An Archaeological Guide to Iowa: Round Two

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

by Lynn Alex
originally published in the Newsletter of the Iowa Archeological Society, Fall 2012, Issue 223, Vol. 62, No. 3

Iowa A Guide to the Hawkeye State
It has been 74 years since IOWA: A Guide to the Hawkeye State, compiled and written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Iowa, and sponsored by the State Historical Society of Iowa, was published to commemorate the centennial organization of the Iowa Territory. The work’s stated purpose was “… primarily a guide for sightseers from other States,” but also “to acquaint Iowans with Iowa” (p. vii). Included among the 565 pages, were topical sections on Iowa’s past and present (e.g., First Iowans: Mound Builders, Indians); descriptions, statistics, and points of interest for individual cities and towns; and 26 community-to-community tours. The tours—which often crisscrossed one another—covered State or Federal highways and included mile by mile descriptions of towns, points of interest, and the countryside on or near the route (p. ix). A calendar of annual statewide events featured a State History Week and a “Sac and Fox Indian Powwow”. All sections of the book referenced archaeological sites (historic and prehistoric), many of which by now are somewhat diminished or gone, making their 1938 descriptions that much more appreciated. These include the 135-foot “Woman Mound” on the Turkey River in Clayton County, the two “moated” Mill Creek villages in the valley of the Little Sioux, the Amana fish weir, and the more than 100 mounds scattered along the sandy bluffs between Kingston and Burlington (p. 331). Photographs of Fort Atkinson and the Dubuque Shot Tower represent two of only a handful of illustrated locations with known or investigated archaeological components. 
 
In 2013, two colleagues—Bill Whittaker and Mary De La Garza—and myself, all staff at the Office of the State Archaeologist, plan to submit for publication a more explicitly archaeological guide to Iowa. The University of Iowa Press has agreed to publish a book of some 180-200 pages with two-to-three page descriptions of 70-80 featured sites complete with a chronology, suggested readings, and index. Happily, thanks to the Iowa Archeological Society Board of Directors, which has approved a donation from its Research and Education fund, we can include at least eight pages of color images in addition to the black and white photos, maps, and drawings already planned. Color images, we all agree, will create a much more inviting manuscript.
 
Sites selected include a representative sample (chronologically, culturally, and geographically), many that can be visited. Those open to the public will include directions and a modern map. Locational information on sites of a sensitive nature, particularly mounds or cemeteries, if not already in the public’s domain (e.g., Toolesboro Mounds National Historic Landmark) will be kept inexact. The same is true of sites on private property or those whose existence is best kept confidential. Thus, a site such as Iowaville or the Kimball village—both on private land—would be described as if viewed from a position some distance away. 
 
Each site overview will include a few paragraphs about the history of research, findings, and—where available—both historic (“then”) and modern (“now”) photographs. Sites include those elucidated as a result of compliance work conducted for agencies such as the Department of Transportation, as well as those researched by universities, museums, and the Iowa Archeological Society. In many cases, no surface indications of the site remain, but it still offers an interesting story related to how or what was found, or the implications both for the history of Iowa archaeology and knowledge of the state’s deep past. 
 
As a thank you to the IAS, we have agreed that any royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the Society. The book itself will also acknowledge IAS support.
 
Map of sites illustrated in An Archaeological Guide to Iowa

This map illustrates the geographical spread of sites on our current list of over 80.

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