(Submitted photo)
(Submitted photo)
Only approximately 50 of the nearly 400 effigy mounds remain in the state of Iowa. The mounds tell the story of Iowa's prehistoric past, serving both as a visible reminder of the past as well as standing as a symbol of Iowa's heritage. Thanks to a grant by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the Luther College anthropology program is working to further document and conserve some of the remaining Effigy Mounds in Northeast Iowa.

The anthropology program was awarded $26,987 from the Historical Resource Development Program to conduct a geophysical and topographic survey of the Capoli effigy mound group, located near Lansing, Iowa, in Allamakee County.
Colin Betts, Luther professor of anthropology, said grant money will fund the purchase of high accuracy GPS survey equipment, which will be used to conduct a remote-sensing investigation of the effigy mounds site. Resulting data will be used to create a highly-detailed map of the mounds, including topographical maps and three images of sub-surface characteristics. Once completed, the research will document the internal structure of effigy mounds and the details of their construction, identify the presence of associated archaeological features located in the vicinity of the mounds that may have been associated with their construction and assess the internal and external integrity of the mounds.

"The grant benefits the college in a variety of ways. First, in combination with the remote sensing instruments that we recently purchased, the survey equipment will provide our students with direct training and experience with state-of-the-art technology for archaeological research," said Betts. "Northeast Iowa has a wealth of prehistoric archaeological resources, and we will be able to use these instruments on a wide range of projects, including additional effigy mounds sites, well beyond this initial project. This work being done as part of this grant will also benefit the college in a broader sense in that it will be of interest and relatable to archaeological professionals as well as the general public. The information we gather will help both to understand how they were built and enhance future conservation efforts."

Working with Anna Luber, Luther class of 2019, and Linh Luong, Luther class of 2020, Betts conducted initial data collection at the site earlier this summer with the majority of the work scheduled for next spring and summer. Once the mapping is completed, the work will be presented to other professional archaeologists and publicly through presentations.

"Effigy mounds are valuable, rare and fragile resources and represent the most visible and evocative elements of Iowa's prehistoric cultural resources. Few other elements of our cultural heritage offer the ability for the general public to more directly interact with and contemplate the legacy of the state's original inhabitants, while at the same time highlighting the value and challenges involved in the conservation of that heritage," said Betts.

In total, $2,091,162 was awarded via 210 grants in two divisions—the Iowa Arts Council and the State Historical Society of Iowa.