Friday, September 23, 2016

From Clay and Earth Experiencing the Emerald Site Beyond Cahokia the Emerald Site casts new light on Mississippian life.

The Chicago Archaeological Society will initiate the 2016-17 discovery program of archaeological adventures with an exploration of the Illinois Emerald Site escorted by Rebecca M. Barzilai, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University. Ms. Barzlai is working on her dissertation characterizing the geochemical and petrographic composition of ceramics from the Emerald Site.

Since 2012 a joint effort by Indiana University and the University of Illinois, led by project co-directors Susan Alt and Tim Pauketat [CAS Speaker April 11, 2011) with funding from the John Templeton Foundation, has conducted large scale excavations across the Emerald Site. Emerald, located 10 miles east of Cahokia in St. Clair County, Illinois prospered from the 11th to the 14th century AD.

Archaeological exploration has uncovered concentrations ofnon-domestic, ceremonial architecturealongside seeminglytemporary, short-term pilgrimhousing. Small sites surroundingthe main acropolis of ritualactivity appear to be temporary field houses where peoplemoved through, to and from Emerald, but did not live yearround. Pottery, a good distinguisher of changing cultural styles and practices, shows evidenceof people from Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, Southeastern Missouri, and perhaps further afield as well as the way pottery changed slightly once these travelers had experienced Emerald.

In North America, where houses were made mostly from wood, thatch, and mud, an archaeologist’s main medium of investigation is the earth. Looking at the footprint of patterns left behind by native inhabitants, such as earth, raw
clay, pottery, and stone are our clues to what people were doing and seeing in the past. At the Emerald Site the pattern left behind leads to indications of people visiting the location from across the Midwest for religious purposes. The location was built up and used as a Mississippian shrine complex, where religious practices and activities were performed and created by Cahokian and migrant peoples from throughout the Midwest of North America.

Emerald sits on a glacial driftremnant on the western edge of the historically named ‘Looking Glass Prairie.’ Emerald is an unusual site that, in addition to an earthen pyramid, almost 20 feet high, known as the “Great Mound,” there are 11 small once flat-topped round mounds, all aligned atop an apparent artificially landscaped ridge. As this area of the site has proportionally more public and ceremonial architecture than every-day houses, the site has been recently called the Emerald Acropolis, or Emerald Shrine Complex of Greater Cahokia. There is evidence of ceremonially laden ritual deposits that bear witness to annual renewal events which suggest Cahokian practices.

Waggish Tales* of Life in Pre-Columbian America

A Dog’s life in Pre-Columbian America was a tale of shared work and devotion

During this fervid election year rivalries that welled up along with evolution of language, writing and even music can be ignored and perhaps forgotten, but not so with the CAS. Think about the rivalry between dog lovers and cat fanciers. The May guest speaker, Dr. Steven R. Kuehn, brought to the attention of his audience an archaeological report of the role of canines in Pre-Columbia America.

Archaeological exploration reveals no information regarding canine domestication. Whereas the Paleoindian companionship of humans and dogs has been uncovered but with little data. The Archaic reveals burial treatment.

The Early through the Middle Woodland markedly was the gold standard of mortuary treatment. There was increased evidence during the Late Woodland human/canine relationships in the form of increased ceremonialism but also increased evidence of unequal dining relations!

During Late Prehistoric ritual burials continued. Age issues and trauma probably due to mistreatment increased. In sum, however, life was harsh in the pre Colombian world for man and beast alike.

Our mind’s eye vision of the dog as power source for a travois is accurate. Travois (trăvoi´), a device used by Native North Americans of the Great Plains for transporting their tepees and household goods. It consisted of two poles, lashed one on either side of a dog or, later, a horse, with one end of each pole dragging on the ground. It had straps or wooden crosspieces between the poles near the open end that served as a carrier. Like the sledge, the travois was used by Native Americans before any use of wheels was known to them.

A Dog’s life in Pre-Columbian America is a tale of shared work and devotion.
*My thanks to Norman Lockridge whose wagging tales I have never forgotten.

CAS SAFARI, Peru Holiday, 2016 A Virtual visit to Peru

Recent CAS Safaris to regional archaeological sites like Aztalan in Wisconsin or Cahokia in Illinois and museums like the Field have been warmly acclaimed. But for 2016 a decision for a change brought forth the idea for a “Virtual Journey to Peru.” For many members’ destinations like the Nazca Lines were in their travel buckets; and for others, favorite visits, already achieved, were in a memory book calling for a reprise.

Safari plans congealed as Peru Holiday on July 31.

