thank you to John Wenck (Iowa DNR) and Johnathan and Suzanne Buffalo (Meskwaki Nation) for supporting this nomination with letters of recommendation. OSA also wishes to recognize all those who partner with us and attend our programs. You helped make this happen!
BY THE NUMBERS
STUDENT & VOLUNTEER SUCCESS
Many OSA staff members mentor students and train and supervise student workers, interns, and other volunteers. The OSA actively supports undergraduate and graduate student use of its archaeological, osteological, and comparative collections; scholarly documents; electronic databases; scientific instrumentation; and laboratory space for degree-related research. These resources contribute to the educational experience of students in diverse UI departments including,
- Art & Art History
- College of Education
- Computer Science
- Earth and Environmental Sciences
- Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
- Native American & Indigenous Studies, and
- Museum Studies
In FY 2023 the OSA facilities, collections, and staff provided classroom enrichment and workplace experience for a total of 24 faculty, staff, and students and six member of the public who worked to log 3,489 hours at the OSA contributing to project activities.
- University of Iowa
- Cornell College
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Regina High School, Iowa City
- Iowa Archeological Society
- Augustana University
- Harvard University Extension School
- University of California, Riverside
- University of Leicester
- Texas State University
Asher Bozarth, a Kirkwood Community College Workplace Learning Connections Intern, crafts custom housing for historical artifacts.
Katherine Lyu, UI Museum Studies intern, reviews a box of artifacts in the State Archaeological Repository. Learn more about her student experience.
OSA intern and UI Anthropology student, Molly Evans, assists Veronica Mraz with artifact identification at a public event.
OSA intern, volunteer, and UI Anthropology student, Samantha Cooling, helps members of the public record archaeological site locations.
Beginning in June 2023, OSA hosted an 8-week Humanities for the Public Good summer intern, Susan Santee, through the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. Susan is a Ph.D. student in the College of Education and has background experience in instructional design. OSA tasked Susan with developing a needs assessment and interviewing stakeholders to help revise and revitalize the Iowa Archaeology Certification Program. Susan’s excellent work and important recommendations will ultimately result in the development of eLearning courses to enhance the program.
YouTube videos produced by OSA intern and UI Anthropology undergraduate Gabriella Snyder.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL & ARCHITECTURAL INVESTIGATIONS
The OSA conducts both contract and grant-funded research involving archaeological and architectural history studies statewide. These projects, regardless of funding source or sponsor, generate important new knowledge about precontact and historic era Midwestern adaptations, and they form the basis for many staff publications, professional and public presentations, and student and faculty research projects.
The OSA conducted 188 archaeological and architectural projects in FY 2023, significantly contributing to the enhancement of statewide economic development. In addition to 76 Phase IA and Desktop evaluations, OSA staff conducted 79 Phase I surveys, recording or supplementing information on 35 archaeological sites. A total of 39 Phase IA and six Phase I architectural history surveys were completed. The FY 2023 efforts included projects in 59 different Iowa counties and served 34 different sponsors. Local government clients included the cities of Bondurant, Coralville, Council Bluffs, and Davenport, and the counties of Johnson, Marshall, Polk, and Union. State and federal agency clients included the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the US Department of Agriculture. Three non-profit affordable housing clients, including Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, and Matthew 25 were provided CRM compliance support.
Iowa Department of Transportation
FY 2023 marks 53 years of contracted services with the Iowa DOT for archaeological investigations and 34 years of historic architectural evaluations. A total of 134 Phase IA Cultural Resource Evaluation reports was submitted, along with eight technical reports pertaining to planning assistance, Phase IA archaeological and historic architectural reconnaissance, and Phase I intensive surveys. Among other efforts, the OSA assisted in planning and execution of the Iowa DOT’s Tribal Summit on Cultural Preservation and Transportation.
One of the more interesting architecture history surveys we performed in FY 2023 was for 13 proposed antenna poles planned for Pella, Iowa. Historically Pella was a magnet for Dutch and other Low Country immigrants who conserved a lot of their old country culture and language. These cultural ties are reflected in much of the downtown business district architecture, which often blends well-preserved early 20th-century prosperity with flourishes of Dutch design. The Old-World charm and historic architecture of Pella are what makes it one of the larger tourist draws in Iowa, and adding 13 new antenna poles might affect that charm, even if improved telecommunication service was badly needed in Pella. Compounding this problem was the reality that although Pella’s downtown is widely recognized as historic, it was never formally listed as a National Register of Historic Places district. This meant any evaluation of new poles for architectural significance required taking into account a hypothetical, undefined, historic district. The OSA worked with telecommunication companies, the City of Pella, and SHPO to make recommendations on how new poles could be added without adversely impacting the historic character of Pella.
