COLLINSVILLE — A series of lectures at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site begins Jan. 17 with a look at what experts can learn about the mound builders from the tiny flint drills and tools and shell beads they left behind.
The civilization that created huge earthen mounds also used small drills to make beads out of marine shells. Archaeologist Brent Lansdell will explain how he and his colleagues at the Illinois State Archeological Survey use remote sensing equipment to look underground for buildings and pit features in a part of the Cahokia site believed to have been a bead-making workshop.
What they find may shed new light on the size of the Cahokia Mounds microlith industry (“microlith” is a broader term for tiny stone tools) and its role in the Mississippian culture that stretched from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.
The free lecture, Organizing Cahokian Life North of Downtown: Geophysical Exploration of the Microlith and Shell Bead Industries at the Kunnemann Tract, takes place at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of the historic site’s Interpretive Center.
The lecture series continues Sunday, Feb. 21, with Avenue of the Saints Archaeobotany. Neal Lopinot, Missouri State University archaeologist, will discuss research at nine Native American sites in northeastern Missouri. The sites span several millennia, and comparing how they used particular plants and what changed over time can help fill in details about those cultures.
On March 13, Kristin Hedman of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey presents Who Were Cahokia’s Immigrants? By measuring the element strontium in teeth found at Cahokia Mounds, experts can tell whether a person who lived and died 1,000 years ago was native to the region or immigrated from elsewhere. Her findings suggest at least one-third of Cahokia’s inhabitants were not native to the area.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is just eight miles from downtown St. Louis, in Collinsville, off Interstates 55/70 (Exit 6) and Interstate 255 (Exit 24), on Collinsville Road. The Interpretive Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. There is no admission fee but suggested donations are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $2 for students and $15 for families.
For information, call (618) 346-5160 or go to www.cahokiamounds.org.