Day of Archaeology Video from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey

This is a video submission for the Day of Archaeology submitted by the Illinois State Archaeological Survey-American Bottom Field Station (ISAS-ABFS). The primary function of the ABFS is to conduct research based on excavations mandated by law for transportation related projects, and conduct public outreach across the state and region relating our findings.  Since the ABFS’s area of responsibility includes the Metro East communities of St. Louis, Missouri we often have to conduct research related to large-scale transportation infrastructure improvements. This area also includes the Native American city of Cahokia and its related communities, which means that sites ranging the spectrum of very large villages/urban precincts to small farmsteads have to be investigated when they cannot be avoided by the planned construction. Given the scale of many of our past projects we have a large staff at the ABFS and rather than just give you an example of one persons day, I thought it would be good to show you a typical day at our field station. I have provided a link to the ISAS website and the video on Youtube. Enjoy.


Kids Explore Archaeology at Summer Camp

College for Kids is a summer camp program offered by the Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. The program this year included a camp titled Can You Dig It? Adventures in Dirt, which was held at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, Missouri. This camp was designed to teach children about careers like archaeology that involve outdoor adventures and getting dirty. Riverlands staff partnered with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Meeting of the Rivers Foundation, Center for American Archaeology, Principia College, and Cahokia Mounds to provide this year’s participants with a fun and educational experience.

Fourteen children attended camp this year from July 7th to the 10th. Each day they learned about different dirty jobs by playing games and completing fun, yet challenging activities led by Riverlands Park Rangers and guest archaeologists. On the first day they tested their knowledge of pre-history with a game of Jeopardy, searched for artifacts in the strata of a layer cake, and made pottery using Native American techniques.

The following day began with a lesson on the Piasa Bird, a creature depicted in a local Native American rock painting. Afterward the campers traveled to Principia College for a lesson in paleontology. There they had the opportunity to learn about the mammoth dig site and visit the paleontology laboratory. To end the second day, the campers returned to Riverlands for an adventure in geocaching.

On day three, the campers learned about mending pottery by piecing together broken fragments (i.e., sherds) of ceramic plates like jigsaw puzzles. After stretching their legs on a nature hike with a Riverlands Park Ranger, they reviewed archaeology vocabulary terms and raced to find them all in a word search puzzle. The campers also practiced analyzing artifacts and inferring when, where, why, and by whom they were used. To end the day, they played Native American games with representatives from Cahokia Mounds.

On the fourth and final day of camp, the children stayed active with a canoeing trip to Ellis Island where they explored hiking trails and completed a mock excavation. Campers learned about the tools and methods archaeologists use for digging, and then practiced uncovering and recording information about modern, historic, and prehistoric artifacts. Before departing Ellis Island in their canoes, campers shared their findings and discussed archaeological ethics (e.g., what to do when you discover a new archaeological site at a national park or historic site).

Overall, the campers enjoyed their four days of adventure in the dirt. The wide range of activities ensured that there was something for everyone to enjoy, and some activities (e.g., pottery making and plate mending) even provided souvenirs for the campers to bring home and share with family and friends. At the end of camp, the children evaluated their experience to provide feedback for the rangers and guests, which will help to make camp even more successful in the following years. Perhaps a great experience at camp will inspire some participants to become archaeologists, paleontologists, or even park rangers in the future!

To learn more about the programs offered by College for Kids, visit

To learn more about the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and partner organizations, visit the following links:

Making Pottery

Exploring the Outdoors

Excavating Layer Cake

A Day with the Maya

Glyph codesI’m not an archaeologist, but I work with archaeologists to share their discoveries about the Maya with schoolteachers around the world. It all began when my husband and I were researching our Maya-themed adventures (The Jaguar Stones series by J&P Voelkel) and we realized that much of the easily available information about the Maya was out of date. Our books are aimed at middle-schoolers and are often used in classrooms, so it makes sense for us to help teachers access the latest archaeology through our website and free lesson plan CDs. Schools often plan whole semesters around the Greeks or Romans, but that’s harder to do with the Maya – so we spend a lot of time helping to plan cross-curricular units around this great American civilization.

Pyramid buildingToday, for example, we’re writing a website post about a fantastic Maya Day held recently by a middle school in Maine. It was the culmination of weeks of study and we went along to watch the fun. They had arts and crafts, pyramid-building, puppet shows, sporting events, treasure hunts and, of course, some delicious Central American food – including tamales cooked from a recipe in one of our books!

Also today, we’re finishing up some illustrations and back pages for the last book in the Jaguar Stones series, The Lost City, which will be published in February 2015. A lot of the story takes place in Cahokia, an amazing ancient American site just across the Mississippi from St Louis. In AD 1250, the city that stood here was larger than London, England, yet almost no one (except for archaeologists) has heard of it. So now we have a double mission – to share up-to-date discoveries about the Maya and spread the word about Cahokia!

If you’re interested to read about the Maya Day or get a free Maya lesson plan CD, we’re at

Archaeology Curator: Dr. Laura Kozuch

Laura Kozuch at desk. IMG_8496

As Curator at the Illinois State Archaeology Survey (ISAS), I care for the artifacts and documents that describe them and archaeological sites. This means I have to keep a watchful eye on temperature, humidity, pests, and other environmental issues such as rainwater and pipe leaks. I maintain and create databases so that a good inventory is available.

My personal research is on sea shells that were traded to Midwestern and eastern U.S. archaeological sites. These shells were used for beads, pendants, cups, and earrings, and some of them were highly prized for their ideational aspects. I also replicate these artifacts so we can understand what it takes to make marine shell artifacts.

Most of my time is spent answering e-mail requests, handling loans out to researchers, and in from other institutions, as well as donations from private citizens. I also handle requests for image use, and take care of the legalities surrounding copyright issues. I also ensure that artifacts and documents are available to researchers, both for ISAS staff and outside researchers. I spend time moving boxes in and out of our warehouse spaces, in order that proper inventories are done, and to get artifacts for researchers to analyze.

2013 June 19

Another big aspect of my job is to write grant proposals for collections improvement. I got one in 2008-2010 to catalog our Cahokia collections, and another in 2012 to assess our collection needs. I am currently writing two grants: one to catalog our Cook County (Illinois) artifacts, and another to the National Endowment for the Humanities to install humidity control in our collection rooms on campus.

All of this keeps me very busy! But the tasks are so varied that I rarely do the same thing from day to day, and I am never bored. 