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Archaeological Survey

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  • In 2021, ISAS tested a non-invasive technique called electromagnetic induction (EMI) on Mound 37 at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois. Using EMI, ISAS was able to detect the architecture of Mound 37 and confirm that the mound was circular in shape. Monks Mound, the largest Indigenous earthwork in the Americas rises prominently in the background.

    ISAS awarded $100,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities

    The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $100,000 to the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) for a two-year noninvasive geophysical survey of 24 mounds at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and three surrounding mound sites.

  • Archaeologist Marie Meizis of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey uses a magnetic gradiometer. Photo credit: Matt Dayhoff, Peoria Journal Star

    Seeing an Indigenous settlement

    ISAS helped researchers from the University of California-Santa Barbara and Northern Illinois University conduct a geophysical survey at the Heldenmeyer settlement, which was home to two different cultures, people from historically distinct western and northern Illinois regions. Archaeologists can tell this based on the varieties of broken pottery cookware found on the site’s plow-churned surface. This makes it historically and culturally unique, a place in need of documentation and preservation. 

  • ISAS staff Patrick Green, Christian Hasler, and Mike Smith and UIUC archaeology graduate student, Em Shirilla volunteered to host an archaeology tent and atlatl-powered spear throwing demonstration during the Family Campout event at Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello, Illinois.

    ISAS presents at Allerton Family Camp Out

    ISAS staff Patrick Green, Christian Hasler, and Mike Smith and UIUC archaeology graduate student, Em Shirilla volunteered to host an archaeology tent and atlatl-powered spear-throwing demonstration during the Family Campout event at Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello, Illinois.

  • The Peoria Business Committee stands in front of Monks Mound, L to R: Treasurer Hank Downum, Chief Craig Harper, Second Councilman Kara North, Third Councilman Isabella Clifford, Second Chief Rosanna Dobbs, and Secretary Tonya Mathews

    ISAS hosts Peoria Tribe visit to Cahokia Mounds

    Earlier this summer, ISAS helped host the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma Business Committee when they visited Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site. The Peoria Business Committee is the Peoria Tribal Government and visiting members included: Chief Craig Harper, Second Chief Rosanna Dobbs, Secretary Tonya Mathews, Treasurer Hank Downum, Second Councilman Kara North, and Third Councilman Isabella Clifford.

  • Caitlin Rankin conducting wetland sampling

    North ‘plaza’ in Cahokia was likely inundated year-round, study finds

    The ancient North American city of Cahokia had as its focal point a feature now known as Monks Mound, a giant earthwork surrounded on its north, south, east and west by large rectangular open areas. These flat zones, called plazas by archaeologists since the early 1960s, were thought to serve as communal areas that served the many mounds and structures of the city.

    New paleoenvironmental analyses of the north plaza suggest it was almost always underwater, calling into question earlier interpretations of the north plaza’s role in Cahokian society. The study is reported in the journal World Archaeology.

  • Researchers on a boat

    Research fieldwork comes with safety challenges

    Prairie Research Institute (PRI) researchers and technicians may not know exactly which hazards they’ll face when they conduct fieldwork to study the natural world. What they do know is that there are plenty of dangers to prepare for as they start another field season.

  • Elizabeth Watts Malouchos (left) and Alleen Betzenhauser (right) map a Mississippian structure at the Pfeffer site in the region outlying Cahokia in 2008.

    ISAS experts co-edit Reconsidering Mississippian Communities and Households

  • microphone

    Virtual speaker series features Native scholars and leaders

    This spring the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will hold a virtual speaker series featuring Native scholars and leaders. The Intersections of Indigenous Knowledge and Archaeology series is intended to center Indigenous voices, increase awareness of the deep Native histories of the Eastern Woodlands, and amplify the experiences and research of Indigenous scholars and leaders. 

  • Smoke from May 31, 2013, the first day of the Thompson Ridge fire in the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico. This fire grew to an area of over 23,000 acres and engulfed much of Wâavêmâ (Redondo Peak), a mountain held sacred by the people of Jemez Pueblo.

