Iowa's Kimball Village Site named National Historic Landmark

    Secretary of the Interior designates historic site in Plymouth County

    DES MOINES - When Iowa artifact hunters dug up some unusual material in Plymouth County in 1936, they couldn't have predicted the spectacular trove that would follow.

    Three years later, a team from the Works Progress Administration dug trenches 8 feet deep into the site and made an astonishing discovery: houses, hearths, storage pits, burial features and more than 9,000 artifacts, including more than 100 tools made from bone, shell and stone beads, and ceramic pottery dating back some 800 years. It would become known as the Kimball Village Site.

    This week, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that Secretary Sally Jewell designated Kimball Village a National Historic Landmark along with 23 other sites across the United States. It is the 26th National Historic Landmark in Iowa and the first in Plymouth County. There are more than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks across the country.

    “The National Historic Landmark research and nomination process is arduous, with the work often taking five years or more” Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Steve King said. “We are so pleased that our partners at the University of Iowa-Office of the State Archaeologist and the National Historic Landmarks Program staff at the Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service undertook this important project. National Historic Landmark nomination of the Kimball Village is identified as an important step in Iowa’s current Statewide Historic Preservation Plan."

    Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, the Kimball Village Site is the earliest, best-preserved eastern Great Plains fortified village known in the country. It is one of six sites inhabited between 1100 and 1250 by Prairie-Plains tribes living near the Big Sioux River and embodies all the distinctive characteristics of early indigenous farmers, settlements and material culture that typify early Plains Village sites.

    Archaeological field investigations and geophysical surveys show the site was a complete village with at least 20 houses fortified by a ditch and timber palisade. Original inhabitants hunted deer, buffalo and other animals and lived through a transformative period of North American history, switching from a nomadic existence to living in compact villages that grew primitive corn and other grain-based foods.

    “An enduring aspect of the Kimball Village archaeological significance reflected in National Historic Landmark recognition is the remarkable on-going potential for this site to continue to inform us about the past life-ways that were formative to today’s Iowa," said John Doershuk, State Archaeologist of Iowa. "We are immensely grateful to the property owners for their excellent stewardship ethic in continuing to care for this important place.”

    The National Historic Landmarks Program recognizes historic properties of exceptional value to the nation and promotes the preservation efforts of federal, state, and local agencies and Native American tribes, as well as those of private organizations and individuals. The program is one of more than a dozen administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service that provide states and local communities technical assistance, recognition and funding to help preserve the nation's shared history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities.

    The State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, partners with the National Park Service to administer historic preservation programs at the state level.

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    The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations. www.culturalaffairs.org.

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