Between a rock and an archeological dig

kibbe archeaology lecture 006

On Sunday, 7 March 2010, the Kibbe was pleased to host Dave Nolan, an archeaologist from the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Program (ITARP), for a presentation on the significant aboriginal finds during pre-construction work along the highway 136/336 expansion between Carthage and Macomb, Illinois. This was an eye-opening peek into the ways that archaeologists can interpret lifestyles and culture based upon objects and the context within which they were found. Following this interesting and highly informative presentation, Dave evaluated artifacts brought in members of the community. 

35 sites between Carthage and Macomb were evaluated, but it was the discovery of an ancient village along the LaMoine River that yielded the most material. The area was not originally on the lists of sites to be examined, but the existence of aboriginal burial grounds on a bluff above the LaMoine Rive led the University team to suspect that a village had been located nearby.  Tests in the area produced tell-tale black deposits full of animal bones and other debris from habitation and a dig site, dubbed White Bend, was created.  The village site is estimated to have been occupied as far back as 5800 years ago.  Photographs of recovered artifacts were used to illustrate several interesting finds from the site:

– Arrowheads are made from locally found materials.  Thus, the types and variety of material from arrowheads found at a site can show how much contact a village had with other tribes.  Through this person-to-person trade, mica arrowheads from the Appalaichans and oyster shell arrowheads from New England could eventually turn up in the Midwest.

–  Shards of pottery from White Bend indicate an awareness (but not the skill level) of fineware decoration from the Illinois Valley region, essentially a far less skilled “knockoff” imitation on everyday wares.  The development of artistic styles and how they spread to other areas gives further insight into the relationships between various peoples. 

– White Bend contains manufacturing waste (e.g., broken or mis-fired objects) from pipes.  There are two or three different styles of pipes, which is a little unusual.  Usually, researchers find that there is only one style of an object produced which evolves over time.  The absence of finished pipes suggests that they were used for local burials.

– Several bone tools were recovered, which are also an unusual find.  Bone tends to dissolve quickly (in geological terms) because of soil acidity.

– White Bend was also a site for toolmaking; local rock was used to create tools in preparation for going into hunting areas where there was no raw material for making necessary equipment used for hunting or processing food.

– In response to a question from the audience, Dave explained that, unlike aboriginal settlements, early pioneer settlements are more typically found where timbered and prairie land meets.  Early pioneers did not leave a significant amount of material behind, as they were not wealthy enough to throw much away. ITARP assesses sites dating up to pre-Civil War settlement.  After that point in time, land uses are much better documented and do not typically require archeaological investigation.


On permanent exhibit at the Kibbe: Native American tools, pottery, ceremonial and gaming pieces, and beadwork.