Current Research - Southern Illinois
The CAI conducts ongoing research and excavations in southern Illinois. Descriptions of some of our most recent projects follow.
Rhoads Site Artifact Analysis and Report Completion
Mark Wagner is currently completing the artifact analysis and report for the Rhoads site (11Lo-9) investigations as part of a contract between the CAI and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program (ITARP). The Rhoads site was a ca. 1790–1815 Kickapoo village located in central Illinois near present-day Lincoln. Fiercely opposed to the American settlement of central Illinois, the Kickapoo allied themselves with the anti-American nativist movement, led by the Shawnee prophet Tenskawatawa and his brother Tecumseh, during the War of 1812. In October 1812, Illinois governor Ninian Edwards led a large militia army northward from southern Illinois to attack the Kickapoo and Potawatomi villages at Peoria. On the way, they stopped and burned the “Kickapoo Old Town” village (now known as the Rhoads site), which the Kickapoo had recently abandoned as part of a concentration of Indian forces at Peoria.
The Rhoads site village was relocated and excavated in the early 1970s by Illinois State Museum (ISM) archaeologists as part of environmental studies associated with construction of Interstate Highway 55. Sponsored by IDOT, these investigations revealed that the Kickapoo village consisted of rectangular and oval houses surrounded by food- storage and other pits. For various reasons, however, the artifact analyses and final site report were never completed. Current analysis of the artifacts recovered by the 1970s investigations is providing a wealth of information about the daily lives of the Kickapoo during one of the most critical periods in their history. Many of these artifacts, including iron gardening hoes and brass cooking pots used by women and the remains of guns used by men to obtain animal hides for trade to British fur traders, relate to the everyday lives of the early 1800s Kickapoo. Other items, such as silver earrings, glass beads, and cone-shaped brass “tinkling cones,” represent articles used by both Kickapoo women and men to decorate their bodies and clothing. In combination, these and other artifacts recovered from the Rhoads site provide a unique picture of Kickapoo lifeways in Illinois immediately prior to the removal of all Native American peoples in the state—and to the west of the Mississippi River—in the 1830s. The completed report of investigations is scheduled to be published as part of the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Report (ITARP) series in 2009 or 2010.
Kincaid Mounds Investigations
Since 2003, SIUC archaeologists Brian Butler (CAI) and Paul Welch (Dept. of Anthropology) have been engaged in a long-term program of research at this poorly known Mississippian mound center. Located in the Black Bottom of the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky, this 150-plus acre complex straddles the Massac-Pope County line. The Kincaid site was first investigated by University of Chicago archaeologists under the direction of Faye-Cooper Cole from 1934 to 1944, resulting in the well-known 1951 volume Kincaid, a Prehistoric Illinois Metropolis.
The initial goals were to assess the organization and complexity of the site and chronicle its emergence and demise as a major mound center, none of which were adequately documented by the previous work. The plan was to employ large-scale remote sensing and pursue specific questions that could be addressed by small, targeted excavations. The primary vehicle of the fieldwork was to be the annual archaeological field school, jointly supported by the Department and the Center.
A key aspect of the work has been a large-scale geophysical survey of the Massac County portions of the site, completed in early 2009. The survey has primarily used magnetometry. This work has been accomplished principally by R. Berle Clay (Cultural Resource Analysts, Lexington, Ky), Michael L. Hargrave (US Army COE), and Staffan Peterson (Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University, now Indiana Department of Natural Resources). Additional survey contributions have been made by John E. and John A. Schwegman of Metropolis, Illinois.
The results of the geophysical survey, along with the results of excavations targeted on the basis of the survey results, have been eye-opening, revealing that the site is much larger and more complex than originally thought. The new work has brought the realization that there are many more mounds at the site than previously believed (most of them small) and that habitation areas are much more extensive than surface artifact distributions had suggested. Below is a brief listing of the fieldwork to date:
2003 Small-scale testing was done at the southeast corner of the main plaza to determine feasibility of locating an observation platform and parking area there. Work confirmed the presence of the remnants of a small mound (Mxo2) and encountered a heavily used Baumer (Early/Middle Woodland) occupation surface (Butler and Welch 2006).
2005 Excavations in the southwestern corner of state property confirmed the presence of a low platform mound (called the West Mound) and adjacent habitation areas, well outside the previously suspected western boundary of the site. The habitation surface, which contains numerous structures, was hidden under 40 cm of alluvium.
2006 Known and suspected palisade lines on both the northern and western edges of the site were explored. Work confirmed the existence of a north-south palisade on the west side, previously indicated in aerial photographs and geophysical survey. A separate excavation was done by CAI in a 11 x 11 m block for the observation platform adjacent to the lakefront road west of the 2003 work. Some remnant Mississippian features were found, but mostly large refuse-filled Baumer pits (Early and Middle Woodland) were excavated.
2007 Excavations took place on the top of the large mound, Mxo8, confirming the existence of a 22 m diameter circular wall trench structure at or just below the present surface. The structure had been identified in geophysical survey of the mound top by John E. Schwegman. A large central posthole was also discovered. Evidence suggests the structure had several building phases and was probably roofed.
2008 Work took place in the northwestern part of the state land confirming the existence of a previously unsuspected east-west palisade line, identified in a 2008 geophysical survey. A possible mound remnant was tested but proved not to be a mound. A house complex in the same area was also investigated. Confirmation of this “new” palisade line was an important development, extending the western edge of the site much farther to the west and adding at least 13 ha to the defined site area. This palisade would have enclosed the West Mound complex within the fortified area.