Tag Archives: native plants

Learning About the “Turin Man” in Siouxland, rural Monona County

17 Jul

Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently during the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held early June in Siouxland I learned a little history involving the “Turin Man”, discovered in 1955 by a gravel pit operator in Turin, Iowa. The operator according to a brochure was a Asa Johnston who found a skull while removing wind blown silt known as loess, from which the Loess Hills received its name and which travels from the top of northwest Iowa down to the Missouri border in the south, mostly along the Missouri River.

A view from atop Turin Hill during an outing at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Johnston discovered a skull and skeletal remains during his excavation for soil ,and later three more skulls and bodies were also discovered in near proximity. It was determined that there was a family of four buried here, probably a nomadic people, and charcoal, indicating fire usage, was found next to the body of a child. It is believed the four people were a family unit buried together, living some 6,000 years ago traversing this area before the United States was in anyone’s dreams as a New World waiting to be “discovered”.

According to the brochure about the information surrounding the find of skeletal remains, the four individuals, two adults, two children, one male and one female, were buried within proximity of one another in what is called a Flex Burial. The Turin skeletons were assigned to the Middle Archaic period based on radiocarbon dating that places them somewhere in the 2770-589 B.C. period.

Found with the skeletons was red ocher sprinkled over the bodies along with Anculosa shell beads. The discovered folk are believed to be from the Late Paleo-Indian period. Soil strata indicates Thea hunters roamed this region during the last glacial period according to the information in the “Turin Man Discovery” brochure. It states that the pattern of oral health indicated by the skeletal remains the people consumed a diet of hunting and gathering.

Also found at the site in the gravel pit were rib bones of either a mastodon or mammoth, prehistoric horse legs bones and a leg bone of an archaic camel. These bones were discovered in another area of the gravel pit and were probably from an earlier era that the human remains.

Who knew or even thought about that Life in Siouxland extended so many eons ago. One can only imagine how different the area looked compared to farm fields one sees these days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view from Turin Hill and Ron Butler’s recounting of the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gene Persinger, who lives in Turin, Iowa, attends the hike where Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hikers leave Turin Hill after hearing Ron Butler’s recounting of the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning About the Loess Hills in Siouxland, Sylvan Runkel State Preserve, rural Monona County

3 Jul

Hikers head out from a group that Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads in the background where he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie, the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently there was an annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held in SIouxland in rural Monona County at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve. Runkel was an author of a few books about midwestern wildflowers, including those found in the Loess Hills in western Iowa near the Nebraska border with the Missouri River. I had never previously walked the trail to this particular preserve although I had driven past it numerous times and had seen a sign for it. But I think it rivals the Loess Hills State Park Overlook near the state forest a little further south. And evidently it is a birder’s paradise when it comes to finding those feathered friends.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, center back, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This hike was lead by a professor from Drake University, Dr. Tom Rosburg, an expert in the native plants that exist in the Loess Hills, who did his Ph.D thesis about the plants native to the area. But I will admit, my feeble brain had a hard time keeping up with the scientific and horticultural names for these plants, although I had seen a number of them on hikes through various places in the Loess Hills which I previously had hiked. Rosburg has also written a few books about plant life. This area had recently had a fire prevention and restorative burn done to it so the plants were not at a stage the professor seemed to have liked for examining and talking about the various species and how to recognize them. But he and many in the entourage recognized a great deal of them. Some of those I believe were also students who were taking copious notes and were learning from the best.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, right, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Remains of a recent fire burn appears Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did find it fascinating and somewhat exhausting that every few steps taken a native Loess Hills plant was found and the group would stop as Dr. Rosburg explained the species, some of which are only found in this location, while others are spread throughout the Loess Hills. This all has to do with the plants’ own evolution and the kind of soil located within this particular state preserve. He explained that when doing his thesis he plotted out thousands of small areas and tracked the progress of the plants within each plot to better understand conditions and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Quite an undertaking.

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as a visual person, I was more interested in the landscape and what I was seeing and what I thought would offer some excellent sunset and possibly fall foliage later this year more intriguing. So I drifted away from the group which then gave me a “mass” for scale to incorporate into the landscape of this particular state preserve. A colorful sky with some clouds some evening will offer up some impressive imagery I believe. Now it’s trying to figure out which of those evenings that will happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, South Jordan Cemetery, rural Monona County

21 Jun

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I attended a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in Siouxland which is going on 40 plus years. But because of previous work commitments in past years, I have never attended one. It is fascinating the wealth of information learned during this outing. The downside is that I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time and so while able to photograph different seminar events, learning about various subjects was limited because of that pesky timeline/time warp continuum thingy.

One of the outings focused on a cemetery I have previously driven past while cruising some of the backroads in Siouxland but had never stopped. The South Jordan Cemetery is an early Negro burial site located in rural Monona County. It was recently placed on the National Register of Historic places in 2021. A long time coming. And just as recently signage about the cemetery was put up. But without attending the hike and talk the information I have found is limited to what is available online.

Recent signage posts the way to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Off of a country gravel road the South Jordan Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021 and was visited during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A gravestone at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a Wikipedia account African Americans may have made their way to western Iowa using the Underground Railroad. Iowa became a state in 1846 but some believe the Underground Railroad theory is not correct because settlement in this part of the state took place after the Civil War. Of the known 20 or so burials, all but a couple are believed to be African American. Some if not all of the headstones were a bit hard to read, yet, they are there celebrating the lives of people who lived in the area prior to those of us now passing through.

I am still awed by the fact that places my feet have traversed others passed through decades if not a century or two prior. That timeline/continuum of life thingy stands the eons and knowledge that came before and will follow later is there. It’s just figuring out how to access it.

Jerry Mennenga
Sioux City, Iowa

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Backcountry gravel roads to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An aged gravestone marker at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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