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      In the late 1600s, the Illinois Indians were the largest and most important Native American ethnic group in the Illinois Country. But who were their ancestors and where did they live? One might assume that the ancestors of the Illinois were among the late-prehistoric cultures that occupied Illinois just prior to European contact. However, the pottery styles recovered from late-prehistoric sites in Illinois do not match the Danner pottery styles used by Illinois Indians at the Zimmerman and Haas-Hagerman sites.

Recent research seems to indicate that Danner pottery is more similar to pottery associated with some of the late-prehistoric cultures of Ohio than with pottery from any of the prehistoric cultures of Illinois. At present, the ancestry of the Illinois Indians remains an open question. However, archaeologists are currently studying clues that suggest a possible origin within the Sandusky or Whittlesey traditions of northern Ohio. Sandusky and Whittlesey were late-prehistoric cultures that developed on the south shore of Lake Erie, but disappeared from that area in the late 1500s to early 1600s. Descendants of these cultures may have migrated from Lake Erie to the Mississippi River valley, later to became known to the French as the Illinois Indians.

Illinois Indian pottery
Historic Illinois Indian pottery.


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