University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA), Iowa City, Iowa

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Location: Clinton Street Building (CLSB), 700 South Clinton Street, Iowa City, 52242-1030

State Archaeological Repository (of Iowa) (hereinafter the Repository) consisting of five subcollections:

  • Archaeological Collection
  • Document Collection
  • Comparative Collection
  • Teaching Collection
  • UI-Stanford Collection


The OSA is a research unit within the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Iowa. The position of State Archaeologist was created by Iowa legislation passed in 1959 (Chapter 263B of the Code of Iowa). This legislation defines the duties and responsibilities of the State Archaeologist. The mission of the OSA is to develop, disseminate, and preserve knowledge of Iowa's human past through Midwestern and Plains archaeological research, scientific discovery, public stewardship, service, and education.

The OSA is statutorily mandated to maintain the Repository which consists of a working collection of materials related to Iowa archaeology (Iowa Administrative Code 658-7, 8). The Archaeological Collection contains 4,000,000 artifacts from 13,000 sites curated under 17,000 accessions. The Document Collection contains 140,000 books, 74,000 serial articles, 1,900 manuscripts, 5,000 maps, 300,000 pages of primary documents, and 93,000 photographs. The Comparative Collection contains (1) modern fauna skeletons or shells for 69 species of mammals, 156 species of birds, 16 species of reptiles, 15 species of fish, 2 species of amphibians, 38 species of freshwater bivalves, and 1 species of crustacean; (2) lithic raw materials consisting of 75 in-state types and 144 out-of-state types; (3) prehistoric ceramic and lithic tool types; and (4) historic material types. The Teaching Collection contains over 500 prehistoric ceramics and lithic tools. The UI-Stanford Collection contains non-Native American human skeletal remains of 1,100 documented individuals.

Items in the Repository span the time period from the early Paleoindian period, 13,500 years ago, to the late twentieth century. Of the collections with temporal affiliation, 1 percent contain Paleoindian assemblages (13,500–8,500 B.C.), 10 percent Archaic (8,500–800 B.C.), 28 percent Woodland (800 B.C.–A.D. 1250), 10 percent Late Prehistoric (A.D. 1100–A.D. 1673), and 51 percent historic (A.D. 1673–present). For the sites with historic components, the archaeological collections at the OSA represent the past lifeways of diverse Iowans—American Indians, African Americans, Latinos, Swedes, Mormons, Quakers, and German Amana Colonists.

The following are four examples of the many significant collections in the Repository—three prehistoric and one historic. The four sets of collections help portray a great portion of the entire time span of Iowa prehistory and history, beginning with the Early Archaic period and ending with the Civil War era and the late 1800s.


Cherokee Sewer Site, 7400–5200 B.C. The Repository holds all of the artifacts and associated documentation from this important stratified early to middle Archaic site located in northwestern Iowa near the town of Cherokee. The collections were obtained in 1973 and 1976 and include over 50,000 items in two accessions.


Gast Farm and Gast Spring Sites, 5000 B.C.–A.D. 400. The Gast Farm and Gast Spring sites, located immediately adjacent to one another in Louisa County, Iowa, together represent the Middle Archaic, Early Woodland, Middle Woodland, and Late Woodland archaeological time periods. Materials from these sites include chipped and ground stone tools, ceramics, copper, pipestone, faunal, and botanical remains.


Phipps Site, A.D. 1100–1200. The Phipps site is a Mill Creek village located on Mill Creek northwest of the Little Sioux River valley in Cherokee County, Iowa. Mill Creek culture is part of the Initial variant of the Middle Missouri Tradition. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a National Historic Landmark.


Bowen’s Prairie Sites A.D. 1840–1880. These collections are from sites in the National Register Historic Archaeological District of Bowen’s Prairie, Jones County, Iowa. The five archaeological sites investigated and from which large artifact collections are reposed at the OSA fall into one or both of two periods of significance: Early Euro-American Settlement Era (1830s–1860) and Development of a Rural Market Economy Era (1860–1880).