Western Illinois University hosts archaeological field school
MACOMB — Western Illinois University is hosting an archaeological field school at two Fulton County sites in June and July, with anthropology professor Andrea Alveshere leading the project at the sites.
Orendorf sits atop a bluff along the Illinois River valley, while the Rice Lake location is located on a low terrace near Rice Lake.
WIU faculty and students, with assistance from colleagues from the Upper Mississippi Valley Archaeological Research Foundation, have excavated portions of the Orendorf site several times in the past three decades, discovering evidence of middle Mississippian culture habitation through Mossville pottery, tools, bones and shells in previous digs.
Newer pits have yielded pottery suggesting people moved to Western and West Central Illinois from the Mississippian site in Cahokia Mounds near Cahokia.
While the Orendorf site has seen extensive study, Rice Lake has been rather limited, despite discovery of artifacts ranging anywhere from the Early Archaic to Middle Mississippian eras, spanning at least 8,000 years.
Alveshere said in a press release that she is “optimistic” about the work being done this summer in hopes to “shed important new light on questions about prehistoric lifeways and cultural dynamics in the Central Illinois valley.” Alveshere added, “I’m very pleased to offer our students this opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research, which will advance our understanding of American prehistory. In the past, crews encountered the Orendorf pit features serendipitously, while investigating the adjacent burial mounds. This year, we will have the benefit of a series of remote-sensing techniques, such as ground-penetrating radar, resistivity and electromagnetic survey. Surveys applying these techniques will be conducted this spring and will generate maps indicating possible pits, structures and other features that will be used to target the summer excavations. No excavations will be conducted in the burial mounds.”
Registration for field school is open to WIU students as well as students from other universities and colleges. In addition to tuition for the eight-week session, there will also be a $399 field school fee with lodging made available for the session.