Illinois State Museum

Partner Address: 

502 South Spring Springfield, IL

City, State, Zip: 

Springfield, IL

Partner Phone: 

(217) 782-7386

Stone Mace

stone mace, approx. 7" tall, from southern Illinois
In the early 20th century, a farmer living near Pearl, Illinois, found this object in a cultivated field. About 7 inches tall, the outline of this object is comparable to that illustrated on a marine shell from Oklahoma. It was made from Mill Creek chert, a glass-like stone found in Union County, Illinois, and the same material used to make hoes and so-called dance swords, an object also portrayed in some of the shell engravings.

Emmons Rattle Mask

Image of Emmons rattle mask
Found in Fulton County, the Emmons rattle mask, which dates from the Middle Mississippian Period about 800 years ago, is extremely rare. There has been nothing else like it found in Illinois or elsewhere. Because it is made of wood, probably cedar, the odds of such an object surviving so long are extremely low.

Pottery Bowl

image of pottery bowl  with spoonbill decoration from Pike County, Illinois.
Two thousand years ago, the Native American artisan who created this small clay pot drew an abstract image of what appears to be a bird in the soft clay. What is the meaning of the image? Such puzzles are common in archaeology, and answers generally begin with the phrase "to the best of our knowledge."

Ceramic Figurine

Image of ceramic figurine from Jackson Co
Willie Smith found this elegant, 2,000-year-old fired-clay figurine in Jackson County in 1950. It portrays a woman with a distinctive hairstyle, and she's seated with one leg crossed over the other. It appears that there is no hair on the right side of her head. Hair on the top and left side of her head appears to be drawn together, and what may be a braid extends to her left shoulder. There appear to be circular disks attached to her earlobes. Identified as ear-spools, archeologists have recovered examples of these spools made from bone, stone, and sometimes copper.

Cultivated Plants

Image of several plants cultivated by native people.
Given how crucial they were in the development of North American agriculture, it's ironic that today these plants are considered to be unexceptional. Two of the specimens were collected along roadsides, and one was collected along a railroad right of way. Another is referred to, without ceremony, as a weed. But these plants sowed the seeds of what would be the domestication of plants, a change that laid the foundation for agricultural societies to develop.

Koster Dog

Image of Dog burial
No one knows for sure when wolves and human beings officially began their mutually beneficial partnership, but some of the oldest known domesticated dogs in North America were found at the Koster Site in Greene County. The remains of four dogs were intentionally buried near human burials there about 8,500 years ago.

Clovis Spear Point/Knife

Image of Clovis point
The specimen illustrated here was found in Jersey County, Illinois, near an ancient stone quarry where spear points were made and repaired. It is about four inches long. The shallow groove, or flute, extending from the base of the point made it possible to more securely attach the point to a spear shaft. The point had to be secure.

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