Archaeological study is not only critical to understanding the details of daily life in preindustrial society, but in many cases, serves as our only window into the basic built environment and material world of communities such as those of 17th and 18th century Illinois. While the written record describes certain aspect of French personal and community life, the experiences of the Indigenous residents of the region are almost invisible in that record. Archaeology becomes the only manner to explore village and personal life, and the physical expressions of technology, economy, tradition, and personal practice
The Guebert Site
The Guebert site represents the principal summer village of the Kaskaskia Tribe of the Illinois Nation during the 18th century, circa 1720-1775. The site is known principally through several massive surface collections made by private collectors during the 20th century. These collections are the focus of FICAS' first research volume.
The Morris Birkbeck Estate
“The English Settlement” established by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower in 1817 is well known to historians of the Old Northwestern frontier. The first archaeological investigations at the site of Birkbeck’s 1817 estate were conducted in 2005. These encountered unusually rich and well-preserved archaeological deposits dating to the 1810s and 1820s.
The Kolmer Site
The Kolmer site was the locus of Michigamea village life for at least two generations, prior to its attack in 1752. The actual time depth of the site is unclear, but the 2013 excavation of a large, intact roasting pit produced only late 17th century artifacts. This site is the least understood of the Illinois Tribal villages, and is known primarily from unpublished private collections.
The Cadotte Site on Madeline Island
The Cadotte Site is a multicomponent site (ca. 1600-1650 and ca. 1790-1835) located on Madeline Island, in northern Wisconsin. Associated with both the Ojibwe Tribe and Metis trading families, the site was investigated in the 1960s by Leland Cooper of Hamline University. The results of those investigations were not reported at the time. In 2005, the Sangamo Archaeological Center funded a reexamination of the collections (now curated by the Wisconsin Historical Society), as well as publication. FICAS maintains the 2005 research records.
The Waterman Site
The Waterman site, located near Fort de Chartres, is part of a larger area occupied by the Michigamea Tribe since the late 17th century. The Waterman site itself was probably first settled after a disastrous attack on their nearby village in 1752. The new village was fortified for protection, and included several dozen houses. By 1770, the village was abandoned. Extensive excavations were conducted there in the early 1970s. FICAS is currently preparing a report on the work.
Fort de Chartres
Prior to 2010, the existence of a “third” wooden Fort de Chartres was entirely unknown. Recent archival research, coupled with the re-examination of the archaeological remains of the French fortification known as the “Laurens site” in 2011-12, have completely revised our understanding of the history of this fort and the surrounding community.
Lincoln's New Salem
The town of New Salem was platted in 1829, and was the third Euro-American village to be settled in the “Sangamo Country”. Much of what has been remembered and preserved at New Salem is due to the former presence Abraham Lincoln. Today, the site of New Salem is maintained by the State of Illinois as a replicated 1830s village. After a hiatus of nearly 50 years, archaeology returned to the site in 1995, and four seasons of work were conducted by the Sangamo Archaeological Center. FICAS maintains those research records.
Archaeologists have been looking for traces of the French villages at Peoria since the 1950s. In 2001, research affiliated with roadwork discovered the first archaeological remains of the city’s French heritage. The excavation located a slave’s residence owned by Louis Chatellereau, a French trader. In 2004, the Sangamo Archaeological Center conducted testing at another Colonial-era locale, known as “La Ville de Maillet”. At the base of deep test trenches was found an intact living surface, and artifacts associated with the last years of French presence at Peoria.
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
The Upper Village of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin was established during the first decade of the 19th century and represents a unique Metis and early American community with strong ties to French Canada as well as the Illinois Country. Excavations have been conducted on two village lots, and these encountered remains from three distinct occupations, all dating to the early 19th century.
The Holland Blacksmith Shop
In 1818, blacksmith William Holland settled at what was the northern edge of the Euro-American frontier in Central Illinois, at what would become known as “Indian Point” in Menard County. Here, he operated a blacksmith shop that served not only local settlers, but also the Kickapoo Tribe living to the north. Holland’s blacksmith shop was operated for only a brief time, and he moved north to Peoria around 1820.