By Bernard K. Means

New Deal archaeology was conducted in the highlighted counties.

Just over 25 percent of Nebraska’s 93 counties saw some form of work relief archaeology.  With one exception, all of these projects were carried out with WPA-funded labor forces.  The lone exception is the excavation of the Behrnes site in Cass County.  These excavations, under the sponsorship of the University of Nebraska, were supported by the Civil Works Administration and were completed in 1934 by field director G.H. Gilmore, who worked under the direction of Earl H. Bell (Bell and Gilmore 1936; John Ludwickson, personal communication, 2011).  Between 1936 and 1941, the University of Nebraska or the Nebraska State Historical Society drew on WPA laborers to excavate sites, with an emphasis on protohistoric or historic-era Pawnee villages (Grange 1969; John Ludwickson, personal communication, 2011; McCoy n.d.; Wedel 1953). Many, but not all, of these sites were located in counties along the Missouri or Platte rivers.  Four counties that do not fall into this pattern are Chase, Dawes, Garden, and Webster.  Of these four counties, probably the most interesting to me is the work in Dawes County.  A Civilian Conservation Corps crew was working at Chadron State Park Site, when they hit a burial.  This led to a WPA-sponsored excavation at a Woodland-era house site (John Ludwickson, personal communication, 2011; Koch 2000).


This entry, however, brief, would not have been possible without the help of John Ludwickson, Curator of Anthropology, Nebraska State Historical Society.  John provided me with information from state site files, as well as published references, for counties that were not in my original New Deal GIS map (Means 2011), including Butler, Cass, Dawes, Nance, Polk, Sherman, and Webster counties. My New Deal archaeology mapping project would not be remotely successful without help from people like John.

References Cited:

Bell, Earl H. and G.H. Gilmore (1936)  The Nehawka and Table Rock Foci of the Nebraska Aspect.  Chapters in Nebraska Archaeology 1(4):304-355.

Grange, Robert T. (1969) Pawnee and Lower Loup Pottery.  Nebraska State Historic Society Publications in Anthropology No. 3.

Koch, Amy (2000)  High Plains Archeology.  Explore Nebraska Archeology 5.  Available online at:

McCoy, George D. (n.d. ) Summary of WPA Archeological Projects.  Unpublished report on file at the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Suitland, Maryland.

Means, Bernard K. (2011) The Future Meets the Past: Digital Mapping of New Deal Archaeology Projects Across the Lower 48 States.   Bernard K. Means, guest editor. The SAA Archaeological Record 11 (3):29-33.  Available online at:

Wedel, Waldo R.  (1953) Review: Woodland Sites in Nebraska by Marvin F. Kivett.  American Antiquity 18:402-403.