2015 Big Year for ISAS

Big Year for Illinois State Archaeological Survey

From Beijing to a bobkitten, 2015 was a very good year for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) – Prairie Research Institute. Senior archaeology researcher, Kenneth Farnsworth, was part of the team that reanalyzed the remains of a buried bobkitten. The animal remains, housed at the Illinois State Museum, were originally believed to be that of a dog. The finding is the only ceremonially adorned wildcat burial in the entire archaeological record. The discovery made international news and wound up on two Top 10 lists.  Archaeology Magazine and National Geographic listed the bobkitten discovery as one of the biggest in 2015. The researchers work was published in the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology.

MCJA Article

National Geographic Article


Archaeology Magazine Article

In December, the Illinois State Archaeological Survey was once again internationally recognized, this time for their work in East St. Louis. The Shanghai Archaeology Forum, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing named the East St. Louis project one of the top ten in the world. ISAS was honored with the Field Discovery Award.

Dr. Thomas E. Emerson, ISAS Director, traveled to China to accept the award said,

“I am extremely proud that the accomplishments of all our staff are receiving recognition in this international forum.  It is especially a tribute to our American Bottom Field Station staff who through four years of almost continuous fieldwork accomplished the amazing feat of excavating nearly 1500 late prehistoric houses, thousands of features and a heretofore-unknown mound from this ancient buried first city in North America. It is a tribute to the teamwork of all ISAS staff across the organization that this was possible. I truly appreciate it and the opportunity to be part of this process.”

The East St Louis site was partially excavated as part of the mitigation process for the construction of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge between Missouri and Illinois.  The project was sponsored and funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation and was one of the largest field excavations ever performed in North America.  In 2011 IDOT was the recipient of a Federal Highway Administration Environment Excellence Award for Archaeological Investigations of New Mississippi River Bridge that was presented at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation, Seattle WA.

The Shanghai Archaeology Forum Field Discovery Awards are presented for archaeological excavations or surveys that have yielded major discoveries significantly furthering or even altering our knowledge of the human past, locally and/or globally. To be eligible for this award, the nominated work must be a scientific archaeological excavation or survey, legally authorized in the country where it was undertaken. The principal investigator responsible for the nominated work must hold an internationally recognized qualification for archaeological excavation or survey in the country where the nominated work was carried out.

Mississippi River Bridge Project