Whether at an Archaeology Month event or at your local library, you may have seen a copy of the 2014-2015 Nebraska Archaeology Month poster. Posters are the primary means for promoting a state’s archaeology month program, inviting citizens to participate in and learn more about their local archaeology.
While a general theme of Celebrate Nebraska Archaeology has guided Nebraska Archaeology Month over the last couple years, our 2014-2015 poster titled ‘Passages Through Time’ was more specifically focused on the archaeology of Western migration and Nebraska’s recent settlement. The poster’s intent is to emphasize the various methods of investigating the past used by Nebraska archaeologists today, including traditional excavation and artifact analysis as well as modern survey methods and remote sensing techniques. Combined, archaeologists are discovering new aspects of the archaeological record that have long gone unnoticed.
Designed by Graphic Designer Erin Colonna, the 2014-2015 poster centers around an image created from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data showing wagon ruts and the remains of Alkali Station, a major trail facility used by travelers on the Oregon and California trails, the Pony Express, the transcontinental telegraph, and the frontier army. In 2012, this site, located near Ogallala, became the focus of the National Park Service’s Archaeological Prospection Workshop, which is dedicated to the use of geophysical, aerial photography, and other remote sensing methods as they apply to the identification, evaluation, conservation, and protection of archaeological resources around the U.S. Using collected LiDAR data, a digital elevation model (DEM) of the area was created as shown, depicting a 3D representation of the ground surface with any objects or vegetation removed.
The images appearing in the top right and bottom left of the poster feature Oregon Trail related collections at Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska. Artifacts can tell us much about the people who left such materials behind, including where they came from, what activities they were engaged in, and even when they passed through. For the collections from Scotts Bluff, we can learn about the diverse group of people including Native Americans and emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails who used the landmark for travel, camping, settlement, and more!
Finally, the image in the bottom center of the poster shows the systematic metal detection survey of an 1865 battle near Cedar Creek on the Overland Trail. This site, believed to the location of the Rush Creek battle of the American Indian Wars, was discovered in 2008 by a group of students in the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Summer Field School in Archaeology, led by Dr. Doug Scott and Dr. Peter Bleed. In 2009, the researchers and 10 additional students further explored the site via a metal detector survey, finding more than 225 artifacts that helped to define the site, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Although metal detectors have not always been positively associated with archaeological sites, the use of metal detectors as an archaeological tool has increased considerably since the 1980s, particularly at historic battlefields such as Rush Creek. These surveys have demonstrated that nearly any site containing metal artifacts can benefit from the use of metal detectors (Connor and Scott 1998).
Having highlighted a very important period in Nebraska History and presented a number of the methods available for archaeological research, the 2014-2015 NAM Poster still only covered a very small portion of the past in Nebraska. In 2016, we are hoping to depict another aspect of Nebraska Archaeology and we need your help to come up with a new concept! Submit any ideas you may have for our next Nebraska Archaeology Month poster– share your favorite sites, photos, and/or themes with us by sending an email to NebraskaArchaeologyMonth@gmail.com so we can decide where to focus next. Otherwise stay tuned as we unveil the poster in the New Year!