Western Illinois Field Station-Macomb/Jacksonville
The Western Illinois Field Station (WIFS) has offices in Jacksonville and Macomb. WIFS crew handles survey, testing, and excavation projects in IDOT Districts 4, 6, and northwestern portions of District 8. Macomb is also the location for one of the two ISAS flotation-processing facilities in the state.
David J. Nolan, Field Station Coordinator
1206 W. Jackson St.
Macomb, IL 61455
Robert N. Hickson, Assistant Coordinator
604 E. Vandalia
Jacksonville, IL 62650
Van Fleet Site
(Project: TR 71 Bridge Over the LaMoine River (IDOT
Seq. No. 19526, ISAS Log# 16048), District 6, funded by IDOT.)
In May of 2016, WIFS personnel conducted an archaeological survey for an IDOT bridge and road improvement project in rural Hancock County near the modern Village of LaHarpe, Illinois. WIFS crews identified a large (13,047 m2) terminal Late Woodland (TLW) Tampico variant habitation site, the Van Fleet site (11HA1001), located on an eastern bluff top overlooking the LaMoine River valley. Relatively little is known about this time period in this region of Illinois, with no known excavated components for this time period from this part of the LaMoine drainage basin. As a result, concurrent with the archaeological survey, ISAS also undertook small-scale testing of the Van Fleet site to collect baseline information about this little known period in Illinois prehistory.
The Van Fleet site was one of three sites initially discovered during pedestrian survey and auger testing to identify any cultural materials before going forward with the IDOT bridge and road improvement project. The site produced Late Woodland body sherds, flaking debris, burned rock, a Middle Archaic Matanzas point, and possible evidence for pit features. Based upon these initial findings, WIFS crews excavated five 1 x 2 meter hand units to determine whether the affected part of the site had intact deposits. What they discovered were parts of five terminal Late Woodland pit features, each with well-preserved material and subsistence remains, and which staff mapped. And, although no diagnostic terminal Late Woodland lithics were identified, the excavated pit features did produce chert debitage, burned rock, and pottery.
These aboriginal ceramics exhibit rounded cord-marked shoulders and cord-impressed rim decorations (see photo, right), and may be related to Burris ware, a type of ceramics primarily found to the north-northwest in Henderson County, Illinois, and in the adjacent parts of eastern Iowa. These type of ceramic finds confirm that the principal occupation of the Van Fleet site can be attributed to the terminal Late Woodland Tampico variant period (ca. A.D. 700–1100).
Additionally, well-preserved carbonized ecofacts are present in all of the sampled features from the Van Fleet site, including nutshell charcoal and seeds. Corn (Zea mays) was found at the site in small quantities overall, but was most ubiquitous in the excavated pit samples, indicating that corn may have been a staple crop in this area at this time. The presence of a tobacco (Nicotinana rustica) seed also may suggest that ritual smoking was undertaken in the habitation area. Although the Van Fleet site was ultimately avoided so the bridge and road improvement project could proceed, some of the carbonized corn found at the site was recently radiocarbon dated (providing a calibrated age range of A.D. 1030-1155) by ISAS Senior Archaeobotanist, Mary Simon, as as part of an important ongoing ISAS study that is trying to determine when maize agriculture was first introduced in Western Illinois.
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Quad City International Airport Site
Quad City International Airport (QCIA), Rock Island County (IDOT Seq.
No. 18930, ISAS Log#15234), District 2, funded by The Quad City
The Quad City International Airport (QCIA) is nestled in the Rock River valley and is bordered on the south and east by bluff edge ravines cutting through coal-bearing bedrock deposits that also contain an abundance of beautiful blue-black colored Moline chert. This unique resource drew people from the surrounding region and more distant places to the area where the Airport is today, since at least Clovis times--some 12,000 years before Euro-American settlement. Recently, WIFS personnel had an opportunity to investigate the northern
portion of a large prehistoric habitation complex located within the
fenced perimeter of the QCIA—site 11RI109.
This extensive site has at least seven spatially distinctive artifact clusters dispersed across a series of stepped, loess-mantled terraces located just upstream of the confluence of Coal Creek and the Rock River. The spearheads and other diagnostic artifacts found in this area indicate that these well-drained landforms were particularly attractive to Middle and Late Archaic groups, especially those who made Osceola/Raddatz points that archaeologists refer to as the Hemphill horizon (ca. 3350–2650 B.C.). A related Keokuk (half grooved) axe was found in one of the southern habitation clusters at site 11RI109, and is one of the northeastern-most examples of the type known, along with a large axe blank displaying incomplete grooves and shaping that was likely abandoned before it was ever finished.
Interestingly, although ISAS personnel excavated 13 machine blocks and did a comprehensive surface collection at site 11RI109, they found few formed tools or time-sensitive artifacts. We think this demonstrates that this area (at the topographically lowest part of the site area) was used in a more fleeting manner by transient Archaic groups who were exploiting the abundant localized deposits of Moline chert. And WIFS personnel did actually map and excavate three subsurface concentrations of flintknapping debris near the southwestern edge of the project. Two of these debris fields were particularly dense, producing between 1000 and 2500 flakes/shatter apiece—the sub-clustering present within these piles strongly suggests they are the product of several closely spaced individuals or of intensive, repeated activity over a very short period of time.
