The Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist (OWSA) was established by Wyoming Statute 36-4-106(d) in 1967. Dr. George Frison, a University of Wyoming (UW) Department of Anthropology faculty member, was appointed as Wyoming’s first State Archaeologist. In 1984, in response to the growing demands and responsibilities of the State Archaeologist, it was transitioned to a full-time position. Dr. Mark Miller was hired as Wyoming’s second State Archaeologist at this time. Dr. Miller served in this position for 30 years, retiring in 2014. Dr. Greg Pierce was hired to replace Dr. Miller in August 2014 and has held the position since.
In 1973, OWSA founded the Archaeological Survey. The Archaeological Survey provides a full range of cultural resource management services for private companies and branches of the federal and state government. For more than forty years the Survey has conducted archaeological projects across Wyoming for multiple clients. In doing so, they have employed hundreds of University of Wyoming students, worked with more than a dozen state, federal, and private agencies and provided volunteer opportunities for hundreds of individuals interested in participating in archaeological investigations. The current manager of the Archaeological Survey is Michael Page.
In 1975 the office hired the State’s first Assistant State Archaeologist, Dr. Danny Walker. The Assistant State Archaeologist conducts archaeological research, teaches at the University of Wyoming, and designs and participates in public education and outreach programs. Danny served in this post for 40 years, retiring in February 2015. Marcia Peterson was hired as the Assistant State Archaeologist in June 2015 and has held the position since.
The University of Wyoming Archaeological Repository (UWAR) started officially in 1967 when the statute establishing the State Archaeologist called for him or her to maintain records and preserve evidence of prehistoric and early historic human activity. In 1975, UWAR began to expand exponentially with the implementation of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its status as a federal repository. An official full-time Curator was hired in the late 1980s to oversee the growing collection, but different OWSA Archaeological Survey staff members have functioned as unofficial Curators since the late 1970s. Records were kept in card catalog format until the early 1980s, paper records until the late 1990s, and then UWAR began working on a transition to digital records starting in 2003. The repository has existed in many different buildings on the UW campus, but came to rest at its most recent home in the Anthropology building in 2007. Currently, UWAR staff consists of the Collections Manager, a Collections Assistant who specializes in accessioning, and between 7 and 10 UW student employees funded through grants every semester. Dr. Marieka Arksey was hired as the Collections Manager, formally the Curator position, in 2017 and has held that position since.
Since its inception the Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist has maintained close relationships with the University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology, where our offices are housed, the Wyoming Archaeological Society, and the Wyoming Association of Professional Archaeologists. We value these mutually beneficial relationships as they allow us to more effectively investigate and preserve Wyoming’s archaeological resources.
Over the course of the past forty plus years this office has conducted thousands of projects, worked with hundreds of volunteers, and worked closely with a wide range of state and federal departments and agencies to accomplish our mission. These agencies and departments include the University of Wyoming, Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites, National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Wyoming National Guard, Wyoming Archaeological Society, Wyoming Association of Professional Archaeologists, Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, and with multiple museums across Wyoming.
Moving forward we look to strengthen and build on the relationships developed over the last four decades. Of primary interest in the coming years is the implementation of more robust outreach and educational programs. The goal of these endeavors is to more actively involve interested members of the public in the process of doing archaeology. These activities will educate and inform participants about aspects of Wyoming’s past while also explaining what archaeology is and how it is done. We look to integrate education and outreach efforts with our ongoing field and lab projects thereby allowing the public to be actively engaged in archaeological research. We believe the development of these programs and the inclusion of interested members of the public into our research not only helps us to more effectively meet our mission but better serves the people of Wyoming as well.