|22 February 2009
Ancient village discovered in Iowa
Some 1,700 years ago, the people who live in what is known officially as archaeological site 13LA582 west of Oakville, Iowa (USA), were hunter-gatherers who also grew native crops like sunflower seeds. They lived in a doughnut-shaped village around a communal area and occupied 20 to 25 tree branch and bark wigwams capable of housing up to 10 people each.
The group is believed to be part of the Weaver culture located not far from the confluence of the Iowa and Cedar rivers in Louisa County where fish and game were plentiful, said Dave Benn, a research archaeologist. "They ate a huge number of fish, and we also found turtle and deer bones," Benn said of the diet of the people about whom little is known. "They lived well, they ate well, and there was a lot of food here."
A team of archaeologists toiling under a plastic canopy off Louisa County Road H22 are carefully unearthing remnants of the village from a 10-foot-by-213-foot trench cut right through the middle of it. They are hoping to gain a greater insight into the lives of these prehistoric people who once flourished throughout the region. "There were villages up and down the banks of rivers all through the area," said Benn. "This one is a particularly good find, probably the best I've seen in a decade."
In eight weeks of meticulous digging and cataloging, the site has yielded 100,000 artifacts, Benn said. Many are unrecognizable bone fragments and pottery shards, but there are also stone arrowheads and spear points, stone axe heads and pits laden with ancient trash that give a glimpse of how the village lived. The most spectacular find at the site has not been one thing. Instead, it has been the ability of the diggers to develop a detailed map of the village's structure, Benn said.
The digging is expected to wrap up in about a week, said James Ross, an archaeologist for the Army Corps who has been overseeing economic and environmental impact of construction of a new levee. The site was discovered as an archaeological survey was done in anticipation of construction of the levee and is one of only three of its kind known to exist. "The site will be covered over. We will have all the artifacts, and we will know where everything is. Covering it over will protect everything just as it is," Ross said. The artifacts are expected to find their way to the curator's office of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Iowa, where they could end up in an exhibit open to the public.
Source: Quad-City Times (17 February 2009)
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