ISAS Awards Research Assistantships to Graduate Students — Fall 2012
Professor Charles J. Bareis was a key member of the archaeological community from 1959–94 and a leader in the early professionalization of Illinois archaeology. He was instrumental in creating the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Illinois archaeology program. Bareis formalized highway salvage work because he saw the need for a more professional program dedicated to archaeological cultural resource management during Illinois highway construction. His input in establishing relationships with state and federal agencies made Illinois one of the early leaders in highway salvage work as well as compliance archaeology. For nearly 30 years, Bareis directed the transportation archaeology program, a joint venture between the University of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Transportation. His research generated more than half of the University of Illinois’s Cahokia holdings, as well as extensive transportation archaeology collections. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey is his legacy.
Bareis began his college career at Beloit with a pre-med major. After taking a class in Anthropology as a sophomore, he switched. Archaeology was an interesting mystery to Bareis. He loved the history associated with archaeology. How did artifacts end up where they did? “That’s what fascinated him,” recalls Bareis’ wife, Margaret (Maggie). He found the digs exciting, often proclaiming to his wife, “We found this! We found that!” In the 1960s Professors Charles Bareis and Donald Lathrap were conducting major Cahokia-related field schools and excavations. Bareis’ Cahokia Mounds field schools, laboratory, and surveying courses became a requirement for UIUC students and as a result, he had a worldwide impact on field archaeology. In the late 1970s, Bareis as principal investigator, oversaw excavations for the renowned IDOT-funded FAI-270 Archaeological Mitigation Project. This project set new standards for cultural resource management research in the United States. Publications resulting from this project are well known throughout the world. “Chuck always talked about two things,” says Maggie Bareis. He talked about the loss of history and archaeology as a result of construction, both business and highway. “So often digs are done, and the artifacts sit in a lab somewhere.” Bareis always thought the information should be written up.
The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), established February 1, 2010 as a Division of the Prairie Research Institute (formerly the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability), is the product of a nearly century-long concern by the University of Illinois to ensure the preservation and interpretation of the state’s important archaeological resources. ISAS encompasses IDOT’s transportation archaeology program, the program for Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials (ATAM), as well as public outreach and educational activities in order to promote the study of Illinois’ archaeology. During the last 15 years, ISAS (formerly the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program) has been the primary UIUC unit carrying out scientific research on Illinois’ archaeological resources. ISAS—often operating in partnership with IDOT, faculty from several universities, avocational archaeologists, local historical societies, environmentalists, the general public, public officials, and developers—has been able to make significant contributions to the interpretation, preservation, and protection of Illinois’ archaeological resources.
Annually, beginning in 2010, the Illinois State Archaeological Survey awarded assistantships to selected graduate students specializing in Illinois archaeology, in honor of the late Charles J. Bareis. The winners of the inaugural Charles J. Bareis Research Assistantships were: Melissa Baltus (UIUC), Sarah Otten (UIUC), and Carol Richards (ISU). In the fall of 2012, Sarah Baires, Erin Benson, and Ian Fricker secured the CJB Research Assistantship.
When Sarah Baires’s undergraduate professor (University of Tennessee-Knoxville) dumped a garbage bag full of trash onto a table stating that it was her archaeological record for future generations, she was hooked on archaeology. Now a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Baires’s research interests include mortuary practice and religion and how these two aspects contribute to the origins of Cahokia and an organized Mississippian religion. She is also interested in the construction methods and uses of both ridge-top burial mounds and the religious buildings found on associated prepared platforms.
This past spring, Baires finished dissertation fieldwork at Cahokia’s Rattlesnake Mound and Rattlesnake Causeway. She put a trench down the center of the mound in order to determine the details of its construction. She also put in a large unit at the base of the mound where her anticipation at finding a building was realized. True to theory, she located the building! Baires’s test excavations into the Causeway confirmed its existence and alignment with Cahokia’s 5o offset. She is currently writing her dissertation and hopes to complete it by Spring 2014.
What Baires loves about archaeology is the opportunity she has to search for answers to questions about the past. Recently married to a social cultural anthropologist, Baires and her husband strive for a supportive and committed relationship.
Erin Benson grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and first became interested in Anthropology during high school. Her Sophomore Spanish class studied the Aztec, Maya, and Inca; from that day forward she was hooked! Benson attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and graduated in 2009 with a BA in Anthropology and Women’s Studies. While attending Case Western, she participated in a four-week field school with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Northern Ohio. She also joined a seven-week paleoanthropology field school with the Woranso-Mille Paleoanthropological Research Project in the Afar region of Ethiopia. “When I began at Case Western I wanted to do Mesoamerican or South American archaeology, however as my education progressed I came to realize how much incredible archaeology there is in the United States,” says Benson.
Upon graduation, she came upon a job advertisement from ISAS (then ITARP) to work on the Mississippi River Bridge Project in East St. Louis, Illinois. That advertisement changed everything for Benson. She headed to St. Louis and was thrust into the East St. Louis Mound Center (an eye-opening experience for a brand new archaeologist!). “After working for 3 years in the American Bottom at a massive Mississippian site, it was pretty much impossible for me NOT to continue in that field. Working there got me completely hooked on Mississippian archaeology. Also thanks to my site supervisor, good friend, and mentor, Jeff Kruchten,” says Benson of her experience. Two thousand twelve marks her first year in the graduate program at University of Illinois, studying under Dr. Timothy Pauketat.
“I am very excited to be working for ISAS once again and to be getting the opportunity to work a little more in the lab doing analysis and writing, although I will surely miss the field!”
Ian Fricker is a first-year graduate student in the Prehistoric Archaeology MA program at Illinois State University. His interest in archaeology first began near the end of his undergraduate career, while attending a University of Illinois field school under the direction of Dr. Timothy Pauketat. By that time, he had worked part time in the archaeology lab at ISAS (then ITARP) for several years, participated in several archaeological survey projects, and all but completed a minor in anthropology, but had no career aspirations along those lines. “The hands-on process of unearthing and recording a Middle Mississippian community brought the past to life [for me],” recounts Fricker. He then chose to pursue a career in archaeology.
After graduating from UIUC in 2001, Fricker took a full-time position with ISAS. This past August, he left his position at ISAS in order to further his education at the Illinois State University, with advisor Dr. James Skibo. “Dr. Skibo’s innovative work with functional pottery analysis has opened many new lines of inquiry in Midwestern archaeology. These analytical techniques have the potential to greatly increase our understanding of ceramic technology and its role in subsistence and social interactions,” says Fricker.
Fricker’s thesis work will focus on a functional analysis of the pottery assemblage collected from the Noble-Wieting site in McLean County, Illinois. Noble-Wieting is an Upper Mississippian mounded village site dating ca. A.D. 1200–1250. Two different ceramic technologies are present at the site. Through several decades of research, archaeologists have attributed these pottery styles to two Native American groups that are culturally, and largely geographically, distinct. “This offers a unique opportunity for comparative study addressing the way in which these groups manufactured and used ceramic vessels. The data generated through this analysis may then be used to explore ethnic diversity and cross-cultural interactions at the site,” says Fricker.
[posted November 21, 2012]