Of the millions of artifacts found in cultivated fields and unearthed by archaeologists, only a tiny fraction of one percent of them reveals the appearance of Native Americans. That makes figures like this one especially important. Otherwise, we have very little information about how Native people looked and dressed during the thousands of years of Illinois history that unfolded prior to the 17th century and the arrival of European explorers.
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. She does not appear to be wearing any clothing. Skirts are apparent on other female figurines, while some men appear to wear a loincloth.
While we don’t why this figurine was created, it provides valuable insights not only into how Native people looked and dressed but, even more importantly, how they saw themselves.