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State, Parkland to Conduct Archaeological Field School at Allerton

Samuel's Mound, Village part of investigation, repair project

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, and Parkland College will be conducting an archaeological field school at Allerton Park July 17–28. The field school investigations will center around a village and mound group located on Allerton Park's land.

Known as Samuel's Mounds, the site consists of a group of ten mounds occupying an area of roughly 1½ acres on the upland bluff along the southern margin of the Sangamon River Valley. The mounds were first documented over 50 years ago, but the site has recently been subject to an intensive program of non-invasive documentation involving LIDAR, topographic mapping and remote sensing, as part of a cultural resource management review conducted by ISAS.

Erin Riggs, an instructor for Parkland College, will lead the field school, while ISAS staff led by Dr. Duane Esarey and Dr. Brian Adams will help guide students in best practices of field archaeology.

"The Samuel's Mounds and Village is by far the most intact mound-village site in the middle and upper Sangamon River drainage and very likely one of the best-preserved mound groups of central Illinois," said Esarey, ISAS assistant director and one of the lead archaeologists on the Allerton project. "While its specific cultural origins and history are still a mystery to us, it is clear that the site represents a documented treasure, one to be carefully repaired, investigated, interpreted and safeguarded for the public benefit."

The field school will focus its efforts on investigating the village that is thought to surround the mounds. Due to forest cover and the lack of any scientific investigations, no temporally or culturally diagnostic materials are known from this site. This research will excavate test squares in the village to gather information identifying who and when the mounds were built. Over the next two field seasons, ISAS, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, will implement a comprehensive plan for archaeological interpretation and restoration. Most of the mounds are in pristine condition, but LiDAR images have revealed, as confirmed by ISAS, that at least one of the mounds has been extensively affecthttp://www.parkland.edued by historic digging.

"This project is a unique opportunity to learn more about an unusual site type and is a rare example of an intact mound group in Central Illinois," said Dr. Thomas E. Emerson, ISAS director and Illinois state archaeologist. "The opportunity to partner with Parkland College and Allerton Park to bring to the attention of the public the importance of these historical resources is really at the core of our mission. Our immediate purpose is to help preserve these mounds, but another long-range goal is to prepare an interpretation of the mounds for Allerton visitors."

Allerton Park, more formerly known as Robert Allerton Park, is located approximately four miles southwest of Monticello and is administered through the University of Illinois. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois has managed approximately 5,500 acres of land located in the Willow Branch Township since 1946, when Robert Henry Allerton bequeathed the property to the university. The portion of the park where the site is located was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior.

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