National Park Quiz 49: “Bones and Stones”

Indians used weapons like those shown in this classic Mission 66 style exhibit to slay Seventh Cavalry troopers in the battle of the Little Bighorn. Are any remains of the dead still unaccounted for? National Park System Historic Photograph Collection.

1. True or false? Some skeletal remains of Seventh Cavalry troopers killed in the Battle of the Little Bighorn have not been recovered and still remain somewhere on the grounds of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

2. True or false? Among the historical resources preserved in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are human footprints made hundreds of years ago.

3. True or false? Artifacts found with human remains in graves excavated at African Burial Ground National Monument have been turned over to the Smithsonian Museum for cataloging, scientific study, and exhibit.

4. True or false? The archeological remains that visitors can see at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site include clusters of circular depressions indicating teepee sites.

5. True or false? The world's largest effigy mound, the 1,330-foot Serpent Mound, is preserved at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

6. True or false? The Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, which specializes in underwater archeology, is headquartered at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

7. True or false? Archeologists have determined that the huge earthworks preserved at Poverty Point National Monument were constructed before the great Mayan pyramids.

8. Thirty years ago this year, Congress enacted a piece of legislation that provides a comprehensive framework for protecting and regulating the use of archaeological resources on public and Native American lands, stipulates that a permit issued by federal land manager is required before there can be any excavation and removal of archaeological resources from public land, and provides stiff fines and imprisonment (up to 20 years) for anyone convicted of unlawfully removing or defacing antiquities on public lands. What is the name of this law?

9. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, the ______ brothers conducted extensive archeological explorations of the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) ruins now preserved at Mesa Verde National Park. One of the park’s most popular and archeologically significant areas is a mesa that now bears their family name.
a. Mason
b. Verde
c. McClure
d. Wetherill

10. In 1935, archeologists were excited to learn that the dessicated, fairly well preserved remains of a pre-Columbian Indian had been discovered in what is now
a. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
b. Mammoth Cave National Park
c. Wind Cave National Park
d. Jewel Cave National Monument

Extra Credit Question

11 In 1996, archeologists working on a dig in Colonial National Historical Park made a sensational discovery that prompted additional excavations revealing important information. What was it that the archeologists found?

Super Bonus Question:

12. What did scientists conclude when they found myoglobin in coprolites found in ancient dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park?


(1) True. Archeologists, and even some visitors, continue to discover skeletal remains on the battlefield from time to time. Some of the dead troopers were not found by the burial parties. The rest were buried in shallow, poorly marked graves that were soon scavenged by animals. Skeletal remains ended up scattered all over the place. Although most of the skeletal remains were eventually recovered, some remain unaccounted for to this day.

(2) True. Recent research suggests that the footprints, originally made in wet volcanic ash, are of prehistoric origin. It has long been assumed, primarily on the basis of oral tradition, that the footprints had been made by some of Chief Keoua’s warriors returning from a battle during a volcanic eruption in 1790. The same volcanic eruption suffocated another group of warriors.

(3) False. The official policy has been to replicate artifacts recovered from coffins (or found in association with skeletal remains) and rebury the original artifacts in coffins with the appropriate human remains.

(4) False. The villages consisted of earthlodges, dwellings that held up to 30 people each and were considerably more substantial than teepees. Each circular depression reveals where an earthlodge once stood. The villages which occupied this river terrace site in the summer consisted of as many as 120 earthlodges.

(5) False. Serpent Mound, is maintained by the Ohio Historical Society. Give yourself a bonus point if you knew that Serpent Mound and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park are part of a larger joint nomination by the United States for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

(6) False. The Center has never been headquartered at Cape Hatteras or any other national seashore. When it was created in 1980, the Center – then called the Underwater Cultural Resources Unit (SCRU) -- was headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This location made sense because SCRU divers were then heavily involved in reservoir diving in the Southwest. The Center’s headquarters is now in Denver.

7) True. Having been constructed during the period 1650 to 700 B.C., the Poverty Point earthworks predate the great Mayan pyramids.

(8) This law, which has become an important tool for archeological resources preservation, is the 1979 Archeological Resources Protection Act.

(9) d – Richard Wetherill and his brothers repeatedly visited Mesa Verde during 1887-1892 to explore cultural sites and collect archeological materials. Today, Wetherill Mesa is very popular with Mesa Verde visitors because it has two publicly accessible cliff dwellings (Step House and Long House) in addition to towers and other ruins.

(10) b – Guides exploring Mammoth Cave in 1935 found the “mummified” body of an Indian on a ledge far from the cave entrance. He was a 45-year old man who had died many hundreds of years ago in an accident (a limestone slab shifted and pinned him) and his body had not decayed in the normal manner because of the high saltpeter content of the sand in which the body lay. Scientists were able to study hair, bones, and internal organs.

(11) A team of archeologists working at the Jamestown site uncovered remains of the east corner of James Fort, the original fort at Jamestown. Prior to this electrifying discovery in 1996, it had been assumed that all evidence of the fort had been washed away by erosion along the James River shoreline. Subsequent digging disclosed the fort’s western wall and north corner as well as remains of several barracks-style dwellings.

(12) A coprolite is fossilized excrement, and myoglobin is a protein that occurs only in human muscle tissue. The fact that myoglobin was found in human “paleo-feces” at Mesa Verde (as well as on the inside surfaces of some cooking vessels) supports the conclusion that Ancestral Puebloans sometimes practiced cannibalism.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.