Western Iowa has an abundance of archaeological resources. Our region even played an important role in state and federal archaeological policy: “Inadvertent discoveries of human remains in three locations in the Loess Hills in the early 1970s propelled Iowa into being the first state in the nation to pass laws that provide legal protection for all human remains regardless of age or origin found on public or private land, and for the reburial of native Indian remains. These three sites became focal points instrumental to the enacting of changes in the Iowa legal code and creating of precedent that led to similar legal changes in other states, ultimately presaging the 1990 passage of the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). In the early 1970s, extensive archaeological investigations were undertaken as part of U.S. 34 highway work in the Glenwood area, crossing east-west through the Loess Hills. Several graves were encountered at one site; the graves of Euroamerican settlers were disinterred and immediately reinterred in a nearby cemetery, but the grave of an American Indian was boxed up and shipped to Iowa City for study, along with artifacts from the project. Outrage over this incident spurred Maria Pearson (Running Moccasins), Yankton Sioux, to become an active vocal advocate for Indian rights and burial protection for the next three decades, not just within Iowa, but also nationally and internationally. Support from the Iowa Governor and overwhelming public support led to a precedent that both Indian and archaeologists would eventually agree upon, that the remains of Native Americans should be treated in the same fashion as non-Indians. This concept would eventually become the heart of Iowa’s burial laws” (Source: Archaeological Resources and National Significance of the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway 13, 2008).
Many local museums have bones and other artifacts that have been found in fields and streambeds. Most of the land in western Iowa is privately owned. Do not trespass onto private land. Because our loess soils are highly erosive, we do not promote digging for artifacts, although we know it is abundant. The map below includes information about archaeological resources across the state.
Resources and Information
The Archeological Guide to Iowa, published by University of Iowa Press, including the Davis-Oriole Site, Pacific City Cemetery, and Hitchcock House.