Digging up pieces of history

Iowa archeology is not as easy as it used to be. There’s just too much conservation, said former State Archeology Society Vice President David Carlson.

“I started collecting in the 1960s, when things really got plowed,” he said. “In those days the ideal farmer tilled his field black.”

The modern practice of leaving so much on the field means fewer arrowheads and spear tips get turned up.

“It’s good for the environment, but not good for the collectors,” he said.

Carlson attended an informal gathering of amateur archeologists and enthusiasts Sunday afternoon at Kennedy Park, put on by Webster County Conservation. Collectors brought trays of artifacts and told a bit about what they were and where they were found.

“We did something like this a long time ago,” said naturalist Karen Hansen. “So we figured why not start an archeology series? The idea here is to get more people interested in archeology, show what we have, and get some speakers to come and talk about certain things.”

Bill Lilienthal brought some bones he found in the Homer area, to see what people would think of them.

He’d thought they might be buffalo bones, and that they looked like they’d been chewed on. But he was told in Iowa City that they were horse bones and those were knife marks, he said.

“Perhaps someone here could examine them and voice their opinions,” he said.

Howard Jensen was one of the collectors who brought things in to show. Some of his things “are from site 117, which is my back yard, right here in the city,” he said.

He’d also started in the late 60s, when he moved to town and joined a Fort Dodge archeology club.

“It’s what you call a sanity hobby,” he said.

He pointed out some spear heads which he found while attending his other hobby and replanting hostas outside.

“These are probably 3,000-4,000 years old,” he said.

He also had a fragment of a large spear head, with an outline of what the other three fragments would look like. He said it was a ceremonial piece from the Hopewell tribe.