Nebraska archeologists hope to find nothing in flooded farms

Nebraska archeologists hope to find nothing in flooded farms
In a Friday, June 14, 2019 photo, a team of archaeologists surveys a flooded farm in Waterloo, Neb. The team was surveying flooded farms to determine whether they have any historic significance before clearing them to receive federal funding.(Chris Peters/The World-Herald via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Archeologists surveying recently flooded Nebraska farms are hoping — for once — to not find anything historically significant as such a discovery could delay federal aid to the beleaguered farmers.

After the massive spring floods receded, state agency History Nebraska stepped in to help sift through the sand and debris left on fields to look for pottery and other evidence of former Native American hunting grounds or pioneer settlements, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

“We want to find something, but we don’t,” said Kaity Ulewicz, one of the archaeologists. “If we find something, it’s a lot harder for the farmers to get their money.”

To receive a flood recovery grant from the federal Farm Service Agency, the farm must get clearance that its land is not of historical significance.

Jill Dolberg, deputy state historic preservation officer, said History Nebraska assembled a six-person team to help with the searches and speed the work that in less wet years was conducted by a solo state archaeologist.

“We just thought maybe this was some way we could fill in and help a bit,” Dolberg said.

Of the more than 300 grant applications the state reviewed, only 10% require a site visit and none met the requirements for a historical site. Nothing of significance has been uncovered since the surveys began June 12, Dolberg said.

Ulewicz said the team has found plenty of animal bones, including a deer rib and a gopher jaw near the Elkhorn River bridge on U.S. Highway. One team member has a knack for finding bullets. But nothing of historical value.

“Chances are, most of it is trash or debris from the river,” Ulewicz said.

For the sake of the farmers, Dolberg is keeping her fingers crossed that most of what they find this summer is gopher jaws and golf balls.

“We want to be able to get them back to work as fast as possible,” she said.

The team is expected to remain active until at least Sept. 1

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