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Readings in Illinois Archaeology

Places of the Past

Places of the Past

Places of the Past is a guidebook to Illinois archaeological sites and places throughout the state where you can view exhibits of archaeological material. These range from the world-famous Cahokia site, a Native American metropolis of 1,000 years ago in southwestern Illinois, to the Joliet Iron Works, a relatively recent Will County industrial site. You will find some sites and museums, like Dickson Mounds in western Illinois, devoted entirely to the archaeology of past cultures. Others, such as some historical society museums, have only one case of local American Indian material. All of the places listed have two things in common: they are on property accessible to the public, and they have some tie-in to Illinois archaeology.

We include places where you can learn about prehistoric Native American cultures, beginning more than 12,000 years ago, up through the period of contact with European explorers and settlers in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. In Illinois, Americans with varied ancestry are also the subject of archaeological investigations from the colonial era to the early industrial period. You can see how archaeology aids historical interpretations in places as diverse as Lincoln's New Salem near Springfield, the Apple River Fort near Galena, or the Field Museum in Chicago. With more than 100 places included in Places of the Past, there is likely a location near you or one worth taking a trip to visit. Be sure to check on current hours, which may vary by the season or due to budgetary constraints.

Illinois' archaeological resources are facing rapid destruction from urban and suburban developments and modern farming practices. The archaeological sites described here on public property are among those protected by state and federal laws. In addition to the sites listed here, there are many sites on public property without signs marking their locations. Any disturbance (including surface artifact collecting) to all sites on public property is prohibited. More information about protection of cultural resources is included here in the Endangered Archaeological Sites section.

Did you know you can view prehistoric rock art in Illinois? See an excavation exhibit at the place where manufacturing of the steel plow began? Discover prehistoric effigy mounds in a downtown park? Find a collection of spear points in an aerospace museum? Or stand at the spot where people for millennia watched their friends and foes traversing a great inland waterway? Archaeology is all around us in Illinois, and now you know where to find it.

Alice Berkson, Editor

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