Major congestion at the Mississippi River crossings between St. Louis and Illinois demanded the construction of a new bridge. The construction of the Stan Musial Veterans’ Memorial Bridge was destined to impact the second largest prehistoric mound site north of Mexico. The mitigation of this adverse impact was required by both federal and state laws.
From 2009 to 2012 the Illinois State Archaeological Survey oversaw the largest archaeological excavation in the nation. Like the construction crews who built the new bridge, nearly 100 archaeologists worked year-around in East St. Louis to uncover new clues to the region’s recent and ancient history. Investigations involved extensive and systematic geo-coring and trench excavations to identify deeply buried archaeological resources beneath a deserted industrial district within the highway corridor. Earth-moving equipment stripped up to 10 feet of overlying contaminated soil, abandoned utilities, building foundations, and industrial debris to reach the archaeological deposits.
Excavations provided exciting new information on the history of the East St. Louis Mound Complex—at one time North America’s second largest native center, now buried under modern East St. Louis. Excavations of 34 acres identified more than 1,200 domestic houses, 110 public and ritual buildings, 3,700 pits for storage and refuse, a previously unknown mound, and 90 post-pits once housing large free-standing marker posts. In 2015, The New Mississippi River Bridge Project was internationally recognized with a Field Discovery Award by the Shanghai Archaeology Forum for being one of the top 10 archaeological field projects in the world.
Contact: Tom Emerson