Registration of Archaeological Sites
Updated March 14, 2002 see second page!
By Margo Hupe and Claude Werner

During the first week of October Claude Werner and I drove to Springfield, Illinois to meet with Dr. John Walthall, chief archaeologist for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to discuss various issues involved with a proposed airport to be located between the towns of Monee, Crete, Beecher and Peotone.  If this airport should eventually be built it will be constructed upon an area strewn with ancient sites and they will be destroyed.  It is our hope that we can help gather further information for ITARP so that their surveys contain more information than at the present time, thereby averting any destruction of possibly important sites

Dr. Walthall was gracious enough to let us view the present ITARP site maps of this area and, unfortunately, they do not contain near the amount of actual sites that are present and an example is shown above.  While the present map shows one site in the small area bounded by two roads and an original creek, there is, in fact, five sites within this area and this lack of site registration exists throughout the survey.  The preliminary survey lists 216 sites within an area of 16,199 acres of the proposed project and of these 45 are deemed potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and are recommended for Phase II testing or avoidance.  Mapping sites in this first study was hampered by the inability to contact landowners, refusal of landowners for permission to check the property, and no-till farming, the latter being a real problem in determining sites. 

Dr. Walthall asked Dale McElrath, Statewide Survey Coordinator at ITARP to contact us concerning unregistered sites and we then went to Champaign, Illinois to meet with Mr. McElrath and other interested parties on November 1, 2000.  To our surprise Wendy Harris had been notified and she also attended, and it was a very nice surprise indeed.  We covered the subject of site registration and the protocols involved and, although it looks like a daunting task to us beginners, they said they would gladly help us register the sites with the Illinois State Museum. 

We covered point typology and were given a list of more reference books to add to our collection, however, point typology will still remain a bit of a problem due to lack of information for northeastern Illinois.  We then discussed the artifacts that Claude and I brought with us, many of them Paleo, and others that we could not put a type name to, and, I will add, most still remain unnamed.  ITARP will be documenting the artifacts and they will be accessing the information through Bob Wishoff’s Dirtbrothers web site.

As Wendy Harris, archaeologist, said in her preliminary report covering this proposed project “The survey of such a large, contiguous tract of land provides an excellant opportunity for the examination of a range of questions regarding prehistoric lifeways.  The proposed South Suburban Airport is of even greater interest because of the upland location, in an archaeologically little-known portion of northeastern Illinois.” 

One of our goals will be, working with Dale McElrath and other involved parties, is to get further sites registered, not only for future surveys should they be forthcoming, but for documenting and cataloging the artifacts found in this area and to somehow preserve what we can for future generations.  We owe both Wendy Harris, Dr. John Walthall, Dale McElrath and other ITARP personnel our deepest gratitude and thanks, and are looking forward to working with them in this endeavor.  A special thanks ahead of time goes to Mary Simon, Statewide Survey Assistant Coordinator Archaeobotanist....she’s the lady who is going to help us learn how to register the sites in the correct manner.

ITARP personnel wouldn’t say they were proactive for the airport, however, they would say that they would be eager to see the knowledge of the archaeology of northeastern Illinois advanced and an intensive study of the sites in the Peotone area would certainly accomplish this goal.  While Claude and I would personally not like to see an airport in this area, we do feel that some of these sites should
be excavated in order to gain the knowledge of the prehistoric peoples that once roamed this area so many years ago.  If the proposed airport were not to be built we would still like to see some excavations done before they are lost forever.  Will County is growing and with each new home or business it is likely that a site will be in some way destroyed.  If some of the more important sites are not investigated many may be lost in the future, and that would truly be a missed opportunity to gather much information on the history of northeastern Illinois and the peoples who inhabited this area for approximately 14,000 years.

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