CAS members attending were, Beverly Bucur, Mary Ann Bloom, Sally Campbell, Judy and Peter Greene, Vicky Grigelaitis, Karen Memory, Mike Ruggeri, Joe andMarilyn Shidle, Marcia Streetman, Deb and Bob Stelton, Rita Tomkiewicz, Jeanne Zasadil, David Zucker and Edith and Ray Young Participated in the 2016 Safari and fundraiser at the Ceviche Restaurant. Judy Petacque, a friend of Deb and Bob, called the event “Fabulous”.

Edith planned the snack (empanadas) and the Buffet lunch, while Mike poured the wine. Deb told about the dedicated work of Maria Reiche with some interpretive help from Phyllis Pitluga (of the Adler) on the Nazca Lines. Ray talked about ideas connecting the Ceque system of the later Incas with the Nazca Lines. Bob Stelton presented videos of overflights and also Peruvian fiestas and the train to Machu Picchu. Doreen Stelton, Deb’s daughter took individuals to the “Native Market” in the bar and sold bags full of masks and mostly, African pieces from the Doris Neilson collection. Safari 2016 was a fun and beneficial learning experience.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Archaeology of Man’s Best Friend

The Archaeology of Man’s Best Friend:
Recent Studies of Prehistoric Dogs in Illinois
Coming In May, Guest Speaker Steven R. Kuehn

Human company of Fido frequently has been a prescribed treatment for psychologically disturbed individuals and many hospitals allow patients pet visits. Canines were among the first domestication successes. But what is the archaeological New World account?

That question will be broached when Dr. Steven R. Kuehn shares with us the story of “man’s best friend” in ancient Illinois. Dr. Kuehn will be the guest speaker of the Chicago Archaeological Society at the Evanston Library, May 22, 3:00 pm.

Primates have done rather well since their adoption by canines which has been somewhat checkered by a human inclination to consort with other species even elipines, piscine and argh!— felines. Admittedly wearisome global areas exist e.g. the Middle East which to the pre-sent day roils in canine disfavor—pity the porcines—lowest on the social scale.

The first domesticated dogs appeared some 30,000 years ago, and in North America domesticated dog remains are found at Paleoindian through Historic Period archaeological sites. The role and treatment of dogs among Native American groups, however, has var-ied considerably over time. Throughout prehistory, dogs were used for hunting, hauling, and guarding camps, and played a part in feasts and ritual events.

Recent archaeological investigations at the Janey B. Goode, East St. Louis, and Fish Lake sites in the American Bottom region of Illinois have result-ed in the recovery of thousands of animal remains, including nearly 150 dog burials. Ongoing study of these animals provides important insight on the changing role of domesticated dogs during the Late Prehistoric period in Illinois.

Following a brief overview of dog archaeology in Illinois, Zooarchaeologist Steven Kuehn will discuss his recent work with the Janey B. Goode, East St. Louis, and Fish Lake dogs and how this information is providing a much more detailed picture on the prehistory of “man’s best friend.”

Mr. Steven R. Kuehn
The Archaeology of Man’s Best Friend: Recent Studies of Prehistoric Dogs in Illinois
May 22, 2016 
Meetings are at 3:00 p.m. at the
Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston 60201-3886

By Robert Stelton, Editor of the Codex

The Palimpsest

Our Wonderful Technological Age.

When we finally surrendered to pro-gress and welcomed the personal computer a new world was at our fingertips! A technological revolution liberated our imagination when it became possible to produce long documents and correct errors without starting over.
The pc saved precious time for other projects. But…slowly it became a time-burner. Time saved was spent discovering archaeological news and its dissemination. Journeys into

YouTube offered vicarious travel experiences and a torrent of information inundated web pages for you to read, copy and circulate!

Moreover everyday business email began to fill our Inbox and we found that our telephone services, medical services, gas companies, electric ser-vices, garbage pick-up were all con-tacting us as about this and that (as well as their competitors). They were giving us choices or complaining about our garbage.

Daily checking email became a chore that produced a defensive reaction— a reluctance to share email addresses.

Your email address security and privacy is important to the CAS. We do not share your address with third par-ties. Group mailings e.g. the Codex are blind and if requested your ad-dress is removed from the CAS directory.

If you have not received CAS email information and wish to receive future mailings you may contact Or post your address on the meeting signup sheet. Please print clearly using large block letters. For special contacts a phone number is also requested.
Get Ready for Halloween!

