POPE COUNTY, Ill. -
Archaeologists from Southern Illinois University began excavating a new site at the Kincaid Mounds in Pope County, Illinois, on May 25. Although the mounds have been a popular destination for excavation for decades, this particular location has not been studied because it is privately owned.
A recent anthropology graduate, Scott Riding says the project is “more than just about digging in the ground and trying to find artifacts. It's trying to put yourself in the mind of the person that lived 900 years ago.”
The site is providing new insight into the people who once lived there. Fluorite beads have been found through the side of the mounds periodically. The beads are ceremonial in nature, potentially religious. In some structures around the location, fragments of fluorite were found that are believed to have been used to consecrate the area.
The location is believed to have been a manufacturing area as well. Little stone tools were found that were used to center out the beads. That supports the theory the Native Americans who inhabited the area were sophisticated and had cultural symbolism. This is one of Professor of Anthropology Paul Welch's goals. He says he wants to “correct some of that historic forgetting of what it is that the Indians in the eastern United States were like."
Magnetic field imaging lead the group here. The images indicated burned structure-like items below the surface. This is the first time the structure has seen the light of day in at least 600 years. The group estimates the last group of people who lived in this area to be between 1250 AD and 1400 AD.
The specific tribe that inhabited the Kincaid Mounds and the reason behind their departure is widely debated but, ultimately, unknown.
If you have a child who might be interested in some digging of his or her own, the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site is hosting a summer day-camp until Friday, June 12. The camp gives children an opportunity to tour the site and participate in mock digging. The camp hours are from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and cost $100. To register, click here.