    Exploring historic fire ecosystems

  • Illinois Archaeological Predictive Model screenshot

    Archaeological predictive model helps Illinoisans balance growth with preservation

    The Illinois State Archaeological Survey offers a GIS-based tool that draws on more than a century of data to predict the probability of encountering an archaeological site in any 2-acre section of Illinois. Land owners, developers, preservationists, and other Illinoisans can use this tool to proactively assess and protect archaeological resources while enabling sustainable development. 

  • corn stalk

    Cahokia's rise parallels onset of corn agriculture

    Corn cultivation spread from Mesoamerica to what is now the American Southwest by about 4000 B.C., but how and when the crop made it to other parts of North America is still a subject of debate. In a new study, scientists report that corn was not grown in the ancient metropolis of Cahokia until sometime between A.D. 900 and 1000, a relatively late date that corresponds to the start of the city’s rapid expansion.

  • Mike Farkas, Michael Aiuvalasit and Tim Pauketat walking amid bare trees

    Rediscovering a path to the Milky Way

    PRI archaeologists investigate "borrow pits," where the people of Cahokia extracted much of the soil used to build their famous mounds. The scientists are beginning to think these ponds held more meaning for the original city builders than archaeologists once assumed. They also hope to study another overlooked feature of the city of Cahokia: a causeway that cuts through the site.

  • Mary King, Mary Simon, and Kimberly Schaefer examining a possible wooden mortar

    Deciphering the culture found in prehistoric plants

    Archaeobotanists at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey study ancient plant remains with the goal of understanding how humans used plants in the past. 

  • Rebecca Barzilai

    Reading history in the soil

    Postdoctoral researcher Rebecca Barzilai describes mapping and collecting soil samples from the floor of a religious shrine in Greater Cahokia, an ancient Native American settlement on the Mississippi River in and around present-day St. Louis.

  • map of Illinois featuring locations of archaeological sites

    Archaeological predictive modeling app offers clues for future development

    Drawing on data from more than 53,000 pre-Columbian, Native American archaeological site locations, John Lambert and the Illinois State Archaeological Survey are using GIS-based tools, statistical analysis, and over a century of archaeological work in Illinois to build the Illinois Archaeological Predictive Model (IAPM). The free IAPM is a resource for the public, landowners, state agencies and legislators, and archaeologiststo help protect and preserve Illinois' archaeological resources and promote sustainable development.

  • man at lectern smiling, gestures with one hand

    Pauketat to lead Illinois State Archaeological Survey

    Timothy R. Pauketat, a University of Illinois professor of Anthropology, is the new director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS). Pauketat has been a visiting research scientist at ISAS since 2016.

  • ISAS Story Map re-envisions Greater Cahokia

    Archaeologists and researchers from the University of Illinois have spent over a century studying Cahokia, North America’s first native city. For the first time, this wealth of knowledge about Cahokia has being used to create a Story Map entitled, Re-Envisioning Greater Cahokia. Staff from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, are responsible for turning the data, maps, text, and rarely seen images into the one-of-a-kind Story Map.

  • Archaeology returns to Allerton

    The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) will again partner with Parkland College to bring archaeology to Allerton Park for the second year in a row. This year the Parkland College field school will be led by ISAS research archaeologist and Parkland College instructor Dr. B. Jacob Skousen.

  • ISAS Featured on STORIED

    Cahokian figurines featured on STORIED.

  • ISAS grants will support research projects for 2 U of I students

    The ISAS Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials (ATAM) Student Mini-Grants in Archaeometry are intended to assist U of I undergraduate or graduate students conduct archaeometric studies related to MA or PhD theses or capstone projects. 

  • Science in support of the Forest Preserves of Cook County developing the Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan

  • Study of ancient dogs in the Americas yields insights into human, dog migration

  • Native American city on the Mississippi was America's first 'melting pot'

  • Study of pipestone artifacts overturns a century-old assumption

  • Researchers find evidence of ritual use of 'black drink' at Cahokia