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American Bottom Field Station-Wood River

The American Bottom Field Station (ABFS) conducts project survey and site investigations in IDOT Districts 7, 8, and 9. However, due to sprawling transportation infrastructure in the St. Louis Metro East, most of the work at ABFS is performed within the American Bottom region, the broad Mississippi River floodplain opposite St. Louis, Missouri, which contains abundant and complex archaeological resources.

Dr. Joseph Galloy, Research Coordinator
Charles Witty, District Archaeologist

144C East Ferguson
Wood River, IL 62095
(618) 251-3922


North American Bottom | Central American Bottom | Southern American Bottom and Southern Illinois

Broglio Site (11WM80) | Reider Road Project | New Mississippi River Bridge

Central American Bottom

Broglio Site (11WM80)
During September and October 2013, ISAS personnel from the Central and American Bottom Field Stations completed Phase III archaeological investigations at the Broglio Site, a multi-component Middle/Late Archaic and Early/Middle Woodland site in Williamson County, investigated as part of an IDOT project aimed at the straightening of a dangerous S-curve. Current construction plans increase the project right of way (ROW), which would impact the southern portion of the site. First recorded in 1962 as a Woodland period site, the project area was revisited in 2002 by ISAS personnel who recovered artifacts dating from the Early Archaic through Late Woodland periods.  Based on these results, additional testing was recommended prior to construction of the new bypass.

In December 2012, test excavations opened several trenches within the area of the site to be impacted by road construction. Intact archaeological deposits consisting of pit features and scattered human remains were identified. Based on these results, the site was deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, triggering additional investigations in 2013. These data-recovery excavations included the expansion of previous test blocks, which ultimately exposed nine percent of the entire site area (Figure 1). A total of 149 features were defined and investigated within the ROW, 111 of which were cultural in origin (Figure 2). These features consist of 93 pits of varying size and shape and function (Figure 3), one large shallow basin, and 17 mortuary related features.

Brolgio Site fieldwork
Figure 1. Phase III fieldwork in progress.

Plan view of excavations at Broglio Site
Figure 2. Map of feature distribution across Phase III area of Investigations.

Broglio Site feature
Figure 3. Crab Orchard phase pit.

Preliminary analysis of diagnostic material recovered from the excavated features indicates that two primary periods of site use are represented – Middle/Late Archaic and Early/Middle Woodland. Thick fabric-impressed Early and Middle Woodland (600 B.C.-A.D. 400) Crab Orchard ceramics, including sherds and several jar rims, were the most frequently identified diagnostic from feature context (Figure 4). Most lithics recovered from pit features still require analysis, but a few middle Woodland lamellar blades were recovered (Figure 5, H). Other material observed from the Crab Orchard features includes burned nutshell, burned and butchered animal remains, potter’s clay, debitage, and abraders. The similarities observed between pits in terms of size, shape, and content suggest that the 93 identified pit features are mostly associated with the Early/Middle Woodland habitation component.

Broglio Site ceramics
Figure 4. Crab Orchard ceramics.

A Middle/Late Archaic (3500-600 B.C.) component was identified by the presence of Karnak and Helton Points (Figure 5, B-F) and the burial features. Pits related to the Crab Orchard occupations and modern septic trenches had disturbed many of the burials; however, one intact burial contained the remains of an adult female accompanied by marine shell goods, including a shell pendent and beads. Although no temporally diagnostic artifacts were recovered with the burial, the grave goods are similar to those from the Late Archaic Indian Knoll site to the south in Kentucky. ISAS Log #01138, 01197, 02058

Broglio Site lithics
Figure 5. Diagnostic projectile points from Phase II and Phase III investigations.
A: Kirk Corner-Notched, B-D: Karnak, E-F: Helton, G: Ledbetter, H: Lamellar Blade.

