Fort Atkinson is located about fifteen miles north of Omaha and was occupied by the U.S. Army from 1820-1827. It was the first military post established west of the Missouri River and its preservation, age, and research significance have rendered it perhaps the most important Euroamerican archeological site in Nebraska.
In cooperation with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Society has conducted extensive archeological investigations at the Fort since the 1950s. The most recent excavations involved investigations of the powder magazine and the possible location of the commanding officers' quarters.
During the 1997 field season an innovative project was developed that will have remarkable benefits to early Great Plains military archeology and the interpretation of Fort Atkinson for many years to come. Society Research Archeologist Gayle Carlson conducted a surface survey following a vegetation burn of all environs surrounding the fort barracks quadrangle. The objective was to identify buildings or other features that were suspected to be near and associated with the fort. Through mapping of surface concentrations, several remote sensing methods, and test excavations, Carlson's team identified an astonishing fifty-four previously undocumented features in addition to reexamination of seven known features. Most of these features appear to be buildings, but trails and middens are also included in the inventory. The results of the project significantly enhances the archeological research potential of Fort Atkinson and will require a redefinition of the activities and population of this important site.