Research Focus:
North American Central Plains Woodland

Woods point

This project is a collaborative effort of several colleagues and students to research and document the temporal, social, political and settlement-subsistence parameters of the various Middle Woodland groups who occupied the central Plains in prehistory. From approximately 500BC to AD900, the central region of the North American Great Plains was home to groups who adopted pottery manufacture and were becoming increasingly sedentary as farm crops became more important in their diets. Our current research focuses on the Kansas City Hopewell and another Middle Woodland group who resided about 150 miles west of the Hopewell.  Both groups existed from roughly 200BC to AD400, and while they shared several similarities, suggesting they knew each other, they were different cultures.

Hopewell is a term used to define various cultures, identified by distinctive artifact styles, elaborate mound construction and mortuary practices, and presence of exotic materials, which were united by a network of sociopolitical, ideological, and economic interactions over a large area of the mid-latitude United States.  Although of only modest complexity, the Hopewell phenomenon tied together societies of considerable organizational variability and structure.


Archaeology conducts research, research training and graduate education on past human cultures — their behaviors, adaptations and material productions.

These studies are grounded in research collections of 1.5 million objects and associated data recovered from archaeological sites worldwide. Research in Archaeology focuses on past cultures of the North American Great Plains, Central and South America, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.

horses on steppe


The diverse interests of the Archaeology faculty and staff result in a wide variety of research areas. Included are studies of dietary choices of prehistoric and early historic populations of the central Great Plains, the peopling of the New World, early prehistory of the Great Plains, the prehistory of the Eurasian steppes and the Arabian Peninsula, material culture analyses, especially lithics, ceramics, and bone artifacts, human ecology and the rise of complex Central American societies.



The archaeological collections size is estimated at 1.5 million artifacts. Given the nature of archaeological assemblages, which often include thousands of pieces of debitage, fragmented animal bone, and large amounts of wood charcoal, it is difficult to establish a precise count. Instead, the estimate provides a good measure of the 5,500 cubic feet of artifact collections and associated records. These collections comprise one of the largest of prehistoric and historic artifacts within the state of Kansas and include some of the best North American Central Plains systematic materials from late Paleoindian, Archaic, and Kansas City Hopewell sites.