Ancient Village Found Under Illinois Soil

DAMIANSVILLE, Illinois (AP) — Digging crews have found hundreds of 1,200-year-old stone arrowheads and pottery fragments buried under an Illinois hillside.

The discovery near this village about 35 miles east of St. Louis represents an important archaeological find, said Brad Koldehoff, a state archaeologist.

“It’s a significant site. They discovered a keyhole-shaped house and what appears to be a small village,” he said.

“Keyhole” houses are dwellings made of clay and logs with rooms half submerged in the ground. The large, dome-shaped living area at one end was reached by a long, straight, covered entrance, giving rise to the name “keyhole.”

Microscopic examination of debris from their ancient garbage pits shows the inhabitants ate venison and turkey, plus what are today considered weeds. One common dish was a sort of pancake made from the seeds of knot weed.

The village dates from the Late Woodland period, from about 600 to 800 A.D., said Koldehoff.

What is learned from the dig will be integrated with knowledge gained from other finds in Illinois in recent years, including the 2001 discovery of 70 handmade ceremonial stone ax heads beneath a field in Shiloh.

The hillside where the artifacts were found last week was chosen for excavation because the landowner wants to sell its dirt to the state as fill for a nearby highway project. State law requires that an archaeological team search for artifacts and excavate any that might be found.