IDOT Bibliography Introduction

IDOT Archaeological Bibliography


The Illinois Department of Transportation began funding a program in archaeology shortly after Congress passed the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act. This legislation allowed (but did not mandate) the use of highway construction dollars for the salvage of archaeological sites threatened by potential highway construction. Each state was given the prerogative to implement this section of the act; some did, many did not. In Illinois, two events occurred subsequent to the Federal-Aid Act that established a cooperative, and enduring, climate between engineer and archaeologist.

In June of 1956, Illinois Department of Transportation Administrative Memorandum No. 45 was issued in Springfield which established policy for the preservation of cultural properties found in proposed highway rights-of-way. Shortly afterwards, archaeologists from the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, and the Illinois State Museum formed a professional organization, the Illinois Archaeological Survey (IAS).

Professor John McGregor of Champaign, a principal founder of the IAS, stated that the major function of the association was 1) to act as a lobbying group for archaeological concerns, 2) to serve as a liaison between the archaeological community and state and federal highway officials, 3) to establish an archaeological site file and recordation system, and 4) to assign member organizations surveys and excavation work on a noncompetitive, regional basis.

During the first 20 years of transportation archaeology, funds were allocated only for field investigations. No money was available for laboratory processing or report preparation. The funds programmed for archaeology allowed only partial survey of proposed rights-of-way and led to the selection of small numbers of the most promising sites for excavation. The logic behind this arrangement was that the highway dollars were to be expended to remove artifacts and contextual data from the construction threat; archaeologists were then to obtain other funding, theoretically in the form of grants, for analysis and write-up.

After four years of limited salvage, the proposed construction of I-55 and I-70 through the American Bottom floodplain across the Mississippi River from St. Louis led to the first major test of the highway archaeology program in Illinois. In the path of these new highways was a major portion of the vast Cahokia site and one of its major satellites, the Mitchell site to the north. Cahokia is now recognized as the preeminent Mississippian (AD 900-1300) civic-ceremonial center in North America. The Cahokia salvage program, which lasted from 1960 to 1964, resulted in extensive excavations of residential areas of this temple town and led to the discovery of a series of large "Woodhenges" -- huge circular patterns of tall posts thought to have had astronomical/ceremonial functions.

After years of field work the massive task of analyzing and interpreting the data from the I-55/70 Project began. Outside grants were obtained to aid in this effort, most notably several from the National Science Foundation. Although no major synthesis resulted from this project, a series of reports were issued which tremendously advanced knowledge concerning this major prehistoric culture. Over the intervening years, a number of theses and dissertations have been written utilizing the data generated by this project, from James Porter’s 1974 University of Wisconsin dissertation on the Mitchell site to Tim Pauketat’s recent (1991) dissertation at the University of Michigan on the excavation of residential zones in the shadow of Monk’s Mound at the center of Cahokia.

In 1976 new regulations were issued to strengthen the National Historic Preservation Act enacted in 1966. Now, for the first time, identification of archaeological and other cultural resources was mandatory in project planning and, importantly, funds were allocated for laboratory analysis and report preparation. Archaeology in Illinois during this period was dominated by professionals associated with major universities and museums. "Research" was the byword. Simply going out and surveying a proposed highway corridor was no longer acceptable. A "research design" was now required. The importance of a site was delineated by its "research potential" and projects were judged by their contribution to "research." In Illinois this period was also structured by "the research universe," that is, each major institution staked out its territory and was assigned work in that particular area of the state. This system was structured so that that each university would have a corps of trained archaeologists familiar with their geographical region to provide expertise concerning survey and evaluation strategy. Projects could be accomplished in an efficient and less costly manner since the resident experts had intimate knowledge of the cultural resources in their regions. This system, while it had its problems, was extremely successful. Funds were not wasted in repetitious evaluation exercises and were quickly allocated to the investigation of significant resources. Reports were generally submitted in a timely fashion since the researchers were already experts in their regions.

By 1976 the number of transportation related construction projects were increasing rapidly and archaeological work, expanding accordingly, reached new heights and levels of complexity. During this time archaeological efforts were also required not only on highways but were also expanded to include several major water resources programs and areas for proposed new airports. The recent survey of a 10,000 ha area in Will County for a new Chicago airport is an example of the potential magnitude of some of these non-highway transportation projects in Illinois.