US61 Highway Site Excavations in Southeast Iowa
Two precontact archaeological sites in southeast Iowa were excavated by the OSA for the Iowa DOT ahead of planned construction improvements to US61 highway. In the fall of 2022 through spring of 2023, excavations revealed ancient pottery and many lithic tools and manufacturing waste. All artifacts larger than 1 cm were recorded in 3 dimensional space to recreate the spatial association with mapping software during analysis.
Site 13LA904 sits on low terrace of a creek and yielded over 23,000 artifacts, including a Koster projectile point and Louisa phase Burris ware pottery pieces. Both the artifacts and radiocarbon dates indicate that the occupants of the site were there during the Late Woodland period, roughly 1000 years ago.
Site 13LA921 sits on the edge of an upland agricultural field as it slopes down toward the creek. Approximately 2,500 artifacts were recovered during the excavation. While no identified projectile points or other diagnostic artifacts were discovered at this site, radiocarbon dates point to the Late Archaic time period, nearly 4,000 years ago. One interesting find during the field excavation included a curiously rounded stone found in the immediate vicinity with other precontact lithic artifacts. This round rock was likely shaped naturally through an abrasion process, but its presence at this site indicates that someone a very long time ago brought it there for some unknown purpose, perhaps to use as a weight or a game piece.
Analysis of artifacts and research is ongoing for this project with an expected completion during the spring of 2024.
The OSA continually adds archaeological materials and related documents to the State Archaeological Repository and provides materials for local, regional, and national exhibition and research purposes.
During FY 2023, OSA facilitated seven loans for archaeological research and analysis, formal exhibition, and informal displays accompanying presentations. The loans included 1,558 artifacts from 11 accessioned collections, representing material from six sites and one notable location. Individuals borrowing OSA materials include researchers from the Office of the State Archaeologist, Iowa Department of Transportation, Kansas Geological Survey, Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center, Putnam Museum and Science Center, and North Lee County Historical Society.
The archaeological collections at the OSA are used for many different purposes including outreach and education, loans, and research. In FY 2023 over 117 accessions, representing at least 93 sites, were accessed. The majority of these collections were accessed during a funerary object consultation with representatives of nine tribes and descendant groups, held at the OSA in October 2022.
Other users of collections during FY 2023 included 14 individuals with a range of affiliations such as the OSA, UI Department of Anthropology, UI Pentacrest Museums, Iowa Department of Transportation, Sanford Museum, and Iowa Archeological Society. These collections were used for background research related to future archaeological excavations, videography and photography of artifacts for educational resources, selection of artifacts for exhibition, short-term display of artifacts for student groups, and current research projects. Several chipped stone tools from the OSA Reference Collection were used to create silicone molds which in turn were used to create chocolate projectile points which decorated desserts served at a celebration luncheon honoring Shirley Schermer’s selection as a University of Iowa honorary doctorate degree recipient.
In FY 2023, an effort was undertaken to make potential funerary objects more accessible to tribal representatives. A NAGPRA Documentation/Consultation grant awarded in FY 2018 resulted in the identification of potential funerary objects and a funerary object consultation event in October 2022. Following feedback from the consultation event, all items identified as Unassociated Funerary Objects were removed from their accession’s boxes in the repository and rehoused in new, clearly labeled boxes in an area of the repository reserved for funerary objects. A new tag was created for each object, identifying it as an Unassociated Funerary Object and communicating its catalog and provenience information. It is our hope that separating these items from the non-funerary objects in the repository will facilitate their access by Tribal and descent group representatives while helping establish more considerate research, loan, and exhibition practices with respect to these sensitive objects.
Field School-related Materials
Artifacts from the Cornell College Archaeological Field School were added to the State Archaeological Repository in FY 2023. These artifacts represent collections from two sites: 13CD15 and 13CD244. These collections were processed and cataloged by three Cornell College interns.
Two University of Iowa students spent the fall semester of 2022 cataloging and working with artifacts from the 2022 Lakeside Laboratory Archaeological Field School at 13DK9, the Gardner Cabin Site. Their research resulted in two presentations.