Caught your attention? Everyone needs a mask. I mean an antique Guatemalan dance mask, or an African devil mask. Maybe you or a friend needs a Zulu shield or a Balinese pup-pet or a small antique Peruvian house-hold god, Pachamama. You can choose from the CAS collection of donated objects from MexiMayan travelers.

You can go online to Etsy and Lost Antiquities Found and Doreen Stelton, Jr. will sell you your choice, or your friend’s choice or your friend’s choice for a gift for Father’s Day. Sale Items so marked will benefit the CAS.

By Deb Stelton 

Venue change successful

CAS April meeting bridges a temporary hiatus from Evanston
Was there a Mississippian/Oneota culture war?

April 24, 2016 was an excellent day for its meeting at the Chica-go Sulzer Regional Library. As explained in the March edition of the Codex the meeting venue for April had been moved from the Evanston Library to the Sulzer Library.

The April hiatus from the Evanston Library has been an an-nual event for many years. In the past the move was simply across the street to the Merion Hotel. But changes at the Meri-on have made a new April venue peremptory and CAS Pro-gram Chair and Vice President, Lucy Kennedy was up to the challenge. Scoping the situa-tion she arranged for the CAS to meet at the Sulzer Library.

However, even as a search for an April demanded immedi-ate attention word came that the post meeting restaurant favorite, Dave's Italian Res-taurant on Chicago Avenue had closed permanently. That matter was settled at the An-nual Board Meeting again with Lucy's help with a deci-sion to meet at Olive Moun-tain Restaurant, 610 Davis, after the May meeting.

The Sulzer with its auditorium was an excellent substitution for the Evanston Library. It is large and amply supplied with tables and chairs and excellent acoustics.

The traditional post meeting casual dinner at Gideon Welles' Craft Beer Bar & Kitchen was, simply put-fun! It was a balmy beautiful day and many of Gid-eon's were dining al fresco. The CAS dined within where it en-joyed an intriguing menu and an overwhelming selection of beers and wine. The waitress was totally helpful while taking orders and explaining beer offering and menu details.

With much said about the meeting logistics the Codex must not overlook the excel-lent presentation of the April Guest Speaker Dr. Michael Conner.

Dr. Conner's intriguing and important subject, Archaeology of the Morton Oneota and Mississippian Site, Fulton County, Illinois, provided a metaphor for con-temporary problems as well as underscoring implications for the future and a basis for understanding similar events, like the rise and fall of ancient Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico.

The Mississippians:
A mound-building Native American civilization flour-ished in what is now the Mid-western, Eastern, and South-eastern United States from approximately C.E. 8oo to 1600.

The Oneota,
Sharing somewhat parallel Mississippian dates and shared artifacts as well as cultural aspects. However it's unclear whether they developed in situ out of Late Woodland cultures or wheth-er there was an invasive mix-ing of peoples and artifacts.

Because Dr. Conner was active in the archaeology of the Morton Site, in the Illinois River Valley his presentation at the April, CAS Meeting is significant.

The Morton site was first documented by archaeologists from the University of Chica-go in 1930. Over the next few years, they explored parts of the village and cemetery areas of the site. Lying along the bluff top overlooking the Illi-nois River valley, the Morton site was home to Native Americans periodically over several hundred years. Some-how the first excavations missed (or ignored) a low mound at the top of a steep slope.

Decades later archaeologists were called in to document how the mound had been built and to remove the human re-mains. They discovered a 700-year-old cemetery used by Oneota people. At the time, archaeologists knew very little about Oneota people and their way of life in Illinois.

The mound was carefully excavated and documented, as was the habitation site. We now know much more about the Oneota. Osteological—scientists, who study the skeleton, learned how long people lived, how tall they were, how healthy they were, and they learned about how their society was organized.

They also discovered a grim truth-Morton Site remains revealed ghastly traumas indicating that many of the interments had been badly injured or killed. Archaeologists do not know exactly who was involved in the conflict or why it occurred, but this information adds to our understanding of life in Illinois 300 years before the arrival of the first French explorers and it may illuminate the consequences of the Mississippian/Oneota confrontation.

Archaeological exploration at the Morton Site has provided a wealth of new understanding. But it seems that the new understanding has present-ed new challenges.

by Robert Stelton, Editor of the Codex

Local Event Calendar

South Suburban Archaeological Society,
18442 Gottschalk Ave, Homewood. 7:30 pm, June 16,
Dr. Emily Teeter: Three Egyptian Collections in Chicago and How They Came To Be.

Friends of the Chicago Portage Tours
4800 S. Harlem 10:00 –12 pm 1st Saturday of each month continuing through November 5,2016.

