Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs


News Release

Contacts: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635
Mary Ochsenschlager, St. Charles Park District
(630) 584-1885

July 8, 2003

St. Charles Parks, NIU archaeologists studying
site where ancient spear point was discovered

St. Charles, Ill.-The Contract Archaeology Program at NIU is scheduled to begin an archaeological dig tomorrow (Wednesday, July 9) at Campton Hills Park in St. Charles, where a surveyor more than a decade ago discovered a spear point fragment that might date back as many as 11,000 years.

The St. Charles Park District commissioned the survey of about one-half acre at the popular park. Located at the southwest corner of Peck and Campton Hills roads, the park encompasses about 345 acres and boasts restored wetlands, a dog park and numerous football and soccer fields.

"We have a master plan for Campton Hills Park, and the archaeological study was slated for an area that will someday be our west side community center and nature center," said Mary Ochsenschlager, manager of natural resources for the park district.

"The St. Charles Park District will be very interested in the findings of the archaeological study," Ochsenschlager added. "We feel that the more we know of the natural and cultural history of our parks, the richer the experience. We will no doubt use the information discovered in our interpretations for our nature center visitors and in our nature programs."

NIU archaeologists Karen Atwell and Tom Berres will lead the excavations, which will be completed in about two weeks. Brief tours of the dig site will be offered at 10 a.m. on each of the following days: Tuesday, July 15; Wednesday, July 16; and Thursday, July 17. Archaeologists also will be present to answer questions about the site from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 16 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, July 20. While archaeologists are present, people are welcome to visit the site and can help sift through debris.

The dig site is located on a grassy area south of Campton Hills Road, west of the football fields and entrance drive. In 1990, a private contract archaeologist hired by the Park District discovered the spear point fragment and recommended further archaeological work in the event of future development.

The spear point has been kept at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. It is believed to be a Clovis point, the earliest type of defined projectile point of the Paleoindians, or ancient Indians, of North America. NIU archaeologists are hoping to examine the point this week.

"In 1990, the point was identified as a Clovis, so we just want to confirm that," Atwell said. "We know it has to date between 1,000 B.C. and 9,000 B.C. because this is a pre-ceramic site."

The Paleoindians were one of several migratory groups believed to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia to populate the Americas. Archaeologists have not found skeletal remains of Paleoindian people in Illinois, according to the Illinois State Museum Web site (see link below). Paleoindians did leave behind spear points and other stone tools, however.

Previous Clovis points discovered in the Great Lakes region have dated to between 9,000 B.C. and 8,000 B.C. The points are leaf-shaped and distinguished by a groove, or flute, extending from the base of the point. The Paleoindians were highly mobile hunter-gatherers who used spears to bring down herd animals such as giant bison, mammoth and mastodon.

"We don't know if we'll find any more artifacts," Berres said. "But with the wetland at Campton Hills Park, this could have been a hunting area. One strategy of ancient hunters was to wait until a large animal got bogged down in a mucky area-and then go in for the kill."

The spear point fragment discovered at Campton Hills Park is roughly two inches long and an inch in width. A notched flaked tool and a tertiary flake (a byproduct of stone tool manufacture) also were found at the park.

The discovery of Clovis points and Paleoindian sites is somewhat rare in Illinois, according to Michael Wiant, interim director of Dickson Mounds Museum.

"Illinois archaeologists have recorded approximately 50,000 archaeological sites in the state," Wiant said. "Of these, less than 400 were occupied during the Paleoindian Period. I don't know how many spear points, dart points and arrow points have been found in Illinois, but it must be millions. I suspect substantially fewer than 1,000 of them are Clovis points."

NIU's Contract Archaeology Program has been serving northern Illinois for more than a decade. State and federal laws mandate that large areas earmarked for development must be surveyed for potential historical significance. Private developers and governmental agencies often turn to NIU, which conducts as many as 50 surveys each year.

The Contract Archaeology Program employs a full-time staff of professionals who identify, evaluate and excavate sites of interest. It also offers archaeological opportunities to students.

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