Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Special Publication
Lincoln, Nebraska

Dedicated to Dr. Erwin H. Barbour
Prepared for the First Field Conference of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
August 29--30 (pre-conference); August 31 - September 3, 1941


The earliest record of the Museum states that in June of 1874 Professor Samuel Aughey was appointed Director of Cabinets. He was succeeded by Professor Lewis E. Hicks in June, 1885. Little work was carried on in paleontology, however, until Dr. Erwin H. Barbour took charge in 1891 and organized the first expeditions. In 1893, Mr. Charles H. Morrill began his generous support of the field work, and since that time important contributions by him and others have enabled this work to continue. The search for fossil remains has taken Museum parties to every county in Nebraska, and to several other states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

It is particularly fitting that the University of Nebraska State Museum should at this time, on the completion of fifty years of active field work, be chosen as host institution for the first field conference of the newly-formed Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. The Society thus honors not only the Museum and the University of Nebraska but also pays tribute to the accomplishments of Professor Erwin H. Barbour, who has just completed fifty years as Director of the Museum. To Professor Barbour, leader in paleontological research in Nebraska, this guide is respectfully dedicated.

It is not the purpose of this guide to repeat or even to summarize to any extent what has already been written concerning the Tertiary and Pleistocene stratigraphy and paleontology of Nebraska. The method of treatment is rather to focus attention on the local stratigraphy and faunal relationships at important locations within the State and to draw attention to places where the evidence for certain conclusions is good and where it appears to be weak or unsubstantiated. When one becomes familiar with the variable lithology and known successions at critical sections, a regional concept begins to form. This is decidedly important in understanding the processes which have played a part in the geomorphologic development of the Great Plains and furnishes a background for comprehending the slow but progressive changes in the animal life.

A generalized classification of the Tertiary deposits of Nebraska is given in Table 1, and the Pleistocene classification is shown in Table 2. Both of these have undergone numerous changes in the last few years, but it is believed that the general stratigraphic relationships are now fairly well understood although much remains to be done to clarify the details of the regional picture.

The Tertiary sequence in Nebraska may best be explained as being composed of four groups, or sedimentary “cycles,” beginning with the lower Oligocene. These are (1) the White River Group, (2) the Arikaree Group, (3) the Hemingford Group, and (4) the Ogallala Grqup (see Lugn, 1939B). The Pleistocene sequence is more complex.