Unfortunately, no temporally sensitive artifacts were associated with site 11RI109 that could help reveal their age or cultural affiliation, although their depth in the soil and the general characteristics of the recovered production failures are consistent with Archaic period craftsmanship. These piles of waste flakes and related debris result from the production of blanks and tools that likely were removed from the site when the inhabitants left, after gearing up where high quality chert was abundant in anticipation of travels that would take these people to places where the distribution of this raw material was either poor or uncertain. In light of this, it appears that the use of the QCI Airport or Lower Rock River area as a destination or jumping off point for more extended journeys has considerable time depth and continues even today.
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Hardin Munroe and Wedding Sites
(Project: Illinois 3 Highway Widening from IL 109 to South of Croxford Road, Jersey County (IDOT Seq. No. 1202 C, ISAS Log# 10157), District 8, funded by IDOT.)
Hardin Barbed point
Just north of the present-day city of Grafton in Jersey County, ISAS archaeologists have found the remnants of campsites and small villages used by diverse groups of prehistoric peoples. Due in large part to the wealth of natural resources found in this eroded yet hilly upland terrain, Early Archaic hunters and gatherers (circa 8500–9000 years ago) may have repeatedly used this location to gear-up for travels where high quality tool stone was either rare or absent. Archaeologists have encountered a number of dense piles of flintknapping debris at the Hardin Munroe site which may reflect these prehistoric peoples' collection and reduction of Burlington, Salem, and Fern Glen cherts. Archaeologists have also found what appear to be discarded production failures and spent projectile points and knives, all of which provide a glimpse into the social organization and technology of the native groups that made Hardin Barbed points.
Relatively little is known today about these wide-ranging, early inhabitants of Illinois, since most of the archaeological sites associated with them have been disturbed by erosion or modern plowing and farming. Flintknapping and other activities done by the groups at Hardin Munroe, however, likely lasted for a matter of hours or days, were repeated over time, and probably don't reflect actual habitation or extended investment in the location. However, later on, during the Terminal Late Woodland period (ca. AD 800–1000), this same upland area was used for multi-seasonal and possibly year-round, homesteads. These homesteads were made up of single and multiple family groups who sustained garden plots, and in some cases even agricultural fields, to support themselves. Evidence of this greater level of investment is supported by the presence of more diverse tool and ceramic assemblages as well as many archaeological features, including subterranean house basins and cooking/storage pits.
Wedding site archaeological excavations
Archaeological investigations undertaken at the Wedding site, in Jersey County, identified varied ceramics typical of the Bluff culture found in the confluence area of the Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers. ISAS archaeologists also excavated the remains of over one-hundred pit facilities, including two house basins with extended entryways.
This habitation site is notable because it is the first of its type excavated in the region that produced a tool assemblage dominated by Schild Spike arrow points. Before this, Schild Spike points had been found only sporadically on plowed surfaces in the Lower Illinois River valley region or embedded in the vital organs of contemporary terminal Late Woodland peoples who were buried in mounds and cemeteries along the bluffs of the Illinois river. Interestingly, the Wedding site's Schild Spike points seem to represent a kind of "calling card" or signature artifact of a distinctive terminal Late Woodland bluff cultural group that, at times, must have found itself in conflict with other nearby and possibly related peoples.
Schild Spike arrow points
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(Project: FAP 745/IL 104 Bridge over Illinois River Project in Morgan and Pike counties (IDOT Seq. No. 14216, ISAS Log# 08016), District 6, funded by IDOT)
Nestled within the sand dunes along the Illinois River in present-day Meredosia in Morgan County, the Burning Sands site consists of multiple prehistoric and historic occupations that have occurred during the last 2,500 years. Platted in 1832, the village of Meredosia is the point of origin for the first steam railroad operating west of the Allegheny Mountains and, beginning in 1839, was one of the primary steamboat stops between St. Louis and Peoria.
In-progress excavations at Burning Sands
Before EuroAmerican settlement, Burning Sands was the locus of numerous camps and homesteads, some of which are almost 2,500 years old. The earliest documented use of Burning Sands was during the Early Woodland period and is marked by Black Sand ceramics (ca. 350–200 B.C.). No pit features are affiliated with this Black Sand occupation, which is fairly typical for that cultural group due to their generally transient nature.
Pre-Hopewell Middle Woodland groups (ca. 150 B.C.–A.D. 1) are also associated with other features at the Burning Sands site, including bell-shaped storage pits, cooking basins, and a shell midden. In addition to the abundance of ceramics, the site has produced both obsidian from Wyoming and chert from Ohio, each likely associated with these occupations.