Rieder Road Project
During 2012, ISAS evaluated nineteen sites in southwestern Illinois potentially impacted by the proposed Rieder Road/I-64 Interchange in St. Clair County. Five of these sites contained subsurface cultural deposits with potential to yield information relevant to the prehistoric and early American occupation of this unique upland locality near Silver Creek. These five sites included remains of storage pits and houses dating to the prehistoric Patrick (A.D. 650-900) and Lohmann (A.D. 1050-1100) phases, and to the Frontier Era (1810-1870) period of American history. Although the periods of occupation are widely separated in time, they share a common theme in that they represent population expansions into this gently rolling landscape of meadowland and tree groves, located adjacent to the floodplains of the two branches of Silver Creek. Nearby, across the stream channels, the famous Looking Glass Prairie at one time stretched to the east as far as the eye could see.

Reider Road field crewReider Road Project site excavation

The first substantial occupation of this region of southwestern Illinois, occurred during the Patrick phase—a time during which a vibrant Late Woodland society, relying on a highly developed pre-corn agricultural economy, was able to develop a firm foothold in the greater St. Louis bi-state metropolitan area. People lived in large villages and hamlets scattered throughout both the rich alluvial floodplains, but also in the interior uplands. The introduction of corn into the Eastern Woodlands about A.D. 900 permanently and dramatically altered this three-century period of social stability. Local populations underwent significant transformations as a result of the new corn-driven surplus economy, which eventually enabled powerful and enterprising leaders during early Mississippian age times (A.D. 1050-1200) to finance the construction of large architectural undertakings at the only true prehistoric city north of Mexico---at the prominent nearby floodplain site of Cahokia. As Mississippi floodplain acreage became increasingly valuable, however, it was necessary to resettle whole villages from the valuable floodplain soils into the nearby upland regions. One of these areas of resettlement was the Silver Creek locality which saw a substantial population influx during Lohmann phase times. The displaced floodplain farmers were forced to rely on the more restricted, but still productive, floodplain soils associated with the smaller upland stream channels for growing corn. This upland experiment seemed to thrive for a short period of time, but was eventually cut short about A.D. 1250, possibly as a result of an extended period of drought.

Reider Road pewter buttonThe early historic American immigrants arrived in this same region following the War of 1812, and not surprisingly, faced similar challenges as their prehistoric counterparts. The early settlers were seeking land to grow both the Old World crops that they were familiar with, like wheat, oats, and barley, but also the indigenous crop of corn, which they eagerly adopted. They sought to build on land that was not frequently flooded like that of the nearby Mississippi River floodplain, and were particularly interested in the open meadowlands of the Silver Creek drainage. They were able to pasture cows, and the abundant tree groves provided construction material for houses, barns, corrals, and pigpens, and served as a ready source for heating fuel. We hope that our investigations will eventually shed light on the unique role this region played in the development of Cahokia, and in the period of American Frontier expansion.


The proposed New Mississippi River Crossing (NMRC) in the East St. Louis vicinity has spurred some of the largest scale investigations in the American Bottom since the FAI-270 project.

Janey B. Goode (11S1232) | East St. Louis Mound Center (11S706) | Canaday School (11S1525) | Fingers (11S333) | Visitor’s Center – Patti Will (11S654) and Edging (11S658) | Frank Scott Parkway East Extension | Harry Billhartz #1 (11CT255)

Janey B. Goode (11S1232)
Data recovery began in 2002 at the dense, complex Janey B. Goode (“JBG”) site (11S1232), a 6 ha occupation along the southern margin the Horseshoe Lake meander just north of the East St. Louis Mound Group (11S706). The site abuts an active railroad yard, and is capped by ~0.5 to 1.5 meter layers of historic railroad debris and fill. By the end of the 2003 field season, approximately 22 percent of the site was stripped and nearly 2,200 prehistoric features have been excavated.

