ISU Western Research Farm to Host Anthropology Student Dig

Eleven anthropology students and Matthew Hill, Iowa State anthropology associate professor, will begin an archeological excavation project in May near Ute, Iowa, similar to the one pictured above that depicts a previous dig site in Nebraska.

The Iowa State University Western Research Farm, in Castana, Iowa, will be the site for an archeological excavation in May. Eleven anthropology students will be staying at the farm and exploring a site near Ute, Iowa.

Matthew Hill, Iowa State anthropology associate professor, will be leading the team as they learn the basics of field archeology excavating techniques, GPS mapping and stone tool identification. The project is part of a six-credit course offered through Iowa State.

The goal of the archeological dig is to teach students how to collect and answer questions using the recovered material. The team hopes to answer questions about how long the site was occupied, what activities occurred there and what animals were hunted for food.

The students will camp in tents in a small grove located on the farm and will have full access to the research farm’s headquarters facility including a partial kitchen, shower, electricity and laboratory space.

Next fall the students will continue the project in Hill’s laboratory on campus, where the artifacts and faunal remains will be cleaned, cataloged and analyzed.

The location for the dig is known as the Hennings site. The Office of the State of Archeology first discovered remnants of fire-cracked rock, chipped stone artifacts, bison remains and mussel shells at the site in 1993. The site is estimated to be 4,400 years old. It’s considered a rare find because of its age, amount and type of preserved artifacts.

The Western Research Farm is currently planning to extend this experiential learning opportunity to elementary and middle school students. Although the visits are still under development, the goal is to promote science by giving students a tour and provide a hands-on experience at the archeological site. Hill is creating a blog where students can monitor project developments and ask questions related to archeology and the project.

The ISU Western Research Farm, located in Iowa’s Loess Hills, has been an agricultural research location since 1946. The farm itself is owned by a local group of farmers and agri-businesses. The Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has a long-term agreement to perform agricultural research projects related to soil, crops and livestock on the farm.