Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Another Surprise near Cahokia Volume 55 Number 5, September/October 2002
by Bridget Zavala

An unusual array of well-preserved artifacts has been found at the Grossmann site in southern Illinois, a 900-year-old village site 15 miles from Cahokia, the largest Mississippian town yet discovered.

Remarkably well-preserved organic material and unusual artifacts, like assorted charred seeds, wood charcoal, grass, cordage, a possible net, quartz crystals that may have come from as far as Arkansas, and fragments of a figurine have been found in a series of pits at the site. One contained pieces of cordage and matting that may have been part of containers for corn burned in the pit. The artifacts may be evidence of feasting and ceremonial ritual associated with the Busk, or Green Corn Ceremony, a festival to celebrate the harvest.

Interestingly, a large house adjacent to the pits had unusual limestone flooring and deposits of limonite and ocher--sometimes used as pigments by Southeastern groups to paint the body during rituals--suggesting special ceremonial activities took place in this structure. Field director and University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign professor Timothy Pauketat's discovery last year of a cache of 70 axes at Grossmann ("Cold Hard Cache," November/December, 2001) reinforces the idea that the site, once thought by archaeologists to be a simple farming village, may have served as a ceremonial Cahokian outpost.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America