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Uncovering HistoryUncovering History

Archaeological Investigations at the Little Bighorn

Douglas D. Scott

G. Joseph Sills, Jr. Book Award, Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association; John M. Carroll Book Award, Little Big Horn Association

Narrated by Gary Roelofs

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Oklahoma Press

Almost as soon as the last shot was fired in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the battlefield became an archaeological site. For many years afterward, as fascination with the famed 1876 fight intensified, visitors to the area scavenged the many relics left behind. It took decades, however, before researchers began to tease information from the battle’s debris—and the new field of battlefield archaeology began to emerge. In Uncovering History, renowned archaeologist Douglas D. Scott offers a comprehensive account of investigations at the Little Bighorn, from the earliest collecting efforts to early-twentieth-century findings.

Artifacts found on a field of battle and removed without context or care are just relics, curiosities that arouse romantic imagination. When investigators recover these artifacts in a systematic manner, though, these items become a valuable source of clues for reconstructing battle events. Here Scott describes how detailed analysis of specific detritus at the Little Bighorn—such as cartridge cases, fragments of camping equipment and clothing, and skeletal remains—have allowed researchers to reconstruct and reinterpret the history of the conflict. In the process, he demonstrates how major advances in technology, such as metal detection and GPS, have expanded the capabilities of battlefield archaeologists to uncover new evidence and analyze it with greater accuracy.

Through his broad survey of Little Bighorn archaeology across a span of 130 years, Scott expands our understanding of the battle, its protagonists, and the enduring legacy of the battlefield as a national memorial.

Douglas D. Scott is retired as supervisory archaeologist, Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service. Widely known as an expert on military archaeology, he is the author or coauthor of numerous publications, including Archaeological Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn and They Died with Custer: Soldiers’ Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn.


“A masterful overview of more than a century of collecting and excavating at this captivating place. Best of all in this new work is Scott’s fast-paced and wonderfully revealing battle narrative based on these telling recoveries, a well-grounded, insightful, one-of-a-kind exposé. The archaeological record at Little Bighorn stands equal to an already voluminous historical register and collection of Indian oral histories. For the archaeological component, Uncovering History is the indispensable key.”

—Paul L. Hedren, author of After Custer: Loss and Transformation in Sioux Country

“Scott’s unprecedented approach to battlefield archaeology, using forensic science techniques, has resulted in startlingly fresh interpretations of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In Uncovering History, he provides a fascinating, profusely illustrated synthesis of the numerous archaeological projects undertaken at Little Bighorn and its environs over a span of several decades.”

—Douglas C. McChristian, author of The U.S. Army in the West, 1870-1880: Uniforms, Weapons, and Equipment

Uncovering History is a milestone in the archaeology of the Little Bighorn and will quickly become a standard historical and interpretive reference. Douglas D. Scott knows this ground like no other person.”

—Jerome A. Greene, author of Stricken Field: The Little Bighorn since 1876

“A standard reference book for every student of the Little Big Horn.”

Battlefield Dispatch

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