Did You Know?

How did you know where to dig?
How deep did you have to dig?
How large was the crew?
What dangers existed for the archaeologists working on the site?
What do the figures mean on the photo board?
Were Native Americans living in the area when Euro-Americans moved onto Bowen's Prairie?
What happened to the people who lived at Bowen's Prairie?
How large was the town of Bowen's Prairie?
Is it dangerous to dig in a privy?
Can archaeology tell us what kind of dairy cows furnished the milk for the creamery?
What is the thick vegetation growing on some of the sites?
What happened to the sites after excavation was concluded?

How did you know where to dig?

Historic records including 19th-century Government Land Office surveys, maps, plats, and land deeds showed the location of many sites. Archaeological survey in 1993 and test excavation in 1995 relocated
those that would be impacted by the widening of Highway 151. A grader stripped each of these sites to remove plow zone and help locate individual features such as structures, wells, and concentrations of
cultural material. 

How deep did you have to dig?

One of the deepest features of the project was that found at the Moses Collins farmstead where a cistern was uncovered three meters in the ground.

How large was the crew?

A total of 35 people worked on the five sites.

What dangers existed for the archaeologists working on the site?

Unlike the spectacular and fictional dangers depicted in movies, most archaeologists face more mundane, everyday kinds of occupational hazards. The sites in Bowen's Prairie were all located close to Highway 151. Traffic on the road provided an inherent danger for the crews driving to and from the site and working so close to the road. Weather conditions and insects were always a consideration if not an actual hazard. The crew suffered from extreme heat, humidity, torrential rain, and the threat of thunderstorms and wind throughout much of the summer. Portable toilets blew over and excavation units often flooded. A tree toppled over and bent the legs of a tripod. Biting mosquitoes, gnats, and Japanese beetles all proved annoying. One crew member required a tetanus shot after being punctured by an artifact. The deep nature of many of the features required the excavation units to be stepped rather than dug with tall, vertical walls that might collapse (see 13JN196 Moses Collins Farmstead). At the Moses Collins farmstead, a dangerous deposit of asbestos was encountered, preventing the excavation of an early cabin at the site.

What do the figures mean on the photo board?

Generally, the photo board displays the site number (i.e., 13JN196 is the Moses Collins farmstead), the area/structure/feature being illustrated, the level within this area or feature, and the date the photo was taken. This information provides an additional reference once the photographs have been developed and the analysis and report writing is undertaken.

Were Native Americans living in the area when Euro-Americans moved to Bowen's Prairie?

Yes. This was territory occupied by the Meskwaki and Sac in the 1830s. Trade beads and an early coin, perforated and possibly strung and worn as an ornament, were discovered at the Moses Collins farmstead. These items may reflect trade with local Native Americans.

What happened to the people who lived at Bowen's Prairie?

After Bowen's Prairie was bypassed by the railroad, most of the population gradually migrated to nearby communities such as Monticello. Descendants of some of the early residents still live in Jones County.

How large was the town of Bowen's Prairie?

The maximum population of the townsite is unknown; however, the relatively sparse number of features found in the portion of the town excavated would suggest that it was relatively small. In 1875, twelve dwellings were reported in the town of Bowen's Prairie.

Is it dangerous to dig in a privy?

Some of the privies encountered during the project contained "night soil," soil enriched by organic waste. There is no recorded instance of any archaeologist being harmed from excavating this material.

Can archaeology tell us what kind of dairy cows furnished the milk for the creamery?

No. Cow bones from the site can be identified but not the exact type of cows. Historic records will provide the best chance of learning the varieties of dairy cattle preferred by early Jones County residents.

What is the thick vegetation growing on some of the sites?

After the sites were stripped to disclose features, the disturbed areas including the huge, back-dirt piles quickly grew up in buttonweed.

What happened to the sites once excavation was concluded?

Each was backfilled until widening of Highway 151 by the Iowa DOT begins. All of the materials and records from the excavation are being studied at the Office of the State Archaeologist at the University of Iowa, and a final report will be prepared.