To date, the largest occupations at JBG are from the Late Woodland Patrick phase and early Terminal Late Woodland Loyd phase. Also present are more widely scattered late Terminal Late Woodland (Merrell or Edelhardt phase), Stirling phase, and late Moorehead or Sand Prairie phase Mississippian features. Numerous single-post and wall-trench structures have been excavated. Pit features are abundant and diverse, and several large post pits with extraction ramps have also been excavated. One of the more interesting and puzzling discoveries of the 2003 season is a linear ditch-like feature about 2 m wide and 50–70 cm deep (Figure 6). A 30-m long segment of the ditch has been excavated, with no evidence for internal or external posts. Its end points have yet to be uncovered. It extends northward from an old Cahokia Creek meander and exhibits multiple episodes of siltation and prehistoric re-excavation (maintenance). Possibly used for drainage and/or defense, the ditch fill is laminated, suggesting that it frequently held water. Superimposition of this ditch by Loyd phase pit features indicates an association with JBG’s earliest occupations. On the western flank of the site, a swale approximately 75 m long, 20–25 m wide and up to 2.5 m deep appears to have been deliberately filled. Most of this landscape modification was apparently performed during the Terminal Late Woodland occupations. The ditch construction and the swale filling required substantial labor investments, hinting at a previously unrecognized level of social complexity during the Terminal Late Woodland period in this area of the American Bottom.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Profile of Ditch – Janey B. Goode.

The preservation of faunal and floral remains at JBG is excellent due to a general abundance of limestone within the features. Features with large quantities of fish bones, scales and mussel shell (some modified into artifacts) reflect the site's location near aquatic resources. Bone artifacts, especially awls, pins, and fish hooks are common, and several features produced unusually well-preserved plant materials, including charred cordage. Also, it appears that the inhabitants of JBG were involved in extraregional interaction throughout its occupation. A Stirling phase pit excavated in 2002 yielded 36 intact conch and whelk shells, a bison scapula, and two-dozen Marginella shells (Figure 7). Other features produced marine shell disc beads and pendants, Marginella beads, shark teeth, copper, nonlocal and/or unusual ceramic vessels, and worked quartz, galena, hematite, and basalt.

Investigations at Janey B. Goode will make a significant contribution to our knowledge of Late Woodland to Mississippian populations occupying the area of the East St. Louis Mound Center vicinity. Up to this date, very little has been known about the occupation of this area, particularly during the Late Woodland.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Janey B. Goode (11S1232) – Stirling Phase feature with row of conch shells and Bison scapula.

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East St. Louis Mound Center (11S706)
Another NMRC project investigation related to rail realignment was performed in 2003 in the CSX railyard north of I-55/70, within the limits of the East St. Louis Mound Center (11S706). A program of extensive stratigraphic coring by Mike Kolb, StrataMorph, for NMRC detected thick natural source fill deposits in the railyard under a thin mantle of cindery fill (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8. Mike Kolb at CSX Railyards – East St. Louis Mound Center.

Some of these natural source fills resembled the “buckshot” prehistoric mound fills previously encountered by ITARP in the railyard adjacent to the interstate. However, trenching for NMRC revealed that the buckshot fills were deposited during the middle to late 1800s during construction of the railyard. These fill zones, which contained Mississippian cultural debris and engineered soils, overlie a historic trash layer (Figures 9 and 10). It was likely deposited as part of the city land filling projects in the late 1800s when many of the nearby mounds were leveled. A prime candidate is the Cemetery Mound from the East St. Louis Mound Center, which was destroyed circa 1870. The presence of redeposited mound fills within the East St. Louis group locality is common and has incorrectly led some to interpret these deposits as intact mounds.

Figure 9
Figure 9. Profile from CSX Railyard showing the historic fill at the top, the redeposited mound fill in the middle, and a thin brick layer right on top of the buried natural soil.


Figure 10
Figure 10. Profile map from CSX Railyard showing the historic fill at the top, the redeposited mound fill in the middle, and a thin brick layer right on top of the buried natural soil.

