Archaeological Fieldwork and Analysis

Archaeological fieldwork and analysis is conducted by staff at all of the Archaeology units at the University of Iowa. Specialized services include Cultural Resource Management, Ground Penetrating Radar, microscopy use-wear analysis, portable X-Ray Fluorescence, and terrestrial LiDAR.

Archaeological Fieldwork and Analysis

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 provides the following professional consulting capabilities on a sponsored research basis: 

  • National Historic Preservation Act (“Section 106”) compliance research, including archaeological survey and inventory, archival searches, testing and mitigation, and preparation of National Register nominations; 
  • Assistance with promoting, preserving and interpreting cultural and archaeological resources along Iowa’s many scenic byways; 
  • Specialized archaeological investigation: faunal and lithic analyses, including microwear analysis; and 
  • Remote sensing with in-house equipment for conducting Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) surveys and high-resolution site mapping.

For more information, contact Bill Whittaker at 319-384-0724 or Carl Merry at 319-384-0737

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.

Ground Penetrating Radar 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.  

For more information, contact Bill Whittaker at 319-384-0724.

Portable X-Ray Fluorescence

X-ray Fluorescence Analysis
The UI Department of Anthropology has the technology and capability to conduct analysis of archaeological samples and artifacts using portable X-Ray Fluorescence (PXRF). Because of the portability of this technology, it is ideal for in-field analysis or for taking to museum collections. 
In the most basic sense, PXRF is non-destructive geochemical analysis technique that involves using an X-Ray blast to determine the chemical elements or composition of an artifact or sample. At the University of Iowa, graduate student Ted Marks is currently using PXRF to analyze rock samples from materials used to make stone tools between about 60,000 and 20,000 years ago in the desert in Namibia. By using PXRF to create a unique chemical "fingerprint" for each source area of stone and comparing that data with the fingerprint of excavated stone tools, he will be able to determine where prehistoric peoples retrieved the stone used to create their tools. 
For more information, email James Enloe.

Terrestrial LiDAR

For more information, contact Bill Whittaker at 319-384-0724.


Old Capitol Museum

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