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What is the LHAIC?

Archaeological dig

About Us

The Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center is a 501-c-3, not for profit corporation governed by an 11 member Board of Directors. The name implies an existing center. However, we are in planning and fund raising stages and hope to break ground in May 2018. This Board of Directors is guided by operational policies and procedures, by-laws and code of ethics policies. All board members are volunteers contributing vast amounts of time and talents to the LHAIC project. The board is supported by special advisors with talents in particular areas of the project needs.

Overview of our Interpretive Center project

The Loess Hills along western Iowa’s Missouri River margin formed in the wake of North America’s last major glacial epoch and constitute a natural region unique in the world, with a 13,000-year record of human occupation and history. This area preserves the remnants of a pre-European culture known as the Nebraska phase of the Central Plains tradition, or more commonly, the Glenwood Culture. Seven centuries ago, indigenous people in this region lived in earth and timber lodges connected spiritually, economically, and emotionally to a natural landscape others have since occupied. Their traces remain below the surface and speak to us through modern techniques of archaeology and the living voices of their descendant communities. It is not known why Nebraska phase people left the area or where they went. Most archaeologists believe that they moved westward and northward and that their likely descendants are the present-day Pawnee and Arikara peoples. A century of collaborative study has only begun to understand this remarkable history else, as Shakespeare said, “the dust on antique time would lie unswept and mountainous error be too highly heaped for truth to overseer.”

The Newest Archaeological Preserve in Iowa

In October of 2009 the State of Iowa formally dedicated the Glenwood Archaeological State Preserve, its newest and largest. The Preserve’s 906 acres, formerly part of the Glenwood Resource Center, are set amid the magnificent Loess Hills just south of the city of Glenwood, Iowa and contain more than a hundred and thirty significant archaeological sites dating from that early glacial epoch until Iowa’s more recent Euro-American period. This unique and rich concentration of sites on the Preserve, especially those of the Glenwood Culture dating from between 600 to 750 years ago (A.D. 1250-1400), documents the settlement history and precontact activities of the area. Soon after the Preserve’s dedication, the Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center (LHAIC) Board of Directors was established and certified as a non-profit corporation by the State of Iowa. The LHAIC’s mission is to provide an interpretive center with opportunities to learn about the archaeological, cultural and ecological resources of the Loess Hills. To accomplish its mission the Board intends to build, operate, and sustain a state-of-the-art interpretive center within the boundaries of the Glenwood Archaeological State Preserve adjacent to Foothills Park at the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and Levi Road. In 2014 an agreement between the State Preserves Advisory Board (SPAB) and the Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center (LHAIC) Board of Directors expresses the conditions allowing construction of an Interpretive Center on the Glenwood Archaeological State Preserve.  The State Preserve and the site are now protected by a thorough management plan now overseen by the Mills County Conservation Board.  Support for the Center’s construction has been assured by and with regional Native American communities.  Their Holy Men have blessed the site and the plans to construct the Center.

About the Loess Hills

The Loess (pronounced "luss") Hills are generally located between 1 and 15 miles (24 km) east of the Missouri River channel. These hills are the first rise in land beyond the flood plain, forming something of a "front range" for Iowa, and parts of Missouri and Nebraska adjacent to the Missouri River. During the last Ice Age, glaciers advanced into the middle of North America, grinding underlying rock into dust-like "glacial flour." As temperatures warmed, the glaciers retreated and vast amounts of meltwater and sediment flooded the Missouri River Valley. The sediment was deposited on the flood plain, creating huge mud flats. When meltwaters receded, these mud flats were exposed. As they dried, the fine-grained silt was picked up by strong prevailing westerly winds. Huge dust clouds were moved and deposited over broad areas. The heavier, coarser silt was deposited close to the Missouri River flood plain, forming vast dune fields. The dune fields were eventually stabilized by grass. Due to the erosive nature of loess soil and its ability to stand in vertical columns when dry, the stabilized dunes were eroded into the corrugated, sharply dissected bluffs we see today. The dominant features of this landscape are "peak and saddle" topography, "razor ridges" (narrow ridges, often less than ten feet wide, which fall off at near ninety-degree angles on either side for 60 feet or more), and "cat-step" terraces (caused by the constant slumping and vertical sheering of the loess soil). The soil has a characteristic yellow hue and is generally broken down into several units based on the period of deposition (Loveland, Pisgah, Peoria). Loess is known locally as "sugar clay" because it can be extremely hard when dry, but when wet, loses all cohesion. The Loess Hills of Iowa are remarkable for the depth of the drift layer, often more than ninety feet deep. The only comparable deposits of loess to such an extent are located in Shaanxi, China.

About Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)

How does it work? A plane flies back and forth, at a constant altitude. Lasers aboard the plane measure precise altitude every 5 feet. Elevation variances of the ground’s surface are measured to within a foot. The laser light is absorbed more intensely from moist or organic-rich surfaces; such areas show up darker and indicate possible earthlodges. Glenwood area was one of the first studies to use LiDAR to identify moisture differences in soil resulting in several new earthlodge discoveries. LHAIC plans to incorporate the absent Native American narrative, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education along with historical, cultural, sociological, and archeological studies…a “Learning Center.”
Click here to view photos of the Lidar process

About the “Glenwood Culture”

The Loess Hills have a rich archaeological heritage. The hills around Glenwood, in Mills County, were inhabited by the Glenwood Culture, an eastern extension of the Nebraska Phase of the Woodland period…Ancestral Plains Indians, descendents of Pawnee and Arikara, just prior to European contact. The Glenwood Culture lived in the area from roughly 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D. and built hundreds of earthlodges in the region. They farmed the rich valley bottoms and cultivated native plants from the surrounding hills. They also hunted and fished for food, and made crafts, pottery, jewelry for trading along the Missouri River. An earthlodge replica has been reconstructed in Glenwood Lake Park, and the Mills County Museum, also located at the park, houses an excellent collection of artifacts collected by renowned amateur archeologist Paul Rowe.

More In-Depth History

If you would like to learn more about ancient life in Mills County, please download the PDF book below that covers this topic in more-depth.
The Immense Journey (Provided by the Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development and the Office of State Archaeologist)
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