Archaeology in Iowa

Archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology, the study of all human culture. Archaeology focuses on the scientific study of past cultures and their lifeways through the recovery and analysis of material remains and environmental data. In Iowa, archaeologists discover and study sites, artifacts, and physical remains that preserve the past 13,000 years of human settlement. You can visit many of the below institutions or request a variety of archaeological programming for your community.

Office of the State Archaeologist

OSA at the Meskwaki PowwowEstablished in 1959, the Office of the State Archaeologist at the University of Iowa (OSA) is a nationally recognized archaeological research center. The OSA conducts archaeological research, fieldwork, and public programs around the state, preserves ancient burial sites, and examines and reinters ancient human remains. The OSA also maintains the state archaeological repository, manages data on all recorded archaeological sites in Iowa, and publishes technical and popular books and reports on Iowa archaeology. The OSA Education Program visits communities and K-12 classrooms statewide to teach about Iowa's rich cultural past. Click here to book a speaker for your classroom or community. Fees may apply.




Archaeology and Cultural History at University of Iowa Museum of Natural History

MNH ExhibitThe Museum of Natural History holds 3,718 archaeological objects in its research and teaching collections. Many are stone points and tools from Iowa or the Midwest. Iowa Hall, on the first floor of the Museum of Natural History in Macbride Hall, recreates 500 million years of Iowa's natural and cultural history with exhibits of geology, native cultures, and ecology. The Native Cultures of Iowa exhibits highlight peoples of Iowa from 12,000 years ago to the present. The MNH Education Program has a variety of in-house programming and can also visit communities and K-12 classrooms statewide. Click here to book a speaker for your classroom or community.




Sanford Museum & Planetarium

Sanford Museum PotThe Sanford's historic and prehistoric collections are focused on the lives and culture of people in Northwestern Iowa. Their prehistoric collections represent cultures from the Paleoindian Period, through the Archaic and Woodland, and up to the Late Prehistoric Mill Creek, Oneota, Glenwood, and Great Oasis. The Sanford Museum strives to make their archaeological collections accessible to researchers. They have a variety of educational programming for all ages, including field schools, summer camps, and classroom or museum-based lessons. The Sanford Museum hosts monthly gatherings for members of the Northwest Chapter of the Iowa Archeological Society. For more information, email





Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy MoundThis is a can't miss stop for anyone interested in Iowa and Midwestern archaeology. Effigy Mounds National Monument contains over 200 American Indian mounds throughout the 2,526 acre park, located in one of the most picturesque sections of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The grounds are open sunrise to sunset, year round, and the Visitor Center hours vary per season. Thousands of school children visit this park annually to enjoy the grounds, interpretive center, and ranger-led programming. Plan a field trip to the park!






Iowa State University Archaeological Laboratory (ISUAL)

ISU ExcavationISUAL conducts sponsored and original research in Iowa archaeology. Their repository includes items from Anthropology Department-sponsored field schools, donations, teaching collections for the Anthropology Department, and specimens on loan to ISUAL.





Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center: Glenwood

Overview map of Glenwood PreserveThe state of Iowa’s largest Archaeological Preserve sits near the city of Glenwood, Iowa on 907 acres, with hundreds of Native American habitation sites dating all the way back to A.D. 900.








Regional Organizations and Meetings

Learn More About Iowa Archaeology