Oriental Institute.
1155 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637  7:00 pm, June 1,
Irving Finkel: The Ark Before Noah: A Great Adventure & Book Signing. 
Irving Finkel Assistant Keeper, The Department of the Middle East, The British Museum. This talk, illustrated by a PowerPoint, will describe what befell the speaker after one quite remarkable cuneiform tablet was brought for examination to the British Museum in London. The inscription on this four-thousand year old tablet led to a series of altogether unexpected discoveries, demanding a
whole new look at Noah and his Ark, and culminating in a book and a documentary film WTTW Nova .

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Next Meeting - Archaeology of the Morton Oneota and Mississippian Site

Dr. Michael Connor Archaeology of the Morton Oneota and Mississippian Site, Fulton County, IL

On April 24, 2016, starting at 2:30pm Auditorium of the Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60625 (corner of Lincoln and Montrose Avenues)

Iconic Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan was occupied by 100 BC and between AD 100 and 200 the Temple of the Sun was built. It was all over by AD 750.

In an exceptional presentation the CAS March 2016 Guest Speaker, Dr. Sarah C. Clay-ton, escorted her enthusiastic audience of more than forty on a sociopolitical historical journey to and through the heart and environs of Teotihuacan.

An Iconic view of Teotihuacan from the Temple of the Moon along the Avenue of the Dead and past the Pyramid of the Sun correctly conveys an impression of power and prestige.

Archaeological exploration posits Teotihuacan’s founding around 300 - 450 BC and its col-lapse around AD 550 – 650. The peak population of Teotihuacan has been estimated at 125,000.

The Temple of the Sun is the 3rd largest pyramid in the world eclipsed only by the Great Pyramid of Cholula and Cheop’s Pyramid at Giza [The circumference of Monks Mound, Cahokia is larger than any of the aforementioned].

When studying the world’s earliest urban states Dr. Clayton outlined a series of questions for consideration:
How did they develop?
What was the economic organization and political structure?
What was it like to live there?
Why and how did the system break down?

There was a dissolution of government. What was the sociopolitical situation? The collapse was regional. In places buildings were burned and there is evidence of violence. There was movement out of the city to out-lying communities and goods were coming into the city from outlying sites instead of the opposite. It is difficult to study the sites of the hinterland be-cause of the sprawl of Mexico City. The city at its peak was 125,000 or perhaps twice that. After the collapse they numbered only 20,000.

The leaders were excellent planners, militaristic and war-like. Their serpent pyramid held 132 carefully arranged skeletons, important captives from other places. They had been powerful. At one time they had conquered at least a part of Tikal in faraway present day Guatemala.

Archaeologists are looking at two sites, Axotlan and Chicoloapan, in the hinter-land and sifting out their relationships to the capitol.

Axotlan appears to be simi-lar to the capitol and fell just at the same time and the same way. Chicoloapan had different ritual features and their everyday objects and cookware were differ-ent and more advanced. More investigations in the areas may teach us more about the collapse of the Teotihuacan government may provide a means of cul-tural collapse elsewhere.

By Bob Stelton - Editor

Maya Blue: The chemistry of a Pre-Columbian pigment A group of chemists claim to have cracked the recipe of Maya Blue

The visitor to the Maya and their realm, whether traveling through the Yucatan, Central America, and visiting awesome Chichén Itza or via the printed pages of the early explorers — John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, is regularly awed by the archaeological trail to Lost Cities.
Catherwood’s painting of Tulum, Stephens & Catherwood, 1843.

Upon closer investigation of the Maya and their realm, broad perspective beckons the traveler to “dig” deeper! There is, for example, the mystery of Maya Blue.
The ancient Maya used a vivid, remarkably durable blue paint to cover their palace walls, co-dices, pottery and maybe even the bodies of human sacrifices who were thrown to their deaths down sacred wells. 

Now a group of chemists claim to have cracked the recipe of Maya Blue. Scientists have long known the two chief ingredients of the intense blue pigment: indigo, a plant dye that's used to-day to color denim; and palygorskite, a type of clay. But how the Maya cooked up the unfading paint remained a mystery. Has the riddle been unscrambled? 
Xultun mural & Maya Blue.

Now Spanish researchers report that they found traces of another pigment in Maya Blue, which they say gives clues about how the color was made.

At 3:30 pm, Sunday March 20, 2016 at the Evanston Public Library,1703 Orrington Av on Sunday, The CAS Guest Speaker, Dr. Thomas Higgins will address the vexing problem of Maya Blue and add more knowledge to our ever-expanding understanding of the timeless Maya.

By Bob Stelton - Editor