Dr. Andrew C. Fortier, a stalwart figure in the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) and the broader Midwest archaeological community, departed on November 6, 2023, leaving behind a legacy of profound contributions and fond memories. Born on January 13, 1947, in Merced, California, Andy's journey into anthropology began at the University of California-Berkeley, where he earned his degree in 1968. His insatiable curiosity led him to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he embarked on groundbreaking archaeological research in Bulgaria, culminating in his Ph.D. dissertation on the Early Neolithic Karanovo I-Kremikovtsi complex.
Upon settling in Illinois, Andy became a cornerstone of archaeological endeavors, notably contributing to the I-270 project in the American Bottom. His tenure with the University of Illinois witnessed the evolution of various programs, from the Resource Investigation Program to the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program, eventually culminating in his pivotal role at ISAS and Prairie Research Institute.
"Andy was my first supervisor in the field at the Marge site when I was 18 or 19 years old. Marge was a salvage dig we were doing in Collinsville during one of the coldest winters I can remember. The archaeology consisted of hacking out large chunks of frozen feature fill with ice picks and maddoxes, many of which we broke because of the frozen ground. Andy and the guys all had icicles hanging from their beards and mustaches, but he kept us all going with his jokes, his stories, and his gas. His humor warmed us all in so many ways," recalls Mera Hertel, from the American Bottom Field Station.
Throughout his career, Andy's scholarly pursuits knew no bounds, encompassing a diverse array of topics from the Archaic to Mississippian periods in Illinois, lithic trace element analysis, and the enigmatic realm of coprolites. "He studied Bulgarian Neolithic in his early years in the field, so we had a lot to talk about since my dissertation work involved analysis of Central European (Hungarian, Austrian, and Slovakian) Paleolithic assemblages. It was always interesting to share stories with him about working in Soviet- and post-Soviet-era Eastern and Central Europe. Fortunately for Illinois archaeology, he shifted his focus from Eastern European to Midwest USA archaeology," shares Brian Adams, reminiscing about their shared experiences.
Michael Aiuvalasit reflects, "I only overlapped with Andy a few months before his retirement. Still, he was very encouraging to me, and he graciously passed along reports and papers that he thought (correctly!) I would need. And yes, that included his coprolite studies. Since then, I've come to know him better through reading his publications. I'd say every other month I find myself needing to read another new (to me!) publication with his name on it. Future generations will certainly benefit from the legacy of his research.”
Beyond his academic prowess, Andy was cherished for his wry sense of humor and boundless storytelling. Colleagues fondly recall his anecdotes, which illuminated the camaraderie amidst frozen excavations and the indomitable spirit of archaeological endeavors. "I knew next to nothing about Illinois or midwestern archaeology.,” says Kris Hedman. “He took me on a tour of the American Bottom, introduced me to Cahokia and the surrounding sites, and shared many stories of the I-270 days – long hours, minimal pay, glowing goo bubbling out of the earth, dead dogs, and, of course, the twinkie story. Years later my kids would come to work with me. Ironically, they found my office and lab ‘creepy’, but they LOVED to visit Andy… to ‘tour’ his collections of desiccated flora and fauna, play with the toys that pooped, and hear his stories.”
Wendy French celebrates Andy's idiosyncrasies, from whimsical nativity scenes to confounding football pools, underscoring his irreplaceable presence within the ISAS community. Brent Lansdell pays homage to Andy's enduring legacy, pledging to uphold his commitment to archaeological stewardship, reflecting on the impact of Andy's personality and dedication.
As the curtains fall on a remarkable chapter, Dr. Andrew C. Fortier's indelible imprint on Illinois archaeology endures, a testament to his scholarly acumen, unwavering camaraderie, and irrepressible spirit. Though he has departed, his legacy resonates through the annals of time, inspiring future generations to unravel the mysteries of our shared past.