Last Friday, NAPA member and UNL Graduate Student Erin Carr presented her graduate research on the geophysical analysis of three Custer County sod house sites to community members and high school students in Broken Bow, Nebraska. The event was sponsored by the Custer County Historical Society and Museum with cooperation from Broken Bow Public Schools.
Carr’s research, part of a larger Digital Homesteading preservation project led by Dr. LuAnn Wandsnider, involves the geophysical investigation of homestead sites in an attempt to relocate sod house footprints (in this instance, a footprint indicates the physical signature of a sod house that remains even if no visible evidence of the structure exists on the ground surface). She has conducted gradiometry and resistivity surveys on sites of varying levels of disturbance, with the aim of establishing a standard for identifying sod house footprints in future surveys and research, as well as determining whether such footprints disappear from the material record with particular degrees of disturbance. Based on her findings to date, even with continuous disturbance of a site from agricultural activities, a footprint for the sod house structure can still be located using geophysical methods, indicating that such sites, albeit ephemeral, may still prove to yield information via archaeological research.
Custer County residents are excited about the results of Carr’s research, and the larger digital preservation project, with their established connections to their homesteading heritage, particularly through the well known photographs of Custer County homesteads by Solomon Butcher. Fortunately, those interested in reading a final report on Carr’s findings will not have to wait long – her thesis research will be posted online following her defense, which she hopes to complete this December. Visit the Anthropology Department Theses page on digitalcommons.unl.edu for access to this thesis, and other recently completed theses, as they are posted.