planting prime time for spotting ancient artifacts
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Department of Natural Resources
[MARCH 28, 2005]
SPRINGFIELD -- As
farmers and gardeners till their soil this spring, they may find a
crop of artifacts from ancient civilizations. Each spring, thousands
of items dating back to prehistoric civilizations are found in
Illinois. Common finds include arrowheads, spearheads and pieces of
"These items are most valuable for the
history they reveal," said Joel Brunsvold, director of the Illinois
Department of Natural Resources. "They tell us about the people who
walked the same fields, woods and pastures we walk today. We are
enriched as we learn about the daily activities of the men, women
and children whose footprints we trace."
The reason so many artifacts are
discovered during spring plowing and disking is that the tilling
process breaks new ground, especially in areas affected by erosion.
"The same locations that appeal to
farmers today were also appealing to the prehistoric farmers
hundreds of years ago," said Bonnie Styles, Ph.D., associate
director of the Illinois State Museum. "A field that has rich soil
and good drainage is a very likely location to find artifacts."
Styles said that often an array of
artifacts has been discovered in the same general location, as those
sites were once the location of prehistoric villages or camps.
Locations where a prehistoric community disposed of garbage also
present a rich source of information to archeologists and are the
type of site that may be uncovered by modern-day farmers.
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who do find artifacts, Styles has the following recommendations:
- Chronicle the specific location
where the artifact was discovered.
- Chronicle the date when the
artifact was found.
- If possible, consult an expert
for more information about the artifact, and keep that information
with the artifact.
- Store the artifact in an airtight
package or container.
Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown
focuses extensively on archeology and is located on ground where an
archeological dig is in progress. Dr. Michael Wiant, museum
director, said the museum does provide opportunities several times a
year for individuals who have found artifacts to bring them in and
"We aren't trying to take possession
of anyone's artifacts," Wiant said. "Our goal is to enrich the
collective knowledge. The artifacts are the best clues we have to
what life was like in an era that predates written history. When we
examine them, it is as if another piece of a puzzle is put in
Department of Natural Resources news release]