The Nebraska Association of Professional Archeologists is pleased to announce that Rob Bozell has been presented with the William Duncan Strong Memorial Award in honor of his significant contributions to Nebraska Archaeology. The Award was presented to Rob on November 5, 2021 at an early Retirement Party thrown in his honor in Lincoln, NE.
From the award nomination:
Several years ago, former Nebraska State Historical Society Director Mike Smith referred to Rob Bozell as “the Empire Builder,” in reference to the then rapidly growing Archeology team. Minus any negative connotations of self-aggrandizement, this is an apt description of Rob – a person who adds to or strengthens an organization. Nebraska Archeology has indeed been immeasurably strengthened by Rob’s contributions over his forty-year career.
Rob began his life-long interest in archeology growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. After high school, he completed his undergraduate degree in Anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, followed by his Master’s degree in 1981. He began his career working on archeological projects with several universities and the National Park Service before landing at the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1984. Besides a brief stint at Augustana College, this is where Rob has been ever since.
As Highway Archeologist, and later as Program Manager and then State Archeologist, Rob has led investigations across the entire state, developing an exceptional understanding of Nebraska’s past across time and space. From sites along the Missouri and Platte River Bluffs in Eastern Nebraska, through the Sandhills, up along the Niobrara to the Buttes of the High Plains, down to the Wildcat Hills and everywhere in between, he continues to share with us all the lives and stories of those who lived in and experienced Nebraska before us.
The W. D. Strong Award is intended to recognize persons who, over the span of their professional careers or private lives, have made substantial contributions of lasting value to the knowledge, appreciation, and or preservation of Nebraska’s archeological heritage. Rob has added to the field in so many ways – through his research, outreach, education, service – that it is difficult to highlight just one of these. He has really contributed to Nebraska Archeology in every measure, both professionally and privately – if the hours spent analyzing faunal remains in his spare time is any indication.
Rob’s publication record is long, and his list of technical reports considerably longer. Sites like Patterson, Eagle Ridge, Big Village, and Engineer Cantonment will always be associated with Rob’s work. A “go-to” for Great Plains faunal analysis, Rob’s other specialties include Late Prehistoric-Post Contact Culture Change, Subsistence Strategies, Paleoecological Reconstruction, and Cultural Resource Management. He has also been instrumental in working with Indigenous groups with regards to repatriation, as well as in supporting their greater involvement in archeology as a whole.
Active as a long-time member of numerous organizations including the Plains Anthropological Society and the Nebraska Association of Professional Archeologists, he has served on many committees and boards, including a couple of terms as President. He has worked to increase archeology’s relevance and to support the exchange of ideas and information both in and out of the profession through conferences, journals, and general outreach.
Whether he likes it or not, Rob is the “face” of Nebraska Archeology – as his appearances on History Detectives and the recent Sandhills YouTube Videos attest! He makes it a point to share archeology with the public through exhibits, media, public lectures, and many one-on-one conversations. He has served as a teacher and mentor to many in the classroom, the field, and on the job, looking to provide individuals opportunities to gain hands-on experience and always approachable with questions.
All of these incredible contributions aside, when trying to pinpoint what encompasses Rob’s career, it really comes down to relationships. In his description of the role of a State Archeologist, Charles McGimsey III wrote that a State Archeologist “must be able to work well and communicate effectively with others on all levels from local landowners to college presidents and legislators” (1974:6). Rob has epitomized this, building a foundation for the Nebraska State Archeology Office with his personal and professional relationships. The public, landowners, tribal members, students, agency officials, and colleagues all appreciate Rob’s knowledge, sense of humor, kindness, and friendly demeanor. He has used his relationships to bring differing perspectives together to solve problems and to find common ground. He is an example of what productive collaboration can look like and the benefits of partnerships. As Nebraska Archeology looks ahead to a changing and uncertain future, his contributions in this regard are absolutely worthy of recognition.
Courtney Ziska and Karen Steinauer, History Nebraska
Charles McGimsey III
1974 The Office of the State Archeologist. Available on the National Association of State Archaeologists website: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Yrn4I7i1bS7dEsZrxTFv21G9nWhXZeVV/view.