ISAS archaeologists found evidence that later Hopewell and Middle Woodland groups (ca. A.D. 1–250) were using the shores along the Illinois river near Burning Sands as campsites, perhaps during their journeys to the burial mounds north of the site. The final prehistoric use of Burning Sands dates to approximately A.D. 800–1000 and is affiliated with what archaeologists call the Adams variant, a group of people who made small, side-notched, arrowpoints and sharply-angled, punctated, ceramics.
Pre Hopewell ceramic vessels from Burning Sands.
Because Burning Sands is located within an extant town, archaeologists encountered many late 19th and 20th century cellars and outbuildings. In addition to these more-recent building remnants, archaeologists also found a ca. 1840s–1850s household feature cluster that included a house cellar, root cellar, privy, and small cistern. Together these four features yielded a significant sample of artifacts that will contribute to our understanding of an early, and highly successful, 19th century commercial and transportation node along the Illinois River.
Early 20th century merchant trade tokens from Burning Sands
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In 2005, the Western Illinois Survey Division of ITARP conducted Phase II and III investigations at the Chenoweth site a multicomponent prehistoric and historic period occupation located near the west edge of Macomb. A total surface pickup of the site was initially made using 100 10 x 10 m collection units; the densest portion of the site was also examined using several remote-sensing techniques. The initial surface work was supplemented by the excavation of 12 1 x 2 m hand units. After completion of these hand units, most of the site area was subjected to the mechanical removal of the plow zone to recover additional artifacts and locate cultural features. A total of 145 features were ultimately defined and excavated to mitigate the impact of the FAP 315/IL 336 Frontage Road and Mainline construction.
Excavation at the Chenoweth site (11MD771).
The recovered artifacts and features are associated with a minimum of three principle components: Middle Holocene Archaic, Pioneer Historic, and Early Industrial Historic. The Middle Holocene Archaic component is represented by scattered, but oftentimes dense, subsurface concentrations of flaking debris and fire-cracked rock. The associated projectile points include Matanzas and Karnak varieties, which generally date from approximately 5800–4800 years BP. Several prehistoric pit features were also encountered, most of which were utilized as processing loci. An ephemeral Early Archaic component, represented by an isolated Theban cluster point, is also present but failed to produce any clearly associated subsurface remains.
The earlier Historic component may have begun in the late 1820s and likely ended circa 1840. This occupation appears to be associated with the William Pringle family, who purchased the property from the U.S. Government in 1835. Features associated with this component include a limestone-lined sub-floor cellar, an unlined cistern, two privies, post molds, and several pits of uncertain function. Artifacts associated with this component include blue-edge decorated pearlware ceramics, printed and painted whiteware ceramics, redware and yellowware, olive glass, animal bone and egg shell (food waste), three European-made gunflints, an elongated, drawn blue glass bead, brass and pewter buttons, brass kettle scrap, and several 18th to early 19th century Spanish and American coins.
Plan view of limestone-lined sub-floor cellar, Feature 50 – Chenoweth site.
Profile of an unlined cistern, Feature 51 – Chenoweth site.
The later Historic occupation appears to have begun after the Civil War and ended during the 1890s. Features associated with this component include a blacksmithing area, pits ultimately utilized as refuse dumps, post molds, and an artifact-laden, 4.2-meter deep, limestone-lined well. Artifacts recovered from the well include a multitude of bottles, two iron kettles, stoneware crocks, a set of eyeglasses, a full set of dentures, an 1890 token, and portions of an 1876 Centennial glass serving tray. Other artifacts associated with this component include decorated and plain white-pasted earthenware, stoneware, and animal bone.
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Taliaferro Cabin (11PM62)
In March 2003 the WISD investigated the Taliaferro Cabin site (11PM62), a recently-discovered EuroAmerican occupation in Putnam County dating to the 1830s. This site was recorded during an intensive archival and pedestrian search for the village of Senachwine, a Potawatomi chief in the early 1800s. A pedestrian survey of a possible location of Senachwine’s village recovered five tiny white-pasted earthenware fragments within an agricultural field consisting of dense corn debris with only 10 percent ground surface visibility. A grid of 80 22 cm diameter hand-dug auger tests was established in 5 and 10-m intervals across and beyond the surface scatter area.
Forty-four of the 80 systematic auger tests within the surface scatter area produced cultural material, including pieces of decorated and undecorated white-pasted earthenware, nails, glass, a kaolin pipe bowl, and a pewter or whitemetal button that was manufactured between 1750 and 1815. Three of the auger tests encountered sub-plowzone remains that were likely historic features. Random metal detector surveys conducted across the site area recovered two larger pieces of iron, a probable harness ring, five pieces of kettle brass, three brass buttons, six lead balls that range in diameter from .37–.51 inches, and numerous nails.
