The Archaeological Research Center explores, preserves, and exhibits the archaeological record of South Dakota's
human story for present and future generations
The Archaeological Research Center is a program of the South Dakota
State Historical Society under the direction of the
state archaeologist. It was established in 1974 and originally located in the
W.H. Over Museum in Vermillion, S.D. In 1974 it was moved to Fort Meade, near
Sturgis, and in 1987 it was relocated to Rapid City.
The Center fulfills its mission through several programs:
- Conduct a statewide archaeological survey. The state
archaeologist is charged with conducting a survey of archaeological sites in
the state. To this end, archaeological survey and excavation projects are
carried out by Center personnel on various contracts with state and federal
agencies to assist them in their cultural resource management obligations.
Additionally, the Center conducts surveys and excavations funded through
various grant sources.
- Protect South Dakota's archaeological resources. The state
archaeologist works to protect important archaeological sites in South Dakota
by working closely with federal and state agencies in carrying out their
cultural resource management obligations. The state archaeologist also
reviews permit applications for mining and mineral exploration, gravel pits,
and oil and gas explorations. Recommendations are made as to what steps are
necessary to protect archaeological resources. The state archaeologist also
is responsible for protecting unmarked human burials and remains. This
includes the repatriation of human remains to Indian tribes or overseeing
- Maintain records of the archaeological sites in South Dakota.
The Center keeps a database of information on all known archaeological sites
in South Dakota. Information on sites is provided by archaeologists working
on federal, state, and private projects and by individual citizens. The state
files for archaeology provide the only centralized source up-to-date
information for persons conducting research in South Dakota. The information
stored includes a computerized database of sites, projects, and
bibliographical references; files of original survey records; USGS 1:24000
scale maps of site and survey locations; and an extensive research
- Act as a repository for archaeological collections. In addition
to storing its own state archaeological collections, the Center maintains a
large repository of artifact collections belonging to various federal
agencies. In all, over 7000 accessioned collections are housed at the Center.
Many are small surface pickups, but many others represent the results of
large-scale excavation projects with thousands or even hundreds of thousands
of items collected. Along with the artifacts, the Center maintains all the
catalog records, field maps, drawings, notes, and photographs from the
- Promote awareness of South Dakota's prehistoric and historic
heritage. The Center actively seeks to inform the public about South
Dakota's long and colorful history. This is carried out through talks and
demonstrations for schools and various civic organizations around the state,
assisting museums in preparing archaeological displays, artifact loans to
museums and other qualified institutions, and an exhibit at the Journey
Museum in Rapid City.