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University of Iowa News Release


July 15, 2010

'Team Archaeology' hits the road with RAGBRAI July 24-31

The University of Iowa-based Office of the State Archaeologist is sending a team of bicyclists on the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa July 24-31. During the ride and at stops on the way, the cyclist-archaeologists will share information about the state’s history and archaeological resources.

The outreach effort is part of Iowa Archaeology Month 2010: Touring Across Iowa’s Past, which encourages awareness, understanding and protection of archaeological resources and heritage. Archaeology Month is sponsored by a $10,000 grant from Humanities Iowa, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

More than 25,000 archaeological sites have been recorded in Iowa, and archaeologists estimate that 10 times that many have yet to be discovered. Artifacts are as many as 13,000 years old and include anything made or used by humans, such as tools, weaponry, dishes, burial mounds, or structures.

“Folks on RAGBRAI are out to have fun, but they’re also interested in learning about the state. It’s a nice fit for us to tag along and share information, reaching thousands of people in different communities on the route each year,” said State Archaeologist John Doershuk (photo, above), an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Anthropology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Participating in RAGBRAI for the third consecutive year, Team Archaeology consists of five archaeologists, an outreach team, and partners from other organizations who have organized as the “Human and Natural History Partners.” The team will set up booths in four communities: Sioux City, rural Quimby near Cherokee, Dike in Grundy County, and Quasqueton in Buchanan County. Information at the stops will be customized around archaeological features in the area. Presenters also plan to demonstrate stone toolmaking.

As they ride, the team will wear green and orange “Team Iowa Archaeology” jerseys and will encourage other riders to ask questions about the state’s past, or just about archaeology in general.

“People ask things like what constitutes an artifact, what to do if they find one, or how deep we dig to discover them,” said Lynn Alex, director of education and outreach for the Office of the State Archaeologist. “We’re happy to answer questions like that, and anything else archaeology-related they want to know.”

The state archaeologist has offered archaeology week/month events annually since 1993, and Humanities Iowa has consistently supported the efforts for more than a decade. Last year, the Team Archaeology project received national recognition when it was featured in the National Endowment for the Humanities magazine.

“We believe understanding the past is important to the future, and through these types of activities, we try to help people see the linkages,” Doershuk said.

This year’s schedule is as follows:

--Saturday, July 24: Team Archaeology will have a booth at RAGBRAI Expo in the historic Fourth Street area of Sioux City, where they will hand out the week's schedule, a 12-page brochure about archaeological and historic sites on the route, and other interpretive materials.

--Sunday, July 25: Team Archaeology will set up shop eight miles south of Cherokee in rural Quimby, on County Road C63 east of Highway 59. Presenters will discuss the "Cowan Site," where more than 122,000 items were excavated in 1998. The site was interpreted as a farming hamlet that existed approximately 1,000 years ago.

--Monday, July 26 through Wednesday, July 28: The team will talk as they ride about archaeological hoaxes -- including one involving an alleged discovery of mummified giants in Kossuth County. They'll also describe a WWII prisoner of war camp that housed 10,000 German soldiers near Algona, and Prairie Modern Architecture in Iowa.

--Thursday, July 29: Team Archaeology will have a tent near the Grundy County town of Dike. They'll tell riders about an archeological site along the Shell Rock River where historic and prehistoric artifacts were discovered in 1991. The tent will be at the J.H. Roadman Memorial Park, on the north side of D19 three miles east of T47 and two miles west of Dike.

--Friday, July 30: At a tent in Quasqueton in Buchanan County, the team will discuss technology in archaeology such as ground penetrating radar, global positioning systems (GPS), light detection and ranging (LiDAR), and geographic information systems (GIS).

--Saturday, July 31: Along the route, Team Archaeology will discuss Native American toys and games, and the Mines of Spain, a historic lead mining region established along the Mississippi River by Julien Dubuque.

Iowa Archaeology Month will continue beyond RAGBRAI, with booths at Hooverfest Aug. 7 at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum grounds, and at the Meskwaki powwow at the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa settlement at Tama Aug. 12-14. Archaeologists will demonstrate Native American games.

Doershuk and Team Archaeology captain John Hall will also discuss archaeology on "Talk of Iowa" on Iowa Public Radio at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 22.

For more on Iowa Archaeology Month activities, visit

The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,