While a number of large-scale projects located largely in riverine floodplains, like I-270, have received considerable attention, significant discoveries have also been made concerning human adaptation in the uplands region of the state, which is a portion of the eastern extension of the Prairie Peninsula, a huge tall grass savanna stretching westward into the Plains. The need for fill materials (borrow) for highway construction (which is contractor furnished in Illinois) resulted in the survey of long transects of bluff top uplands above both the Mississippi and Illinois River floodplains. These surveys, and the excavation of many of the sites located, have provided a more complete picture of regional prehistoric settlement systems. Recently, a survey of some 1000 ha in the Silver Creek uplands for the proposed MidAmerica Airport adjoining Scott Air Force Base, resulted in the discovery of over 100 prehistoric sites. This upland drainage region is situated 20 km east of the American Bottoms and was largely unexplored archaeologically. The excavation of the sites to be impacted by proposed construction yielded large numbers of house remains and other features. The ongoing analyses of these data will lead to a new understanding of the developmental and economic relationship of Cahokia and interior upland settlements.

Besides such major projects, thousands of small-scale surveys have been conducted for internal improvement projects like bridge replacements and highway widening. Over 2000 archaeological sites have been found as a result of such state and local projects in the last decade alone. Many spatially diminutive archaeological sites, which in the past would have been ignored by researchers, have now been intensively studied. Whole new perspectives on prehistoric occupations of the many and varied physiographic regions of Illinois have been produced by these efforts.

Pedestrian surveys within two of the highway project corridors, the FAI-270 project in the American Bottom, and the FAP 408 project in west-central Illinois, resulted in the discovery of nearly 300 archaeological sites. Data recovery efforts began almost concurrently on these two massive projects. With crews numbering over 150 workers in each area, the years 1977-1987 were tumultuous, exciting, and exhausting. The inclusion of funds for laboratory analysis and report preparation in the budgets of each of these projects was particularly significant.

Each project held unprecedented potential to yield significant new information concerning regions of especially intensive and complex prehistoric occupation. Ongoing destruction, by urban sprawl and modern farming and flood control, of much of the cultural resource base in these areas added a sense of urgency to the recovery efforts. Archaeological investigations along the two highway corridors were viewed by regional archaeologists as perhaps one of their last opportunities to investigate region-wide patterns of prehistoric lifeways and cultural change and complexity.

The impact of these massive highway archaeology programs is reflected in the numbers of publications they have generated. The 281 reports and publications produced by the end of the year 2006 on the archaeology of these two projects represents 35% of all of the publications which have been issued over the past 50 years as the result of Illinois Department of Transportation sponsored archaeological investigations.

The Bibliography

The following bibliography contains references to substantive publications which have been generated by archaeological investigations funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation Cultural Resources Program. This bibliography of over 600 citations contains references to in-house reports, journal articles, books and monographs, and book chapters.

During the first 50 years of the program in Illinois (through the year 2006) 121 journal articles, 83 books and monographs, and 101 book chapters have reached print. The academic contributions of this work have been significant with 16 PhD dissertations and 16 MA theses generated from IDOT research. One of the major goals of the Illinois program, particularly over the past 20 years, has been the publication and wide dissemination of the results of our efforts in the investigation and preservation of the state’s archaeological resources.

For administrative purposes the Illinois Department of Transportation has divided the 102 counties in the state into nine districts, from District 1 in the Chicago area to District 9 in the confluence region of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the south (Figure 1). Interstate highways, major freeways, and state and local roads are all planned and maintained through this administrative system (Figure 2). The bibliography is structured on a geographical basis by the state’s nine district divisions. This allows easy access to the reports and publications from specific localities within Illinois. The numbers of publications contained in each district bibliography section are largely the result of two factors, the intensity of transportation construction in each area and the numbers and kinds of archaeological sites found within these areas. The four districts bordering the Mississippi River in the western part of the state, particularly Districts 6 and 8, contain high modern populations which have created the need for large numbers of transportation improvements, including large scale interstate-type highways. These same areas of Illinois, which contain huge stretches of fertile river bottom lands, were also occupied intensively in prehistoric times by hundreds of Native American groups over a span of nearly 12,000 years. The combination of these factors has resulted in a disproportionate amount of archaeological activity in western Illinois, particularly in recent decades.

Compilation of the bibliography presented here is an ongoing process and additional citations will be added on a regular basis. Comments and/or requests for further information should be addressed to:

Kenneth B. Farnsworth
Senior Research Editor
Illinois State Archaeological Survey

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