Eight 1 x 2 m test units were excavated in the area where two of the possible features were recorded. These test units uncovered four cultural features: a cellar, cistern, probable vegetable storage pit, and a probable privy vault. Recovered artifacts include two brass buttons, two bone buttons, a bone lice comb, ceramic pipe fragments, 27 brass straight pins, a brass-backed pocket mirror, three slate writing styluses, a French blade gunflint, faunal elements from birds, fish, rodents, deer, and pig, as well as numerous pieces of pearlware, white earthenware, and porcelain. Decorative types include shell edge, hand-painted, dipt, and dark blue, red, brown, and black prints. Based upon the artifact assemblage, the feature morphologies, and archival information, site 11PM62 is associated with James Taliaferro, the first EuroAmerican settler in Putnam County west of the Illinois River, who moved to this location in 1835.
The results of the ITARP testing at 11PM62 indicate that the site dates primarily to the later stages of the pioneer period (1781–1840) in Illinois settlement, a period little known archaeologically in Illinois history when the cultural landscape was changing from Native American to EuroAmerican. The site’s occupation is short term, likely not lasting longer than 10 years, and is affiliated with a single family. Site 11PM62 has the potential to yield significant new information about pioneer-age settlement and subsistence, as well as technological and architectural practices, in north central Illinois.
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The Hinsey site (11T412), located south of Pekin in rural Tazewell County, is believed to have been occupied by the Albert Hinsey family between 1832 and 1837, and the Ansel Haines family from 1837 to 1845. Testing at this short-term farmstead encountered two substantial features: an unlined cistern and a brick lined well. The cistern contained a sample of 1830s and early 1840s domestic debris, including an abnormally large quantity of smoking pipes, and an unusual faunal assemblage containing imported whitefish and Atlantic cod.
Pipe Fragments from 11T412.
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Frozen Ground (11MG268).
The Frozen Ground site (11MG268), located west of Jacksonville in Morgan County, is thought to have been the home of the Hansel House family, circa 1832 to 1837. Excavations at the site produced several substantial features, including a large sub-floor cellar and an early-context “keyhole” cellar. Like the Hinsey and Taliaferro sites, the Frozen Ground site produced an important sample of artifacts dating to the close of the frontier period in Illinois.
Blading in progress at the Frozen Ground site.
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Black Top Ridge (11MC7)
The Black Top Ridge site (11MC7), located in rural Mercer County overlooking the Mississippi Valley, was briefly occupied by an unknown individual or family during the late 1830s and early 1840s. Testing at the site produced a number of “archetypical” features including a pit cellar, sub-floor depression, unlined cistern, and a lime-slaking pit. The artifacts recovered from the site represent a very short-term occupation dating to the depression that followed the Panic of 1837.
Profile of Feature 8 – a lime-Slaking pit at the Black Top Ridge site.
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The Stafford site (11SG1309) is located in rural Sangamon County, south of the town of Rochester. The site was occupied as early as 1821 by the Oliver Stafford family. Stafford’s great-great uncle was executed in England during the late 17th century, accused of plotting to kill the King of England. The Stafford’s immigrated to Rhode Island and moved to Sangamon County via Vermont. Small-scale testing encountered a suite of pit features closed by the mid 1830s, as well as a large sub-floor cellar and exterior keyhole cellar abandoned shortly after the Civil War.
Refined Ceramics from the Stafford site.
Brass pins from the Stafford site.
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Mary Hipple (11HE506)
The Mary Hipple site (11HE506) is located in Henderson County in western Illinois. It is a short-term Euro-American farmstead dating primarily to the 1840s that was likely first inhabited in the mid-1830s and persisted into the late 1850s. It is unclear who lived on the Mary Hipple site, as the property appears to have been owned by absentee landlords during the first half of the nineteenth century. Today, the property is owned by the site’s namesake, Mary Hipple.
Phase II investigations revealed the presence of a suite of intact historic domestic features, including a large pit-cellar, two possible cisterns, a stone-lined well, a drainage ditch, and a possible privy vault within the residential compound. A separate barnyard complex containing at least one pole building was also encountered. A pit cellar representing the dwelling produced a sizeable, temporally discreet, pre-Civil War artifact sample. The most notable aspects of this sample are the presence of an unusually large number of figural flasks, including a George Washington flask and several scroll flasks.
Flasks could have been purchased, filled, and refilled again and again at the local general store. The pictorial flasks from the Mary Hipple site were most commonly made by Midwestern glassmakers and were manufactured in several sizes, including half-pint, pint (most common) and quart, although smaller and larger examples are known. This sample includes 3 figural flasks and 10 ‘scroll’ flasks. The figural flasks include a ‘George Washington’ portrait specimen and an ‘American eagle’ specimen. The last figural flask could not be attributed to a specific type, but was likely a presidential portrait flask or an American eagle flask. The George Washington portrait flask was manufactured during the 1820s or early 1830s. American double eagle flasks were popular during the 1850s. Scroll flasks were introduced around 1830 and were popular during the 1840s and 50s, after which they lost their popularity and very few were manufactured. ISAS Project Log No. 09198.
