Jane Bigham - Digging into Missouri history

Jane Bigham is an archaeologist for the Missouri State Parks.

Jane Bigham is an archaeologist for the Missouri State Parks.

Jane Bigham says her job as an archaeologist for Missouri State Parks may not lead to spectacular finds, but there is plenty of interesting work.

“A lot of what I do is day-to-day management at archeological sites,” she said. “One of the more interesting finds was at Battle of Island Mound in Bates County in Western Missouri. “This is the area where the first engagement of African American troops in the Civil War occurred. I helped in testing the part that was called Fort Africa, which was the temporary headquarters for that group.”

Raised in Belleville, Ill., Bigham said she was always interested in history.

“I thought that’s what I would major in, but I took an anthropology course and decided archaeology was where I needed to be,” she said. “I specialize in American 19th Century history.”

From 2006-10, Bigham worked at MoDOT with the historic preservation section before coming over to work in state parks.

“My job is to help identify and evaluate items to avoid impacts to archeological resources,” she said. “This is what the public expects any more. It’s important enough that it’s written in federal regulations so that anytime there is a project involving federal money archeological studies are required.”

Bigham said 90 percent of human behavior happened before we had written records so we don’t know about how areas were settled or the culture except what we get from archeological finds.

“We work to preserve areas for future research,” she said. “Being able to travel and see all the state parks is a wonderful benefit. A co-worker once said our parks hold the crown jewels of resources for the state, and it’s true.”

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