Alton Evening Telegraph from Alton, Illinois on September 2, 1972 · Page 12
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Alton Evening Telegraph from Alton, Illinois · Page 12

Alton, Illinois
Issue Date:
Saturday, September 2, 1972
Page 12
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Page 12 article text (OCR)

Carefully digging out artifacts Objects of tedious search Objects of interest to archaeologists mine primitive eating habits. Human re- vary greatly in size, and often include mains are studied as clues to sociologi- mimite bits. Saved lor study are such cal and cultural patterns. In the dust of things as igneous rock, artifacts, bone ages, the diggers have found items rang- and shell, snails, and limestone. Seed ing from corn pollen to cooluvare. and plant remains help scientists deter- Koster site is history revisited PHOTOFEATURE By JUDI MOTTAZ Would it surprise you to learn that man suffered from syphilis and arthritis 2,000 years ago? Or that hickory nuts were a large part of the diet 3,000 years ago in the Illinois River valley? Would you honor a purchase \pith a beautiful stone "North Point" used as money by the Hopewell culture around the time of the birth of Christ? History books will be rewritten to include findings being made about early Illinois man by a group of archaeologists with "a new spirit in search of the past." ;That's how Dr. Stuart Struever director of the project describes the group of scientists from many disciplines who are investigating the unique Koster archaeological site near Eampsville, Illinois. "fte site is unique because it is a layer cake of remains Of inhabitants of the small recessed valley near the Illinois Bfrer. The layer cake is frosted with sterile soil which drifted dona from the bluffs during periods when there were no residents of the valley. Man came again and again to the valley from 6,000 B.C. to AJX 1200 because it provided shelter with 'its bluffs on three sides, it had fresh spring water and was no ir plentiful fishing and hunting. This stratification is exciting to investigators because it enables them to reconstruct Jife at each period; periods which can be dated precisely by analysis of radioactive carbon. Most sites have artifacts jumbled together, making precise analysis difficult. In Kampsville, at the tiny museum that once housed a meat market, you can see the skeleton of an eghteen-month-old baby and of a dog which date from 5100 B.C You can also observe the remains of a society with tools for food preparation and decorative hair ornaments and religious objects used thousands of years ago. What is the point of these seemingly unrelated bits of information? The ultimate goal of archaeology with its now intensely scientific spirit is to formulate explanations that predict the • future as well as describe the past. Therefore, they observe what an increase in population foes to the competitive instinct of peoples. As overcrowding occurs, with more people than resources, violence and war result. Was ecology a problem thousands of years ago? One expert thinks it may have been, What are the conditions that promote the growth of culture? And what precipitates its downfall? The scientific procedure involves dividing the dig into precisely measured numbered squares. Dirt is carefully removed, large artifacts soiled out, and all remains screened through half-inch screen and bagged to go into Kampsville to the laboratories where it is put through finer screens and sorted into igneous rock, aitifacts, bone and shell, snails and limestone. The limestone is weighed and for the most part discarded because there is so much of it, but all ether categories are minutely studied by experts in each area. The malacology lab studies snails which were used for both ornaments and food. Snails are extremely sensitive indicators of environment. Stone, bone and shell artifacts help archaeolgists describe the culture. Religion, burial methods and methods of food preparation can be deduced from these items. Seed and other plant remains, animal bones, shells help establish the diet, the seasons the site was occupied and the climate. Human remains are also analyzed — that is how we know that arthritis and syphilis plagued the Hopewell Indian. The human remains also indicate other causes of death, age of death, growth patterns and many important clues to culture. Polllen remains are analyzedz in yet another department, no 1 only to indicate what caused man to sneeze thousands of years ago, but to reconstruct the environment. Corn pollen has been found hi a level which vastly pre-dates the time that agriculture supposedly began in this part of the world. As major configurations are exposed — house floors, storage pits, hearths, cooking areas — these configurations are studied as a whole. Information from each square is charted and all information is fed into a computer for final analysis. The crew of students and professors goes out to the "site from Kampsville in a school bus at six o'clock in the morning on a typical day. Others remain in town working in the twenty or so laboratories. Meals are shared in the dining room located in an elementary school. Mealtime conversation runs to shoptalk. For evening activities there are lectures in various special areas of archaeology. Most of the students are taking courses for credit from Northwestern University. They actually pay tuition and their own expenses to undertake this backbreaking work. Thousands of visitors havj toured the site and the town of Kampsville which is dotted by laboratories. There they observed scientists in action; found the people eager to answer questions or simply explain what they are doing. An hour's drive from Alton takes a visitor backward in time seven thousand years. The work at Kampsville got a reprieve last week when it was announced $15,000 to allow completion of the season from donations would be available. Mrs. Richard Ogilvie's press aide indicated the money would be available to complete the two weeks until Labor Day. Dr. Stuart Streuver Dr. Struever, who is head of the Foxtn- so was active ?n Illinois archaeology and dation for Illinois Archaeology, is cur- wrote a book "Ancient Races of the rently working on a book about an Al- Mississippi Valley" that was widely ton area archaeologist, Prof. William read throughout the Telegraph area. McAdams. The late Prof. McAdams al- Lobby of director's office College, high /school students screening jr.,,....S..J-. * I

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