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Marlin Miller (11HA318)
The Marlin Miller site is situated on a high terrace remnant in the West Fork of the LaMoine River valley near Carthage, Illinois. Originally tested by Western Illinois University in 1989 for the FAP 53/US 136 highway-widening project, the site represents a substantial early Late Woodland Weaver occupation with associated C-14 dates ranging from A.D. 350–450. A large portion of the site is currently being excavated by ITARP in advance of the FAP 315/IL 336 four-lane highway project. The Weaver component consists of more than 150 small to medium-sized pit features, at least one oval, single post alignment assumed to be the remains of a structure, and a differentially preserved, 20cm thick midden remnant exhibiting quite good floral and faunal preservation.
Excavation at the Marlin Miller site.
Feature 115 profile.
The recovery of a few South Branch Net Impressed and LaCrosse Fabric Impressed sherds from the early Late Woodland pits at Marlin Miller is the first instance of their occurrence outside the Mississippi drainage in western Illinois and is viewed as evidence for contact or trade with the Lima Lake locality. Given the absence of deep storage pits and the apparent emphasis on aquatic resources (abundant mussels/clams, fish, and frog remains) most advantageously procured during warm weather months, the Weaver component appears to represent the remains of a seasonally occupied habitation, perhaps used over several generations by portions of a resident population based elsewhere in the LaMoine drainage.
Late Woodland ceramic rims and lithic tools.
Additional components present at the site include evidence for sporadic occupation during the Archaic period as well as a late 19th century/early 20th century farmstead. A tool cache from the Archaic component found in undisturbed subsoil deposits appears to date to a portion of the Middle Holocene (between ca. 8,000–6,000 years BP), Few sites or intact deposits dating to this time period have been found in western Illinois.
Archaic tool cache.
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Thomas East (11HA706)
Thomas East is located on a low terrace remnant situated in the floodplain of the West Fork of the LaMoine River, less than a kilometer west of Marlin Miller. The site was tested and excavated by ITARP personnel in 2004–2005 as part of the aforementioned Carthage to Macomb segment of the IL 336 four-lane highway project. The plow-disturbed portions of the site produced only Archaic period diagnostics and a low overall material density. Subsurface testing and extensive machine stripping produced the remains of a single Archaic feature cluster comprised of ten small pit features and isolated posts.
Excavation at the Thomas East site (11HA706).
Unfortunately, none of these pits produced diagnostic remains, although enough charcoal may have been recovered to obtain a radiocarbon assay to date the occupation. The overall signature of the surface and subsurface debitage and projectile point assemblages is suggestive of Middle Holocene Archaic period site use. Given the meager number of features and associated remains, as well as the low lying physiographic location, it seems likely that Thomas East was seasonally occupied for extractive activities undertaken when flooding from the LaMoine was less likely to occur.
Bifaces from Thomas East site.
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Coon Run VII (11MG307)
This large, bluff base Woodland site was tested by ITARP personnel in the summer of 2004 as part of the FAP 310/US 67 four-lane highway project. The site is located southeast of Meredosia on a colluvial/alluvial fan complex occupying the north margin of a side valley tributary, near the point where this stream enters the eastern margin of the Illinois River valley. Seven widely spaced 1 x 2 m test units were hand-excavated through dense, well-preserved midden deposits that were nearly a meter thick. Portions of thirteen separate cultural features were encountered at the base of these deposits. The material remains emanating from surface, midden, and feature contexts are suggestive of occupations straddling the Middle to early Late Woodland transition. Some of the more notable assemblage characteristics are the well-made Hopewell/Baehr series pottery, the higher than normal occurrence of obsidian, and the recovery of native copper and possible marine shell. While the faunal remains appear diverse, there is an abundance of aquatic species, including unusually well preserved evidence for crayfish consumption in the form of carbonized crayfish shells, arms, and claws.
Profile from Hand-Excavated Unit – Coon Run VII site.
Selected diagnostic ceramics and lithics – Coon Run VII site.
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Horseshoe Pond (11BR442)
The Horseshoe Pond site is located in the central Illinois River valley on a low, narrow floodplain ridge near the mouth of the LaMoine River. ITARP personnel tested the site during the spring of 2005 as part of a wetland restoration project for IDOT.
Excavation at the Horseshoe Pond site.
Initial controlled surface collection and a metal detector survey yielded evidence for a substantive mid 19th century historic component with two separate but apparently contemporary material concentrations suggestive of multiple households. Examination of the early land records and other historic documents indicate that the general site area (a 40 acre tract) was initially purchased from the government in 1849 by Charles Hulett for a sum of $60.00, and was subsequently owned by this family for the next 15 years. Hand and machine excavations in each of the areas of material concentration failed to produce evidence for subsurface structural remains, which is not surprising given the seasonally high water table. However, a large amount of foundation stone encountered in the densest area of surface material suggests that structures or dwellings may have been built on piers in anticipation of flooding. A hand-dug well with a partially preserved wooden frame and several small pit features with associated mid-century debris were encountered below the plowzone in the densest area of concentration. Approximately a half dozen, broadly similar historic pit features were found and excavated in the other area of material concentration (Figure 25). A diverse array of refined ceramics and stoneware was associated with each household area.
