Research Investigations

Cultural Resource Management 

All Iowa projects undertaken by the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) at the University of Iowa are conducted in accordance with the Association of Iowa Archaeologists Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Iowa, as well as the regulations of the National Park Service and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (36CFR800 as amended). Projects conducted in other states follow the guidelines established by each State Historic Preservation Office/Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Professional archaeological, architectural historian, and osteological consultants at the OSA have a wealth of experience in a wide range of contexts and a solid understanding of current legislation and principles of cultural resources management best practices. This experience allows OSA consultants to provide comprehensive assessments of the opportunities and risks associated with cultural resources management compliance, and they aim to deliver heritage solutions that will benefit the whole community. 

The OSA conducts a broad spectrum of services, working with all levels of government, as well as private corporations, Indian tribes, and private citizens on cultural resource management related investigations that include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Identification surveys (e.g., Phase IA reconnaissance and Phase I intensive geomorphological and archaeological investigations as defined in the Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Iowa [SHPO 1999]) and as similarly practiced outside Iowa.

  • Evaluations (a.k.a., Phase II NRHP eligibility testing) of prehistoric and historical archaeology sites.

  • Mitigations (a.k.a., Phase III data recovery), for both prehistoric and historical archaeology sites.

  • Consultation with state and federal agencies, Indian tribes, descendant communities and individuals, other professionals, and members of the general public concerning cultural resources including archaeological sites, traditional cultural properties (TCPs), and aspects of the built environment.

  • Preparation of planning documents, overviews, summaries, memoranda of understanding or agreement (MOUs/MOAs), programmatic agreements (PAs), and scopes-of-work (SOWs).

  • Specialty analyses and services including flotation processing; chert raw material identification; lithic, ceramic, historic artifact, floral, faunal, and spatial analyses; ground penetrating radar; geomorphological and geoarchaeological investigations; artifact and site photography and illustration; surveying, GPS, and GIS mapping and analysis; and report preparation (graphics and text).

These activities are typically—but not exclusively—conducted as Section 106 (NHPA) compliance undertakings; other state and federal grant and contract sources also fund OSA activities (e.g., HRDPState Preserves Board, CLG, TEA-21). Past OSA activities have included significant use of volunteers or students for certain client- or sponsor-approved aspects of projects and integrated compliance and volunteer activities when deemed appropriate. OSA routinely hires specialized consultants and hourly employees as needed to complete projects.

OSA activities are typically conducted in Iowa, Missouri, or Illinois, however the OSA has served as consultant to the U.S. Army COE Rock Island District (portions of IA, IL, MO, MN, WI). Previously, GCP has teamed as a subcontractor projects in the NPS Midwest Region (potential work in AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, or WI). OSA would contemplate involvement in project opportunities in states other than those included in the NPS Midwest Region on a case-by-case basis.

For more information, contact William Whittaker at 319-384-0937 or Cindy Peterson at 319-467-1140

Ground Penetrating Radar

The OSA and the Department of Anthropology offer ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey services. GPR can allow for the detection and identification of buried features, including archaeological deposits and geological features without disturbing them and at fraction of the cost of excavation. UI researchers have used GPR to identify historical graves, analyze strata within prehistoric Indian mounds, locate historical foundations at Fort Atkinson and Fort Des Moines, and find prehistoric features at several archaeological sites. 

For more information, email Glenn Storey or William Whittaker.

OSA Archaeologist Bill Whittaker conducting GPR Survey

Optical Microscopy Lithic Use-Wear Analysis

The OSA has the technology and capability to conduct use-wear analysis on stone tools using an Olympus BX51 optical microscope, digital camera and imaging software. The use-wear facility also contains a comparative collection of use-wear traces from a broad-based and ever-expanding experimental archaeology program. Use-wear microscopy captures wear traces on tool edges and surfaces that derive from physical and chemical changes in the surface features of silicates due to contact with materials (hide, plant, bone, etc.) and kinetic motions during tool use tasks. Use-wear traces from hafting can also be identified. Use and haft traces reveal insights into how tools were used, designed, and how past technologies were organized. In 2011 University of Iowa, undergraduate student Anson Kritsch participated in the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduate Program and the results of his use-wear research were presented at regional, national, and international conferences, and contributed to the NSF funded Prelude to Plant Domestication project, a collaborative research project investigating plant use and processing technologies in the ancient Midwest. The use-wear findings from the Prelude to Plant Domestication project will be available in an upcoming publication Use-Wear 2012: Proceedings of the International Conference on Use-Wear Analysis by Cambridge Schools Publishing.  

Lithic analysis under a microscope
Anson Kritsch presents a student poster


Terrestrial LiDAR

The OSA staff is experienced in the use of high-resolution topographic lidar. We frequently use it to find unrecorded Indian mounds, evaluate the condition of recorded mounds, find early trail systems, and create high-resolution topographic maps of archaeological sites and survey areas. Our staff can help clients conduct spatial and geographical analyses of lidar data for just about any project.”

For more information, contact William Whittaker at 319-384-0937.