SIUE students spearhead archaeological dig on campus; ancient house found among remains | St. Louis Public Radio

SIUE students spearhead archaeological dig on campus; ancient house found among remains

Jul 10, 2018

Long before Lewis and Clark passed through the Gateway to the West, this region was home to indigenous Americans including the Cahokians.

While this civilization was primarily located about 15 minutes east of St. Louis at today’s Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, settlements were scattered across the region including the area that is now Edwardsville.

Two years ago, anthropology students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville discovered a 1,000-year-old Mississippian-era house on their campus. This year it was excavated.

“Literally thousands of Mississippian-period houses have been found in the American bottom. The American bottom is the river valley of the Mississippi River from approximately Alton down to Chester [Illinois],” SIUE anthropology professor Julie Zimmermann said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The excitement to us is simply that it’s on our campus, and it gives our students the opportunity to learn how to do archaeology by actually going out there and doing it.”

Host Don Marsh also spoke with two of Zimmermann’s students who participated in the archeological dig, Kelly Sopek and Payne Gray.

“It really just looks like four lines in a rectangle on the ground … but it is really exciting because it’s really hard evidence [of] what was actually there,” Sopek said about the findings that indicated a dwelling.

In addition to the house, one of the most significant artifacts this summer has been a spear point.

“This particular spear point we’re actually not 100 percent sure on,” Gray said. “It’s most likely older than the Mississippian era, and there’s a chance that it could be older than the Woodland period … and it could put it anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 years old. We found it underneath the house basin of this Mississippian-era house, so the question of how it got there is the big mystery.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.