Ceramic cluster - Horseshoe Pond site.
While there was no substantive surficial evidence for prehistoric occupation of this ridge, limited deeper machine trenching and hand excavations encountered buried Black Sand and Late Archaic occupations at approximately .50 and .90m below the modern surface, respectively. These somewhat ephemeral, stratified occupations appear to have focused on the slough edge margin located along the north side of the landform. A similar sequence of stratified prehistoric remains was encountered during more limited testing at the Fire Swamp site (11BR441), located approximately 0.2 km west on this same landform. The Black Sand occupations at both of these sites were primarily comprised of scatters of flaking detritus although some ceramics, fire-cracked rock, and charcoal were also recovered. Several contracting stemmed point fragments characteristic of the Black Sand time period were also recovered from 11BR442, The Late Archaic occupations produced several fragmentary, small-sized dart points (probable Riverton cognates), larger biface fragments, chert debitage, rough rock, and several possible feature remnants. Based upon the stratified nature of the two sites and their potential significance, IDOT has chosen to avoid the constituent floodplain ridge during proposed slough dredging and borrowing activities.
Fire-cracked rock concentration – Horseshoe Pond site.
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Billboard Flats (11HY289)
In May 2004, excavations were undertaken at the Billboard Flats site (11HY289) in Henry County, Illinois. The site occupies a late Pleistocene-age terrace remnant situated along the southern margin of the Green River in the Rock River valley, approximately 1 km southeast of the Rock River-Green River confluence. According to the 1822 Government Land Office survey map, Billboard Flats lies within the prairie at a prairie-timber border, on the southern bank of Mosquito Creek (which would become the main channel of the Green River in the late 1800s). Soil maps from the Soil Conservation Survey combined with the results of a number of geomorphological cores indicate that a marsh, slackwater lake, or some other type of wetland area was formerly located immediately adjacent to the site.
The ITARP investigations, which involved pedestrian survey, auger testing, test unit excavation, and the mechanical removal of the plow zone, revealed 10 prehistoric features at the site. These features occur within an area measuring 16 x 19 m and are located along the edge of the former wetland area. Three of the pits are located in close proximity to one another, away from the other seven features. Three of the deepest and more centrally located features may have functioned as storage facilities, with the remainder likely acting as food processing pits. Slightly less than .5 g of thick-shelled hickory nut charcoal from Feature 11 submitted for AMS radiocarbon dating to the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) yielded a Late Archaic date of 3730 +/- 35 RCYBP (cal. 2140 BC).
This date corresponds well with the associated diagnostics, which consist of an as yet unnamed stemmed point variant, frequently referred to in the archaeological literature as “Late Archaic Stemmed,” as well as a related bifacial drill/awl form. All six points from 11HY289 are unbarbed and slightly asymmetrical, with the maximum width at, or immediately above, the shoulders. The basal margins are straight or convex. These points are further characterized by the removal of broad percussion flakes and typically exhibit little or no marginal retouch. In fact, one point is manufactured from a flake blank with minimal modification on the ventral surface. The remainder of the lithic assemblage consists of bifaces, informal flake tools, chert debitage, and cores (25% of which is the dark variant of Moline chert and 17% of which is heat altered), nine large, egg-shaped limonite nodules, abundant fire-cracked rock, and a variety of cobble tools.
Projectile points – Billboard Flats site.
While totaling less than three grams from the entire site, the archaeobotanical assemblage at Billboard flats is nonetheless quite diverse. Four species of nut are represented: thick-shelled hickory (Carya sp.), acorn (Quercus sp.), pecan (C. illinoensis), and hazelnut (Corylus sp.). Seeds from the paw paw (Asimina triloba) were also found in two of the features. Four species of wood charcoal occur at the site, comprised mostly of elm (Ulmaceae), followed by oak (Quercus sp.), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), and ash (Fraxinus sp.). The archaeobotanical assemblage represents a diversity of environments: acorns and hickory nuts are often found in xeric upland forests, hazelnut is most common along upland forest edges, sycamore is commonly found in mesic flood plain forests within secondary valleys, while ash, elm, pecan, and paw paw are usually found in wet-mesic flood plain forests. This distribution suggests that the Billboard Flats inhabitants were gathering locally available floodplain woods for fuel while venturing into the uplands to collect nuts and locally available Moline chert. The location of Billboard Flats along a marsh edge suggests the site’s inhabitants may have also been collecting aquatic plants, such as tubers or rhizomes, as well as other resources.
