The huge Gast Farm is the result of the leveling of mounds
Dr. William Green, Director of the Logan Museum European Paleolithic Collection on the Beloit College campus in Wisconsin, was the CAS September 2018 guest speaker. CAS Summer Safaris have twice visited Beloit College to explore its on-campus Indian Mounds.
In his presentation Dr. Green opened a new archaeological chapter. It was an awesome leap from the French Paleolithic to the Amerindian Woodland. We were able to learn from him this time, not as an expert on paleolithic French artifacts, but as an archaeological investigator at the Gast Farm site in eastern Iowa.
The huge Gast Farm site is the result of the leveling of mounds in preparation for farming by
Dan Gast. Mr. Gast was astonished to discover that a magnificent collection of copper axes,
pieces of mica and platform pipes were found where a large mound had been leveled. It was
“a Howard Carter moment”, Bill explained. Dan Gast invited the archaeologists onto his property
and has been supportive for all investigations since. He has tried to remember where other smaller mounds existed.
Bill Green has been leading investigations at the site for 28 years using traditional methods
along with just about every new technique that has become available. Early into the investigation,
Bill took photographs from a low flying plane in his pursuit of a reconstruction of what the
site may have looked like. These photos were taken at an oblique angle that had to be mathematically
translated into an accurate perpendicular picture.
For a sampling aerial experience the reader is invited to link
Besides careful accurate excavations, seed sampling, and ceramic sherd collecting, magnetic
gradient, laser and thermal techniques have been extensively employed. It was exciting to see
the use of new devices unpeeling, one layer at a time, a clear picture of, not one, but two cultures!
Under a large mound the discovery ritual objects suggested Ritual objects or materials for
producing ritual objects or were imported from long distances. They probably were for more
important burials. Plant cultivation of many crops were discovered.
Habitation was in large structures not family oriented houses. changes Persons would have
lived in larger structures. Ceramics were quite intricate.
Another site in the area was a Late Woodland village site with a different arrangement around a plaza and a different diet. Darts were produced perhaps for bow and arrow deer hunting. Everything was more localized suggesting a subsistence culture with families in individual houses. Ceramics were
Thank you Dr. William Green for a scintillating and memorable afternoon. All meetings and
activities are free and open to the public.
By Deb Stelton