Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:2 (August 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


This is a popular-oriented work designed to acquaint Nebraskans with the paleontology and archaeology of their state. The work is divided in halves. The first half summarizes the paleontological work in Nebraska. The second half summarizes the archaeological culture history of the state.

The paleontology portion is a "must read," holistic work. It is written almost entirely by Michael R. Voorhies with one insert by Margaret R. Bolick. Voorhies has a wonderful writing style that enables him to translate complicated, technical subjects into plain English. Thus, the paleontology is summarized in wonderful prose that is a delight to read. The technical subjects that Voorhies presents are numerous. He describes the role of microfauna as a gauge of evolution that is also useful for finding oil and other essential commodities. His description of the advance and retreat of seas and glaciers in the context of paleoenvironmental studies is clearly written and easily understandable. He details the way that less dramatic climatic changes can be studied by examining changes in vertebrate fauna such as tortoises, snakes, shrews and other animals. Bolick's description of pollen studies, and floral studies combined with Voorhies's discussion of stratigraphy, and other paleontological techniques brings the reader to a clear understanding of the nature of paleontological research. These discussions are interspersed with captivating descriptions of a multitude of ancient animal species and significant paleontologic sites. In these descriptions, Voorhies makes clear the methods by which paleontologists determine how extinct animals lived, what their habitats were like, and the nature of their behaviors. The history of paleontology in the state is summarized and major personalities in that history are presented in vignelle form. Current paleontologists, curators, preparators, and exhibits staff are pictured or described. Importantly, he goes beyond the description of professionals. Throughout his section, Voorhies gives credit to non-professionals, ranging from ranchers to high school students, responsible for making important finds. In doing so, he provides the important impression that Nebraska's paleontology is an ancient legacy for all of the state's citizens to responsibly investigate and report. In short, the paleontology section is information packed and makes for fascinating reading. It serves as an inspiration for academic researchers who have an interest in public writing.