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Shorten Site (11HE551)
The Shorten site is situated on a sandy terrace remnant located in the Mississippi River floodplain near Lomax in Henderson County, Illinois. The site was discovered and tested by ITARP personnel as part of a borrow study relating to a small bridge replacement project. Prior to our initial survey, the site area had been used by the landowner on several different occasions as a source of fill to repair breaches in the adjacent man-made creek levee. These impacts removed several feet of sediment from the parts of the site and exposed Early Archaic Kirk cluster diagnostics and abundant flaking debris at the surface near the western margin of the scatter. The area where the County plans to remove borrow soil to raise the adjacent bridge approaches was subjected to machine-aided topsoil removal in August of 2005. Thirty subsurface anomalies were subsequently identified and excavated. Although many of these features failed to produce diagnostic remains, a number of the pits can be attributed with confidence to Developmental Oneota and later Late Woodland components. The Oneota features were generally large, well-defined, cylindrical shaped storage pits. Feature 25 produced the remains of a nearly complete, small-sized vessel with trailed strap handles, interior lip tooling, and shoulder decoration consisting of opposing line filled triangles. Additional Oneota vessels are represented by sherds recovered from both feature and surface contexts including examples with interior rim trailing, broad trailed shoulder decoration, and punctate border ornamentation. The site’s later Late Woodland ceramics consist of cordmarked, grit-tempered jars that exhibit cord-impressed designs on their upper rim area. These ceramics appear to have affinities with Louisa phase remains from southeastern Iowa and other unnamed cultural complexes located to the south in the Lima Lake and Sny Bottoms localities of western Illinois.
Profile of Feature 25 – Shorten site.
Oneota vessel in situ, Feature 25 – Shorten site.
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Limited testing of the Sinuscide site (11MC158), which is located north of New Boston on a high terrace remnant positioned near the Mississippi Valley wall, produced a small number of pit features, including one with Early Woodland ceramics that fall within the range of variation ascribed to Marion Thick. The other features from the site failed to produce temporally sensitive materials, although a variety of Archaic and Late Woodland diagnostics were recovered from the plowzone and site surface.
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Missed Point (11MG175)
The Missed Point site (11MG175) is located southwest of Jacksonville on the southern bluff line of Brushy Fork Creek. A single Middle Woodland feature cluster comprised of nine individual pits was excavated in advance of construction for a major four-lane highway (FAP 310/US 67). Although most of the features proved to be generally shallow and had few cultural inclusions, the ceramics recovered from the site appear to have more in common with regional Havana/Hopewell wares than those that typify the local Massey phase. The data recovered from this and other contemporary sites excavated as part of this project (Spoon Toe [11MG179], Spoon Creek [11MG181], and Buffalo Chip [11MG162]), suggest that the upper reaches of the Sandy Creek drainage was the scene of more varied, and perhaps complex, Middle Woodland settlement and social interaction than previously believed.
Middle Woodland Lithics from the Missed Point site.
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Buffalo Chip (11MG162)
The aforementioned Buffalo Chip site (11MG162) was subjected to large-scale excavation during the summer of 2002 as part of the project mentioned above. Buffalo Chip is located on the southern bluff line of Sandy Creek, between 11MG175 and Massey (11MG15), the type-site for the Middle Woodland Massey phase. A 2.5-acre area, which represents the majority of the project-specific portion of the site, was subjected to machine aided plowzone removal resulting in the mapping and excavation of 123 subsurface features. These features proved to be exceptionally large on average and were distributed among at least nine spatially segregated pit concentrations or household areas. The majority of the pit concentrations appear to be attributable to the early Late Woodland period based upon the recovery of Ansell/Mund style points and cordmarked ceramics exhibiting close affinities with Weaver and White Hall wares. However, at least one subsurface feature concentration is attributable to the Middle Woodland period based upon the presence of Havana/Hopewell ceramics, lamellar bladelets, and distinctive corner notched points.
Excavations at the Buffalo Chip site.
Profile from Feature 40.
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Janice Cook (11A1577)
Small scale machine stripping for a recent borrow pit investigation in northern Adams County resulted in the excavation of 16 later Late Woodland Adams variant pit features at the Janice Cook site (11A1577). These features extended from the apex of an upland ridge spur down onto its steeper slopes (>25%), which appears to be a recurrent distributional pattern in western Illinois during this particular temporal span (A.D. 600–1000). Unlike other sites where this phenomenon has been observed (e.g.: 11F163, 11MG180, Lafe Lamb), the 11A1577 pits are located on a west-southwest facing slope instead of the more typical south-southeast facing exposure. A number of the features discovered on the more steeply sloping topography exhibited elongated oval to rectangular shaped plans, near vertical side walls, and flattened bases. This type of habitation feature, which is informally referred to as a “bathtub-shaped” pit, is only found with regularity in western Illinois on sites dating to the later Late Woodland period. Although clearly distinctive, the function of these pits remains enigmatic.
View of the excavations of the Janice Cook site on the ridge slope.
Plan view of Feature 12 at the Janice Cook site.