The head and paws of a black bear were added to the Comparative Collection during FY 2023. These specimens, acquired from a friend of Senior Curation Assistant Seraphina Carey, were processed during the summer of 2022. Many thanks to Seraphina and volunteer Pat Collison for preparing these specimens for inclusion in the OSA’s comparative collection.
OSA’s archives program supported three work-study students and one part-time staff in FY 2023. Led by Teresa Rucker, the archives team added 2,764 new records to iArc, including reports, books, conference papers, manuscripts, journal articles, newspaper articles, and photographs. iArc continues to be important to research at OSA and outside agencies, firms, and individuals.
Teresa continued her service on the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) Archives Committee. The committee is tasked with creating a documents retention and destruction policy to aid the SAA in determining what to curate at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA).
iArc Stats for FY 2023:
297,315 total records, 94% available digitally on iArc
- 3,881 legacy documents were accessed 927 times
- 1,317 reports submitted to Iowa DOT were accessed 1,142 times
- 1,394 reports submitted to Iowa DNR were accessed 1,300 times
- External iArc users accessed 26,720 documents a total of 12,608 times
total sites recorded in Iowa
new site shapes in the site file
site file data searches
registered I-SitesPro users
OSA’s commitment to conducting and disseminating modern high-quality archaeological research requires a significant investment in research technology. From maintaining complex databases, to deploying a suite of scientific instruments and equipment, to supporting an array of Internet and other social media, the OSA’s involvement in research technology covers the gamut of twenty-first century breakthroughs in archaeology.
Iowa Site File
Most archaeological sites are recorded in the Iowa Site File as a result of cultural resource surveys conducted by professional archaeologists. Some, however, are reported by landowners, avocational archaeologists, and other non-professionals.
Significant steps were initiated in FY 2023 to decolonize key terms used in recording sites in the Iowa Site File. These changes require considerable programming and database restructuring but are important advancements in the way data are collected and interpretations about the past are framed.
Field and Laboratory Technology
Many of OSA’s research endeavors require the use of highly specialized scientific technology in both the field and laboratory setting, including robotic laser transit with data recorder, high resolution GPS units, tablets for mobile data collection, and small drones (UAS) to fly over archaeological sites to create surface models and for infrared thermographic analysis. In FY 2023 OSA Research Technology Director Mary De La Garza and Professor Susan Meerdink (UI Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences) entered into a partnership that includes both technology sharing and instruction by De La Garza, who taught in UI’s Edge of Space program.
Website and App Development
During FY 2023 the OSA maintained portals for the and the ., as well as support for I-SitesPro, I-Sites Public, I-SitesGov, and
Iowa counties represented
in FY 2023
Ancient burial site
This year the Bioarchaeology Program finalized our NAGPRA Consultation/Documentation Grant (awarded in 2018) with a consultation event held along with the Iowa DOT Tribal Summit in October 2022 – summaries of all potential NAGPRA items identified were submitted and we now have a comprehensive list of items subject to repatriation in the OSA’s general collections.
Four Notices of Inventory Completion were also published in the Federal Register for individuals originally interred in what are now Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Twenty-one ancestors and 11 funerary objects were repatriated to the Pawnee Nation and Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska for reburial in Nebraska in November 2022.
The Bioarchaeology Program carried out its usual work with landowners who serve as site stewards, and local, state, and federal agencies in upholding our responsibilities for ancient burial site and inadvertent discovery investigations and reporting, and the protection of sites potentially impacted by development.
We also made significant progress on our statewide survey of post-contact Indian cemeteries in Minnesota; Sam Murphy has recorded and mapped in GIS 399 cemeteries and other significant places (i.e. boarding schools, removal routes, reservation boundaries). In consultation and collaboration with descendant communities the main goal of this project is to foster the protection of these important places through comprehensive documentation.
Lara Noldner was promoted to Adjunct Associate Professor and selected to teach Human Osteology.
Individuals reached through public and professional outreach
The OSA provides resources and opportunities that encourage the understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of Iowa’s archaeological past. Although in-person programming has resumed, OSA continues to do digital programming, and staff reached nearly 200 people live via Zoom. Additionally, OSA reached thousands more through TV and radio interviews.
Exploring Iowa Archaeology in K-12 Education
A total of 569 K–12 students participated in in-person and virtual archaeology presentations, activities, and tours with OSA staff.
Educators continued their long-time, award-winning presentations virtually and in-person. Requests for classroom programming came from teachers, museums, and scout groups.
