Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Illinois Archaeology
Nature Bulletin No. 637-A   April 16, 1977
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Few experiences in the out-of-doors tickle the imagination like finding a flint arrowhead or a piece of broken pottery where it has lain for ages. What a lot of questions it raises! How old is it? Who made it? How was it made and what was it used for? A little practice trains the eye to recognize Indian workmanship, even in small fragments .

The answers to such questions and a better understanding of the prehistoric inhabitants of our state are unfolded in a booklet -- ILLINOIS ARCHAEOLOGY -- which gives in a nutshell the most up- to-date and authoritative information about our Indian predecessors. This well-written and illustrated booklet fills a great need in school libraries and has a wealth of information for serious students of archaeology, hobbyists and persons with more than a casual interest in the past.

Indians lived in Illinois, continuously, for more than 10,000 years before the coming of the first white men. Their history is divided into seven periods of culture, each more or less overlapping the one following. The way of life of the people in each of these periods is described and interpreted from a study of their tools, pottery, ornaments, weapons, traces of dwellings, storage pits, refuse pits, and other clues. Each section of the booklet is followed by a list of suggested readings for those who care to study further.

The men of the Paleo-Indian Period, oldest in the state, are estimated to have appeared 12,000 to 15,000 B.C., as the last glacier was retreating, and to have disappeared about 6000 B.C. They are known mostly from a scattering of beautifully made flint weapons with which they may have hunted among the great herds of Ice Age animals. The Archaic Period, next following, also covers an enormous span of time, from sometime before 8000 B.C. down to 1000 B.C. Both hunters and gatherers, they had a variety of stone implements, a few bits of native copper, but no pottery.

In the five succeeding periods of culture in Illinois, beginning about 2500 B.C. and lasting into modern times, the story becomes more and more complete. We learn of their agriculture, their homes and their ancient trade with distant parts of the country for marine shells, mica, copper and obsidian. The Historic Period, based on a wealth of written records since Marquette's first trip through Illinois in 1673, gives an excellent account of tribal locations and migrations.

One of the most urgent immediate needs is to salvage as much evidence as possible where ancient mounds, village sites and forts are threatened with destruction by the building of highways, subdivisions and other large-scale earth-moving jobs. Once these Indian works are dug up and scrambled, their possible contribution to our knowledge of the past is lost forever.

The main purpose of the Illinois Archaeological Survey is to collect and preserve this information. It is supported entirely by volunteer contributions. They invite you to write them about any Indian sites in your area and offer to help identify collections of Indian relics. For a copy of ILLINOIS ARCHAEOLOGY, price about one and one half dollars, write the Illinois Archaeological Survey, 137 Davenport Hall, University of Illinois, Urbana .

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