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Dr. Neal Lopinot
Photo by Kevin White

Dr. Neal Lopinot

Research archaeologist; director of Missouri State University’s Center for Archaeological Research

“We were selected for this particular project, and we have been selected for other ones, based on people’s knowledge about the quality of our work. If we say we’re going to do something, we do that and then a little more.” — Dr. Neal Lopinot

His research

The Center for Archaeological Research, known as CAR, conducts archaeological field work and other cultural resource management projects on a contractual basis, primarily for government agencies.

CAR has been involved in prominent archaeological studies, including Big Eddy, Delaware Town and the Trail of Tears.

Many of CAR’s projects involve finding out if there are any significant archaeological remains in a specific area before any work is done that might disturb the remains. Another type of research is documenting and preserving archaeological sites.

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One recent project

In the 1800s, hundreds of steamboats sank on the Missouri River. Because the river has shifted many times, wrecks litter the valley beneath corn and soybean fields and contain a treasure trove of history. CAR helps preserve those wrecks.

Since 2012, CAR has been employed to survey several former islands along the Missouri River where the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers wanted to dig trenches to recreate spawning grounds for the endangered pallid sturgeon.

Before the trenches were dug, Lopinot and a team of researchers used magnetometry to see if there were any steamboat wrecks in those areas. They found the remains of at least one boat.

“They decided to move the trench to avoid impacting the buried steamboat wreck,” he said. “Just about every steamboat wreck is considered to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, which means they’d probably have to mitigate it, which in turn means a major and very costly excavation.”