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15 February 2009
Ancient settlement unearthed in Iowa

What's left of a ring-shaped American Indian village discovered in Oakville (Iowa, USA) has been labeled as a rare site in pristine condition by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "It's certainly one of the nicest sites I've ever run into along the river," said Dave Benn, research archeologist from Bear Creek Archeology Inc. of Cresco. Since the 1980s, he has been working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the project.
     The Oak Village site, located off County Road H22, was discovered because the Two Rivers Levee was scheduled to be realigned after it was topped in the June 2008 flood. The flooding destroyed portions of the levee. During a study required by the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act, the site was labeled as historically significant. The goal of the study is to assess the impact of federally funded projects on cultural resources. A greenhouse was constructed in late December 2008 to protect the site, which is scheduled to be completed later this month.
     Benn said the site is too old to tell exactly which tribe lived there but the remains represent village habitation by prehistoric people of the Weaver culture (300-450 CE) of the transitional middle-late woodland period. Seven houses have been identified. The Weaver culture was initially defined as being located in the Central Illinois River Valley because of distinct pottery and projectile points discovered there. The Oak Village site is one of only three known ring midden villages associated with the Weaver culture.
     Tribe members dug storage pits and middens, or trash deposits, inside the floor of their homes. There have been 60 those pit features uncovered and the archaeologists will examine the contents. Like other Weaver sites, this one produced fishbones, but also a fair quantity of turtle shells. Though artifacts such as points for stone tools and awls made of bone have been found, the archaeologist are looking at the vague remains of cache pits, house basins and paleobotanical┬áremains.
     The archaeologist have dug a trench through the ring from one side of the village to the other in order to examine the remains of the culture. Items collected from the site will be preserved. The site will be buried and the levee will be rebuilt. The Corps is expecting to begin work on the levee in the spring. Field work is ahead of schedule and expected to be complete by the end of this month. Archaeologists from Bear Creek Archaeology Inc. typically spend about seven hours a day at the Oak Village site. Experts anticipate recovery of more than 150,000 artifacts that will need to be cleaned, cataloged, and analyzed in detail as well as curated, said Dave Stanley, director of Bear Creek Archeology Inc.

Source: Muscatine Journal (11 February 2009)

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