2015 IUPUI Archaeology Field School at the Mississippian-era Lawrenz Gun Club Village

The IUPUI Department of Anthropology’s Archaeology Field School (ANTH-P 405) will be returning to the central Illinois River valley of west-central Illinois in the summer of 2015 to continue our investigations at Lawrenz Gun Club (11Cs4), a fortified Mississippian period village (AD 1175-1325). The site is located along the lower Sangamon River in the southern half of the central Illinois River valley approximately nine kilometers northeast of modern-day Beardstown (Cass County, IL). LawrenzRegionalMap (2)Between Monday, May 18th and Friday, June 26th, undergraduate and graduate students from IUPUI and elsewhere are encouraged to join our multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, geomorphologists, geoarchaeologists and geochemists from various units at IUPUI and IU-Bloomington. Students in our field school will learn how to 1) conduct various geophysical survey and geoarchaeological sampling techniques (e.g., solid-earth cores, magnetometry, surface collecting, ground penetrating radar [GPR]), 2) document and map deposits, features, and occasional surface finds, 3) understand the relationship between the built landscape of the site and the geomorphic properties of the larger landform, 4) describe and characterize sediments and soils, 5) perform excavations of burnt structures and defensive features on site, and 6) identify Mississippian pottery, tools and other elements of material culture.

Excavations in 2015 will focus on 1) the series of fortifications that encircled the village and 2) the sampling of a series of burnt structures previously detected during geophysical investigations at Lawrenz Gun Club. Instruction and training will be provided on equipment commonly used in modern archaeological investigations, such as gradiometers and GPR, as well as pedology, micromorphology and geoarchaeology techniques. In doing so, students will start to think creatively about how the diverse methods and techniques learned can be applied to the range of research and30 applied contexts they may encounter during their careers from natural and cultural resource management through transdisciplinary topics such as climate & ecological change, the societal impact of warfare, and the Anthropocene. Importantly, students will gain a solid foundation in field research techniques and methodologies. They will also form professional relationships with faculty and fellow students that will serve them for the rest of their careers. For interested and dedicated participants, opportunities to present the summer’s research findings at regional archaeological conferences will also be provided.

Registration for this six-credit course (i.e., ANTH-P 405: Field Work in Archaeology) can be accomplished through OneStart for undergraduates and graduates currently enrolled at any Indiana University campus. For those currently enrolled at another institution in Indiana (e.g., Purdue, Ball State) or elsewhere, enrolling in ANTH-P 405 is a straightforward process achieved through IUPUI’s Non-degree Admissions page here: http://enroll.iupui.edu/admissions/nondegree.html. If any issues should arise during the registration process, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Wilson via email (wilsojer@iupui.edu). Following course completion, the transfer of these credit hours back to your home institution is easily accomplished. Importantly, IUPUI is continuing to offer a 25% discount on all Summer Session I & II courses in 2015. IUPUI’s Office of the Bursar maintains an online calculator here: http://bursar.iupui.edu/apps/summercostestimator.aspx, so that current and prospective students can estimate the cost for these discounted summer sessions. Generally speaking, undergraduates that are residents of Indiana can expect to spend circa $1,300 for the six credit hours. 36Lodging will be provided at the Panther Creek Lodge in Ashland, IL, which is roughly 20 minutes from the site. The lab fees associated with your enrollment in the class cover the lodging, transport to and from the site, and associated field equipment expenses. Please contact Dr. Wilson for an estimate on weekly food costs. Individuals tend to make their own breakfast and lunches for the field, while dinners are cooked on a rotating basis by all students, staff and faculty involved in the project. Lawrenz Gun Club is located in a relatively rural area of west-central Illinois, approximately an hour west of Springfield, IL. Participants in the field school are welcome to stay at the lodge in Illinois on the weekend or travel home by personal car. It is approximately a four-hour drive from Indianapolis. Participants will be expected to sign a “Code of Conduct” agreement at the beginning of the field season that applies to their behavior and interactions both at the archaeological site and while staying at the field house.