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Canaday School (11S1525)
Other investigations in East St. Louis were conducted for a new elementary school building. In 2002, construction workers digging the new building foundation at the site of the old Canaday school at Lynch and 15th Street discovered human remains from the forgotten 19th century Illinois City Cemetery (recorded by ITARP as the Canady School site, 11S1525). ITARP was requested by the school district to test the area to resolve the contexts of the human remains. Two hundred graves were identified within three excavation blocks; estimates for the entire cemetery range from 2,000–5,000 graves (Figure 11). In addition to the historic cemetery, Early Woodland pottery was recovered from grave shafts suggesting a disturbed earlier prehistoric component was also present. Due to the prohibitive cost of mitigation and IHPA’s desire to preserve the cemetery in place, a new school location was chosen two blocks to the northeast. ITARP’s survey of the new location revealed silty clay swale fill throughout the project area, and no prehistoric or significant historic materials or deposits were encountered during testing. A portion of the East St. Louis Mound Center has been identified about 1.5–2 city blocks to the northwest of the project area; this part of the mound group appears to be associated with a north–south running topographic high which appears to extend to the old Canaday school location.

Figure 11
Figure 11. Canaday School Site (11S1525).

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Fingers (11S333)
Ongoing investigations in the Sauget Business Park, a development 12 km southwest of the Cahokia site along the Goose Lake Meander, continue to yield new information about rural Mississippian lifeways. This mitigation is being carried out under an agreement between IDOT, HUD, and the Village of Sauget. Ongoing excavations at the expansive Fingers site (11S333) have uncovered many clusters of Mississippian period structures and pits that appear to represent farmsteads and hamlets. Earlier in the excavations an isolated Mississippian cemetery was identified. Under an agreement between the various parties the cemetery was set aside and a green area established to protect it from future development. While the majority of the features within the project date to the Stirling and Moorehead phases, Lohmann phase and Terminal Late Woodland period features also have been excavated.

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Visitor’s Center – Patti Will (11S654) and Edging (11S658)
On the bluffs overlooking Pittsburg Lake, IDOT-funded investigations were conducted between 2000 – 2002 for a proposed I-255 Visitor’s Center (Figure 12). Nearly 800 Archaic, Late Woodland, and Mississippian features were excavated at two sites, Patti Will (11S654) and Edging (11S658). Of particular importance is a Sand Prairie phase farmstead at Patti Will, represented by two burned structures, and the Middle and Late Archaic components at Edging, which are represented by hundreds of features. The Mississippian component at Edging is represented by roughly two-dozen rectangular and circular structures and appears to represent a rural Stirling phase civic node.

Figure 12

Figure 12. Crew excavating feature at the Visitor’s Center.

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Frank Scott Parkway East Extension
Near Shiloh in the St. Clair uplands, testing was performed at six sites for the FAU 9330/Frank Scott Parkway East Extension, and two more sites await access. Two sites, both less than 1 km to the east of the well-known early Mississippian Grossmann site (11S1131), contained features. These include four Late Woodland pits at Isosceles (11S1512) and three Mississippian pits at Ste. Francois Green (11S1551). The latter site is of interest, because like Pinga’s Pup in Madison County (see above), basalt debitage was recovered from the site surface and a quartz crystal was recovered from a pit.

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Harry Billhartz #1 (11CT255)
Farther inland, a proposed borrow pit for FAS 783/County Highway 8 near Damiansville in Clinton County resulted in testing a previously reported site, the Harry Billhartz #1 site (11CT255). Six narrow excavation blocks revealed 28 prehistoric features, about a dozen of which were excavated before backfilling, and an alternate borrow area was chosen. The excavated features include a Late Woodland keyhole structure with Sponemann-like ceramics, several Patrick/Sponemann phase pits, and one Terminal Late Woodland pit. A Middle Woodland component is indicated by several body sherds recovered from Late Woodland features. A story about these investigations made the local news, and subsequent interest by national and international news outlets reported this site as a highly significant find.

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  Map showing ABFS area of responsibility

Updated: 05/16/2014 ML


 

Illinois State Archaeological Survey

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