Monday, March 28


Spring planting prime time for spotting ancient artifacts          Send a link to a friend 

Department of Natural Resources offers guidelines        

[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 pottery.

"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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For those 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 learn more.

"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 place."

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]

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