Prehistoric man

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PREHISTORIC MAN IN ILLINOIS

 

The population theories of Malthus and the widely accepted scholarly views on the development of prehistoric man are disputed by findings at what may be the most important archaeological site in North America - a farm in Greene County, Illinois.

In 1969, Dr. Stuart Struever of Northwestern University was shown artifacts dating to 1000 A.D. in a field on the Koster farm near Eldred and Kampsville. The site is in the lower Illinois River valley, a natural spot for habitation by early man. Test samples revealed an archaeological treasure -at least 12 cultures (horizons) separated from one another by sterile soil. Horizon 12, the oldest yet excavated, reveals habitation of the site by archaic man almost immediately after the glacial age, 8000 to 10,000 B.C.

Archaic man lived at Koster for 3000 years before the development of agriculture - disputing accepted theories that hunting and gathering man did not build houses and live in communities until he learned to plant crops. The Koster archaic man was peaceful. He had leisure time, but did not use that time for creative activities such as art. At horizon six, 3000 to 2500 B.C., man lived an average of 32 years in what may be the oldest houses in the United States. He suffered from arthritis, tuberculosis, and syphillis, and maintained a stable population in spite of an abundant food supply.

Summer digs at Koster have grown from a staff of 18 to an interdisciplinary effort involving 225 students and professionals. Northwestern University and the National Science Foundation provide 40 percent of the funding, and the remaining 60 percent is raised by private contributions to the Foundation for Illinois Archaeology. Computer technology has been added to the project, already unique for the way in which all aspects of the site are under simultaneous investigation by persons of many disciplines. A total picture of the plants, animals, shells, diets, health, economy, and social organization of each horizon is beginning to take shape.

The archaeologists are in a race against progress. At least 250 archaeological sites have been identified in the Kampsville area, including the Titus site now under investigation two miles from Koster. The sites have been preserved both by natural forces and by the relative isolation of the area. Only 70 miles northeast of St. Louis, Koster has been protected from subdividers and industry by the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Proposed bridges across those rivers, however, threaten to open the area to metropolitan expansion and seal the past forever in cement.

 

 

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