Archeologists Unearthing Ancient Artifacts from Cave Near Monticello

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter


By Forrest Saunders

JONES COUNTY, Iowa - The Jones County Conservation Board recently purchased more than 500 acres of land, about 10 miles southeast of Monticello. With it came a cave-- which the land owner said held ancient Iowan artifacts. The conservation board investigated and found the claim was true.

For five weeks now, State Archeologist John Doershuk, 10 AmeriCorps volunteers, and a few others have been trying to dig up the cave’s secrets. Doershuk calls it a rare find.

"Caves aren't very frequent in Iowa. So, at least for Iowa archeologists, it's a neat experience," said Doershuk.

The group is working about eight hour days. They're sifting through feet of dirt from the inside and outside of the cavern, hoping to spot something relevant amongst the rocks.

"It started off with, just like, two days of us showing everything to Bryan, being like, ‘Is this an arrow head?’ And he's like, ‘No that's a rock’," said AmeriCorps Volunteer Eric Docherty.

Once the group got the feel for it, they started finding an impressive amount of artifacts. Pottery shards, tools, animal bones, a spear point, in all more than 15,000 pieces from a period dating back more than a thousand years.

"I would say, very broadly, A.D. 500 to A.D. 1000," said Doershuk.

Archeologists think the cave was probably a home for ancient Iowan's, though it's difficult to tell because the site was looted an estimated 20 years ago. Pilferers pushed around dirt and the small artifacts therein, making it hard for scientists to decipher.

"Where that material is located and the frequency in which you are finding these sorts of things, that's really where all powerful information is," said Archaeologist Bryan Kendall.

The digging is planned to continue through September 26th. Officials said the artifacts unearthed will belong to the Jones County Conservation Board. They'll get to decide what happens to them.

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