Monday, Dec. 6

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Illinois archaeologists excavating
1,000-year-old city equivalent to Chicago

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[DEC. 6, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- The top archaeological discoveries in the state of Illinois from 2004 will be revealed Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Illinois State Museum's Research and Collection Center, 1011 E. Ash in Springfield. Among finds to be discussed by Department of Natural Resources scientists are a city the equivalent of Chicago that thrived in southern Illinois 1,000 years ago and a community 2,000 years old in the Rock River Valley in northwestern Illinois. New technology is also revolutionizing the way archaeologists and anthropologists study the past.

"The Department of Natural Resources mission includes preserving Illinois' rich cultural resources, as well as educating the public about those resources," said Joel Brunsvold, department director. "The work of archaeologists in Illinois reveals centuries of history in our state. As we understand our past, we can better understand our present and plan for the future of Illinois."

Mike Wiant, Ph.D., director of the Illinois State Museum at Dickson Mounds, will outline discoveries in the Wednesday evening program, which is open to the public. Those discoveries include research on 19th-century farm life; new information about the Kincaid Site, located in Pope and Massac counties; and discoveries from the Rock River Valley in northwestern Illinois.

"It was significant that we learned more about the day-to-day life of individuals because of the archaeological studies of this past year," Wiant said. "So often, history books tell us about major events. We uncovered artifacts that help us understand daily life for residents of Illinois."

Findings at the Kincaid Site, located 10 miles from Metropolis, include remnants of a 1,000-year-old city. The site covers dozens of acres in a two-county area.

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"This site was the equivalent to Chicago," Wiant said. "While Europeans were living through the Dark Ages, here in Illinois, a city was thriving. Our research will help us understand the vast community that existed and perhaps determine what happened to it."

Searching that vast site will be faster and easier in the coming year because of new remote sensing devices that provide archaeologists with outlines of structures beneath the earth's surface. In contrast to tedious work scouting sites in the past, new technology in the field of archaeology enables researchers to determine more exactly where to expend time and energy digging in their quest for historic artifacts and structures.

Another area of significant discoveries in the past year has been the Rock River Valley. Investigation of a mound complex there has revealed a 2,000-year-old village.

Additional discoveries have been made near construction sites in East St. Louis and in Springfield.

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]

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