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Ed Walch (11A1542)
Excavations at the Ed Walch site (11A1542), located on the northern bluff line of Pigeon Creek near Payson, encountered the remains of a single later Late Woodland household comprised of nine features, including a small sub-rectangular structure basin measuring 2.3 m in length, 1.7 m in width, and 0.2 m in overall depth. Little evidence for either internal or external posts was found, although a shallow sunken hearth, some burned limestone, and several concentrations of carbonized materials were identified on or near the structure floor. The ceramics recovered from the extramural pits represent the remains of thin-bodied cordmarked jars exhibiting rounded shoulders and lips adorned with cordwrapped stick decoration. The upper rim area of the most complete jar in the assemblage is also decorated with an unusual punctated design that is most similar to ceramics found in Fall Creek and Poisson phase contexts in the adjacent Sny Bottoms locality of the Mississippi River.
Cordmarked vessel from the Ed Walsh site.
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In November 2003 the Western Illinois Survey Division of ITARP, under the direction of Richard Fishel, completed a 10-week data recovery program at 11MC71, a Weaver habitation located in the Mississippi River flood plain of Mercer County. A total of 1,350 m2 of site area was investigated, revealing a 15-cm-thick artifact-laden midden buried beneath 0.4–1.2 m of prehistoric flood sediments which were likely deposited in a single episode. Midden artifacts, which will easily number in the hundreds of thousands, include copious amounts of Weaver ceramics, lithics, floral, and faunal material. The majority of the ceramics are Weaver Plain; decorations, which occur in small numbers, include cord-wrapped stick notches and diagonal slashes. Approximately 10 near-complete vessels were recovered from the midden. Projectile points consist primarily of Steuben points, but Snyders cluster points, contracting-stemmed points, and straight-stemmed points are also present. Excellent bone preservation has permitted tentative identification of some of the fauna in the assemblage, including deer, possibly elk, dog, fish, turtle, rodent, and bird. A large number of bone tools are also present, consisting primarily of bone awls and antler batons. Two drilled turtle carapaces were also found. Surprisingly, given the close proximity to the Mississippi River, no mussel shell was recovered from the site.
Excavations at 11MC71.
Exotic items identified thus far include ten copper beads, four copper awls, and a single piece of obsidian. While these exotic items may be associated with the Weaver component, a few Middle Woodland ceramics were also recovered, suggesting an ephemeral Middle Woodland component may be present. Other short-lived components that may be present at 11MC71 include Early Woodland (represented by several Morton-like ceramics) and late Late Woodland (represented by single-cord impressed ceramics and arrow points). The Middle Woodland material was found scattered throughout the Weaver midden, while the Early Woodland and late Late Woodland material were found in isolated pockets at the site edges.
Large vessel section in situ at 11MC71.
One hundred and eighty-five Weaver features were encountered below the midden. Feature types include large, deep, basin-shaped and bell-shaped storage pits, shallower processing facilities, and post molds. The fill within the pits suggests that most features were open and abandoned before the flooding occurred. Unfortunately, compared to the midden artifact density, the overall feature artifact density is sparse. Only one pit exhibited in situ material on the feature’s base.
Profile of Test Unit 8 at 11MC71.
One of the more interesting discoveries is an arc of 10 post molds, representing a possible structure, extending south out of the project area. The diameter of the structure – as measured between the western-most and eastern-most post – is 15 meters. These posts are large, averaging 40 cm in diameter and 35 cm deep, and are spaced 1.8–2.0 m (average = 1.85 m) apart except for a 4-m-wide north-facing “opening” where no posts appear. While the function of this facility is unknown, its large size suggests it may have not been residential in nature. The excavations of 11MC71 will provide invaluable information about the Weaver phase occupation in this area of northwestern Illinois of which very little is currently known.
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Illinois 29 Survey
During 2002 and 2003 the WISD began a multi-year survey under the direction of Richard Fishel of a 58-km-long stretch of Illinois Route 29 along the Illinois River between Mossville and Interstate 180 in Peoria, Marshall, Putnam, and Bureau counties. To date, 3700 acres have been surveyed and 208 sites and 333 find spots encompassing the entire time frame of human occupation of the Illinois Valley have been recorded. Two sites within the proposed improvements to Illinois 29, Steuben (11MA2) and Taliaferro Cabin (11PM62), were tested in conjunction with this survey. Additional investigations of these sites will follow in the upcoming field seasons, assuming these sites remain within the project ROW. The Taliaferro Cabin site will be discussed in the Historic Sites section.
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In the summer of 2002, the WISD investigated the Steuben site (11MA2), a 5-ha late Hopewell and Weaver occupation along the Illinois River in Marshall County. Steuben is known for producing copious amounts of cultural material, but this surface material, however, has never been collected in a systematic manner. To remedy this, a grid of 70 20 x 20 m collection units measuring 280 m north–south and 100 m east–west was established across the main portion of the Steuben village in order to facilitate a total surface pickup of the site. Recovered artifacts from this total surface pickup number in the thousands and include pieces of copper, Havana, Hopewell, and Weaver ceramics, approximately 40 projectile points, and large quantities of fire-cracked rock, flaking debris, and faunal material. After the total surface collection was completed, the excavation of four 1 x 2 m test units revealed a 70-cm-thick, artifact-laden, midden. Five cultural features ranging from small storage pits to a cluster of fire-cracked rock were also encountered within these test units.
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