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Books on Iowa Archaeology
All royalties from these books go to the Iowa Archaeological Society.
Iowa has the reputation of being one big corn field, so you may be surprised to learn it boasts a rich crop of recorded archaeological sites as well—approximately 27,000 at last count. Some are spectacular, such as the one hundred mounds at Sny Magill in Effigy Mounds National Monument, while others consist of old abandoned farmsteads or small scatters of prehistoric flakes and heated rocks. Untold numbers are completely gone or badly disturbed—destroyed by plowing, erosion, or development.
Fortunately, there are many sites open to the public where the remnants of the past are visible, either in their original location or in nearby museum exhibits. Few things are more inspiring than walking among the Malchow Mounds, packed so tightly it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Strolling around downtown Des Moines is a lot more interesting when you are aware of the mounds, Indian villages, and the fort that once stood there. And, although you can’t visit the Wanampito site, you can see the splendid seventeenth-century artifacts excavated from it at Heery Woods State Park.
For people who want to experience Iowa’s archaeological heritage first hand, this one-of-a-kind guidebook shows the way to sixty-eight important sites. Many are open to visitors or can be seen from a public location; others, on private land or no longer visible on the landscape, live on through artifact displays. The guide also includes a few important sites that are not open to visitors because these places have unique stories to tell. Sites of every type, from every time period, and in every corner of the state are featured. Whether you have a few hours to indulge your curiosity or are planning a road trip across the state, this guide will take you to places where Iowa’s deep history comes to life.
At least fifty-six frontier forts once stood in, or within view of, what is now the state of Iowa. The earliest date to the 1680s, while the latest date to the Dakota uprising of 1862. Some were vast compounds housing hundreds of soldiers; others consisted of a few sheds built by a trader along a riverbank. Regardless of their size and function - William Whittaker and his contributors include any compound that was historically called a fort, whether stockaded or not, as well as all military installations - all sought to control and manipulate Indians to the advantage of European and American traders, governments, and settlers. Frontier Forts of Iowa draws extensively upon the archaeological and historical records to document this era of transformation from the seventeenth-century fur trade until almost all Indians had been removed from the region. The earliest European-constructed forts along the Mississippi, Des Moines, and Missouri rivers fostered a complex relationship between Indians and early traders. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1804, American military forts emerged in the Upper Midwest, defending the newly claimed territories from foreign armies, foreign traders, and foreign-supported Indians. After the War of 1812, new forts were built to control Indians until they could be moved out of the way of American settlers; forts of this period, which made extensive use of roads and trails, teamed a military presence with an Indian agent who negotiated treaties and regulated trade. The final phase of fort construction in Iowa occurred in response to the Spirit Lake massacre and the Dakota uprising; the complete removal of the Dakota in 1863 marked the end of frontier forts in a state now almost completely settled by Euro-Americans. By focusing on the archaeological evidence produced by many years of excavations and by supporting their words with a wealth of maps and illustrations, the authors uncover the past and connect it with the real history of real places. In so doing they illuminate the complicated and dramatic history of the Upper Midwest in a time of enormous change. Past is linked to present in the form of a section on visiting original and reconstructed forts today.