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Frequently Asked Questions

I found artifacts on my land what do I do?

You can contact the Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS) to report the location and type of materials discovered. An archeological site form is available to document the site: Contact the Curator of Archeological Collections () with questions about documenting an archeological site.

Unless the site is in immediate danger from construction or erosion, NSHS recommends leaving the artifacts and features in place.

Can someone help me identify these artifacts?

Perhaps we can help. If possible, send digital images of the artifacts to . Archeologists at the NSHS may be available to look at your items by appointment; however, it is not uncommon for staff to be out of the office doing field work.

What is the monetary value of my artifacts?

The NSHS does not in any circumstance appraise items for monetary worth.

I have encountered human remains, what should I do?

If you suspect that human remains and grave goods (funerary objects) are found on NON-FEDERAL PROPERTY, contact local law enforcement immediately. Local law enforcement and the county attorney will determine if the site is an active crime scene and then contact the archeologists at the NSHS if necessary. Under the provisions of the "Nebraska Unmarked Human Skeletal Remains and Burial Goods Protection Act", when human skeletal remains and burial goods are discovered and law enforcement determines a crime is not involved, division staff will be contacted by the appropriate county attorney's office. Staff are required to conduct an onsite investigation to determine the origin and identity of the remains and promptly relate our finding in writing to the county attorney and interested parties, who may include: a descendant Indian Tribe, a descendant family, or the Nebraska Indian Commission. Field evaluations may consist of inspection of disinterred or intact remains or artifacts. Disinterred remains may be collected and turned over to descendent parties or the county attorney for reburial. Intact remains are to be left in place. The only specified exception to this procedure involves intact materials encountered during public highway, road, or street construction. These remains may be excavated and reinterred to allow continuation of construction. For more information on this law click on the link

If you suspect human remains have been found on FEDERAL PROPERTY (such as land managed by the National Park Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, or the National Forest Service), contact mangers of that agency or if unavailable, local law enforcement.

Can I donate my archeological collection to NSHS?

Artifacts found on private land are the property of the landowner with the exception human remains or funerary objects (see below). The NSHS may be interested in acquiring unique or very significant archeological artifacts from Nebraska, however, due to limited space and an extensive collection of archeological objects already in place, NSHS rarely accepts donations of archeological collections. Potential donations can be directed to the Curator of Archeological Collections (). The NSHS collection policy is available at: .

Will someone come to view my archeological site?

Only in rare circumstances is NSHS staff able to conduct uncompensated field evaluations or excavations at the request of private individual, but staff is available to answer question via phone or email.

What tribes are from Nebraska?

Many tribes once lived permanently or seasonally in what is now Nebraska. Three tribes currently have a reservation mostly in Nebraska; The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, and Santee Sioux Nation. The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and The Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska reservations both have small portions in Richardson County, NE. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska or Northern Ponca Tribe does not have a reservation, but their tribal government is centered in Nebraska and they lived in Nebraska historically. Other Historic Tribes that once lived in Nebraska include, Arapaho, various Lakota groups, Oto, Ioway, Missouria, Plains Apache, Cheyenne, Pawnee, Comanche, Kansa, Crow, Kiowa, Arikara, and possibly others.

With what tribe are my artifacts associated?

Native people have lived in Nebraska for over 12,000 years and in most cases archeological materials cannot be attributed to a specific tribe. Some artifacts that date to the last 1000 years can be generally associated with a broad group of related tribes. Occasionally, objects can be associated with a specific tribe if it is only several hundred years old and from a village of a known tribe.

How do you know what tribe lived at a specific archeological site.

Most Native American archeological sites are too old to affiliate with a tribe. Also some pre- Euroamerican contact groups and the archeological sites they left may be ancestral to more than one tribe.

It is possible to identify several post-contact age native villages to a tribe through the use of historic maps and other documents. Also different tribes inhabited different parts of the state and items of post-contact age found in a specific region can be assumed to be of a certain group.

How do you know how old artifacts and archeological sites are?

Archeologists either date sites and artifacts relatively or absolutely. Relative dating involves determine if artifacts or sites are older or younger than other sites and how they fit into the overall chronology of Nebraska. For example; the first ceramics date to about 2000 years ago and sites with or without ceramics can be separated at roughly that date. Also the style of arrow and spear points is used to group artifacts and sites into related units. Absolute dating links a specific artifact to a point in time. The most common method is radiocarbon dating. Charcoal has been the standard item for this type of dating, but new methods and techniques now focus on more short lived plant remains like corn kernels or grasses.

How do you know where to dig?

Archeologists use a variety of techniques to find archeological sites. For post-contact sites, maps and other written documentation can help locate sites. Topographic maps are used to locate areas near resources that were important to prehistoric groups; water, wood, farmable land, etc. Once an archeological site has been found archeologists might use a variety of geophysical methods to search for artifacts and features. These methods include magnetometer, conductivity and resistivity, air photography, ground penetrating radar, and others. Also the most common way to find an archeological site is to walk over an area and closely look for artifacts on the surface or eroding from steam banks and road cuts.



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Last updated 29 May 2014

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