Beyond the classroom, the OSA staff promoted Iowa’s education program successes and contributed to the field education on a national level through serving on the National Leadership Team.
Bringing Archaeology to Iowa Communities
Engaging with the Interested Public through Virtual and In-Person Programming
The OSA continues to foster strong relationships with heritage preservation organizations across the state. OSA participated in its 8th Project AWARE, which involved 348 participants who paddled 61 miles on the West Fork of the Des Moines River in northwest Iowa. OSA participated as “resident archaeologists” and assisted with educational programs at the event.
Outreach activities in partnership with the History and Culture tent at the Meskwaki Powwow recommenced this year, and OSA was delighted to be back in action with Johnathan and Suzanne Buffalo. Other major events for in-person outreach by OSA staff were the Iowa Archeological Society (IAS) spring meeting at the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, an exhibit launch at Jester Park Nature Center in Polk County, Archaeology Day at Calkins Nature Center in Hardin County, and teaching volunteers lab work basics at the Sioux City Railroad Museum.
Connected for Life: Object-based Digital Programming to Foster Active Minds for Senior Living Communities
The Connected for Life project, supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the Coronavirus Aid, Relieve, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, due for completion on September 30, was extended through December 31. Over the duration of the project, the partnership of presenters from OSA, Stanley Museum of Art, UI Libraries, and UI Pentacrest Museums reached 1,006 participants at senior living communities and senior centers in Iowa via 114 Zoom programs. The team also added new themed pages with photo galleries to the project website.
The Community Engaged Scholars Partnership
In June, OSA successfully completed a year-long grant project for the University of Iowa (UI) Community Engaged Scholars Program, supported by the UI Office of the Vice President for Research. OSA began collaboration during the fall of 2021 with the Historical Society & Museum located in Elgin, Iowa (EHS), and introduced EHS leadership to our colleagues with the Meskwaki Nation and UI Department of Anthropology to share knowledge about archaeological and historical sites along the Turkey River in northeast Iowa, which is archaeologically very dense but sorely under documented in the Iowa Site File. OSA worked with the grant partners to organize four community events, including an initial collaboration that capitalized on the July 2022 Elgin RAGBRAI stop and two “Archaeo-blitz” events where local residents could work with professional archaeologists and our student interns to identify their artifacts, record new site locations, and learn collections care tips. Raising awareness about Indigenous connections, both past and present, to the Turkey River was a key goal of the community engagement aspect, so the grant partners collaborated to insure the Archaeo-blitz events included presentations, exhibits, and performances by Meskwaki and Ho-Chunk historians, artists, and dancers. Between the four events, the team connected with over 500 attendees and participants and recorded 21 new archaeological sites in Fayette County. OSA staff and interns produced two ArcGIS StoryMaps to document project events and resources.
An ArcGIS StoryMap with resources to assist non-archaeologists with basic artifact identification, site documentation, artifact collection, and collections care.
Learn about the Importance of the Turkey River to Indigenous Communities Past and Present through this ArcGIS StoryMap.
The education and outreach content on the OSA website remained a vigorous, interactive conduit between the public and the OSA. The OSA’s social media pages were an important venue for disseminating news and program information in FY 2023. Active social media platforms administered by the OSA include , , , and .
6,324 followers, up 450
13,504 unique views,
up 145 subscribers
On Facebook, the sum of the total daily reach of the Iowa Archaeology page for FY 2023 equaled 82,251, while the total sum of all FY 2023 posts was 310,807. The sum of total daily reach for unique accounts on Instagram was 1,734. The most popular Facebook post announced OSA’s April 22 Turkey River Archaeo-blitz & Celebration of Native American Culture event; it reached 17,987 people, demonstrating the platform’s powerful potential in terms of engagement and outreach.
Over the course of the fiscal year, Twitter underwent significant management changes that impacted followers and algorithms. Analytics for the duration of the fiscal year are not available.
On YouTube, people watched Iowa Archaeology videos 13,504 times during FY 2023. A Citizen’s Guide to Recording Archaeological Finds in Iowa and Community Engaged Archaeology in Elgin, Iowa. , produced by Liz Schultz and edited by OSA in 2004, remained the most viewed Iowa Archaeology YouTube video this past year and has been viewed over 22,900 times. New to YouTube this year was a series of videos produced by students and OSA staff for the Community Engaged Scholars project grant. These appear in the ESRI StoryMaps