More than 75 people packed into the lodge at Lacy Keosauqua State Park to hear about the history and the people who have lived along the Des Moines River in southeast Iowa for more than 10,000 years.
Lynn Alex and Cindy Petersen, from the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, discussed each of the cultures who made the Des Moines River home but concentrated on two archaeological sites in Van Buren County.
Artifacts, mounds, and pits from the Late Woodland period, about 600 AD to 1100 AD, were found at the Marriott site across the river from Bentonsport, one of many similar sites in the Des Moines River valley.
The site lies adjacent to a stone quarry of Keokuk chert, used by Native Americans in making chipped stone weapons and cutting tools. Although the primary residents at the site were Late Woodland peoples, previous visitors had utilized the quarry for thousands of years.
The second site is about 30 miles upstream, where information was discovered about the Ioway tribe from investigations at a site near the historical town of Iowaville, between present day Eldon and Selma.
The Ioway had a village there from about 1765 to 1825. This well-preserved archaeological site contains remnants of house basins; a palisade or ditch enclosure measuring about 260 feet in diameter; and many pit features now filled with 200-year-old refuse. This was the last, large-sized village of the Ioway in what is now the State of Iowa, prior to the tribe’s forced migration to points west and south.
While Alex and Petersen made the presentation, they also asked for input from the attendees, many of whom are avid amateur archaeologists. Alex told the crowd that many important pieces of history are discovered by people like them and that they should be comfortable sharing information about their finds with the state office.
“We want to hear your stories, see what you have and make a record of where the artifacts were found. Some people think the state wants to take away the pieces they’ve found but that isn’t true at all. The more information we have, the better we can piece together the story of people who have lived here,” said Alex.
The program held Nov. 11, is part of a series of public events exploring the importance of the Des Moines River from Eldon to Farmington.
Alex and Petersen, along with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Pathfinders RC&D, will weave the stories into interpretation along this stretch of the Des Moines River Water Trail. More information about the water trail project is available at www.desmoinesriverwt.com
Anyone interested in being involved in the Des Moines River Water Trail group in Van Buren and Wapello Counties can email Pathfinders RC&D at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 641-472-6177.
Pathfinders RC&D is a nonprofit organization that assists local communities with initiatives related to economic development, natural resource conservation and recreation. Pathfinders RC&D has been serving Jefferson, Van Buren, Mahaska, Keokuk, Davis and Wapello counties since 1978.
To learn more, contact Pathfinders by calling 641-472-6177 or visit www.PathfindersRCD.org