Saint Louis University's 2013 Field School Comes to a Successful End
Mary R. Vermilion, Ph.D.
Archaeology students were engaged in a four week field school at Cahokia Mounds Historic Site from May 19 through June 14. Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Collinsville, IL, was a prehistoric American Indian chiefdom from A.D. 1050 to about A.D. 1350. It is an extremely important site and a laboratory for understanding questions about political/social complexity and how complex social systems come to power and decline.
Again this year, students worked at the Fingerhut Tract of the Cahokia site under the supervision of Dr. Mary Vermilion and assisted by Mr. Richard Young. Assistance was also provided by Teaching Fellow, Rob Jonathan, who was a student in last year's field school. The focus of this year's research was investigation of the tract as a craft specialization area within the chiefdom. Craft specialization was essential during prehistory as a means of reinforcing the authority of the central power.
The footprints of two large structures and a portion of a circular burned structure were excavated. In addition to learning a myriad of archaeological excavation methods, students also learned how to survey, map, photograph, and keep detailed records.
Visitors to the excavations were numerous and our students did a wonderful job explaining the goals of the project and answering questions about excavation techniques. Students demonstrated superior interpersonal skills and an excellent work ethic.
After the field work, the students moved into the lab for two weeks of artifact processing (washing, sorting, inventory) and analysis. Their exuberance and work ethic continued unabated. They did themselves, and Saint Louis University, proud and contributed substantially to the ongoing research at this very important site.