Those who dig archaeology now have a new community resource. The Center for Wisconsin Archaeology recently opened at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County.

It provides archaeological consulting and outreach and also allows university students to participate in real-world experience in the field, said Thomas Pleger, the university’s dean and a registered professional archaeologist.

UW-Baraboo/Sauk County has a number of archaeologists on staff, all of whom are engaged in scholarship and research, Pleger said. They have provided contract archaeological services to customers as time permits, but there was greater demand, he said.

“The idea was to create a center that could have folks on staff that could dedicate their time to field archaeology on a project need basis,” Pleger said.

State and federal laws designed to protect archaeological sites during building and other projects often require an archaeological survey, Pleger said.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect research, teaching and economic demand,” he said of the center, citing recent road work in Sauk City as an example of some contract work with which local archaeologists were involved.

Some services offered by the center include archival research and archaeological surveys, evaluations and mitigations, according to a recent news release announcing its opening. Clients could range from individuals to local governments, consulting firms such as MSA Professional Services and others.

Pleger said center staff members also are available to talk to local groups, organizations and tourists who come to the area to learn about the region’s cultural history. The center’s work is not limited to the Baraboo area.

The region surrounding Baraboo features a significant archaeological past and Pleger said there is evidence of inhabitants in the area from more than 10,000 years ago.

“A lot of people come to the Baraboo area specifically to see mound sites,” Pleger said.

Robert “Ernie” Boszhardt serves as The Center for Wisconsin Archaeology’s principal investigator, and Seth Taft, a former student, acts as an assistant researcher.

“It’s great to come full circle,” Taft said.

He got his associate’s degree in Baraboo and went on to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he received his bachelor’s degree in archaeological studies.

“There are so many great degrees of it that I found fascinating with the job,” he said of his chosen career.

The university’s archaeological field school has been working in Trempealeau for the past week to study the Mississippian culture, mound-builders who flourished in the area more than 1,000 years ago, Taft said.

Boszhardt is leading the school along with Danielle Benden from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. About nine local students are participating and working to uncover Mississippian artifacts and evidence of some structures, Taft said.

He said he looks forward to the center’s efforts to integrate and expand the history and prehistory of the area and developing outreach activities in Sauk County.

“There’s some great stuff happening in your own backyard,” he said.

For more information about The Center for Wisconsin Archaeology, call 355-5261 or visit online.

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