Archeology on the Lincoln South Beltway

The Lincoln South Beltway Project is currently being constructed from US Highway 77 to Nebraska Highway 2 south and southeast of Lincoln. The 300+ million dollar project is a massive undertaking and required considerable work from History Nebraska (HN) archeologists and preservation associates. The project was investigated as part of HN’s and the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s (NDOT) on going partnership to comply with federal and state historic preservation laws. Considerable survey work had been done on the project in the late 90’s before it went dormant. HN archeologists began work on the project in the summer of 2015 with much of the field work being completed nearly 5 years before construction began.

Between 2015 and 2019 changes and refinements were made to the design of the project. HN archeologists and preservation associates along with their counterparts at NDOT diligently reviewed all the changes as they happened. One such change involving large overhead signs required additional work in the fall of 2019. The large signs have a small but deep footprint. With the help of NDOT, HN archeologists were able to test for deeply buried archeological deposits at the location of the signs. Using a coring machine two soil cores were taken to a depth of ten feet.

The four inch diameter cores were taken back to lab and profiles of the soil layers recorded. The cores were then water screened through 1/16 inch mesh to check for artifacts. Mechanically coring creates rock hard rubes of dirt. The dirt did not want to come out of the tubes, that problem was solved with a hand saw. The water screening was more hands on than usual. Meaning that even after soaking the dirt in buckets the tubes had to be broken up by hand and the clay squished through the screen while it was blasted a hose. No artifacts or anything of interest was found in the cores.

Nolan Johnson, History Nebraska

Mechanical Coring Machine at Work

Five Foot Soil Core Encased in Plastic

Core after it was Cut Out of Plastic with a Saw

Soil Core prior to Soaking

Core Soaking in Buckets