Archaeological Context

During a critical period of socio-political instability, interpolity warfare, concurrent contact with an exogenous Oneota population, and probable climate change, the goals of this research are to understand how the community at Lawrenz Gun Club 1) coped with persistent threats and potential resource shortfalls, 2) transformed the local landscape with the construction of fortifications, a plazaLawrenzSurvey and earthworks, and 3) negotiated the dynamic and interwoven social, political and religious terrains. Particular attention will be paid to the organizational pattern of the community, chronological association between mound, village and palisade construction episodes, and the function of the mounds and plaza in the civic and ceremonial lives of community members. These research questions will necessitate the collection of a diverse data from a range of contexts on site. These archaeological investigations will be conducted concurrently with our National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program (https://www.indiana.edu/~angelreu/cms/) that is examining the spatial and temporal relationships of demographic change and warfare on the Prairie Plains of west-central Illinois.

Over the past four years, our research team has learned a great deal about Lawrenz Gun Club and its relationship to other regional and macro-regional phenomena. Contrary to many of the other Mississippian villages situated on the western bluffs in the region, Lawrenz Gun Club is in a relatively unique physiogeographic location on the eastern floodplain of the Illinois Valley and abutted a channel of the lower Sangamon River (which drains most of central Illinois east of the site). Our geophysical research and subsequent excavations have revealed that the village was protected by palisades and associated bastions on the north, west, and south sides, each in excess of a quarter kilometer in length (with the Sangamon River to the east). Lawrenz Oblique DEM x5These defensive features, first constructed between AD 1175 and 1225, resulted in a protected village close to eight hectares in size. Within the walls of the village, our investigations have revealed a dense settlement and sequence of deposits extending 1.5 to 2.0 meters below the modern ground surface. At the center of the village was a large plaza fronted by a series of earthworks that we believe to have served as platforms for structures of civic and ceremonial importance. Between these earthworks and the village’s walls, we have detected a series of rectangular magnetic anomalies indicative of Mississippian-era structures, including houses ranging from four to eight meters in length on a side. Two of these archaemagnetically detected structures have been sampled to date. Intriguingly, both were incinerated, leaving behind a rich material culture assemblage beneath the burnt structural elements (i.e., roof/walls). Furthermore, the two structures have indistinguishable radiocarbon dates in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, suggesting village conflagration shortly before site abandonment. We will continue to test this hypothesis in 2015 and encourage you to consider joining our research team.

Over the next several weeks, additional photographs of the Lawrenz Gun Club artifact assemblage Figure2will be posted to this site as Dr. Wilson’s research assistants’ process, categorize and analyze the material culture from units excavated during the 2010 and 2014 field seasons. Please feel free to return to this site to receive updates. All photos and captions associated with the images on this webpage can be used for personal and educational purposes, but please refrain from using them in scholarly publications. For additional details, contact Dr. Wilson (wilsojer@iupui.edu).


Jeremy J. Wilson (Field School Instructor & Project Director, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at IUPUI); Research interests: late Pre-Columbian societies of the Midwestern and Southeastern U.S., archaeological demography, bioarchaeology, archaeometry and quantitative modeling

William Monaghan (Research Scientist in the Indiana Geological Survey at IU-Bloomington); Research interests: geoarchaeology, earthwork construction, site formation processes, and sedimentology

Matthew Pike (Research Scientist & Resident Geophysicist; Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University); Research interests: Mississippian societies, archaeological geophysics, spatial analysis, landscape archaeology, and Alaskan & Arctic archaeology

Edward Herrmann (Research Scientist & Research Scientist in the Department of Geological Sciences at IU-Bloomington); Research interests: geoarchaeology, subsistence technologies, landscape utilization, site predictive modeling and taphonomy, and lithic analysis

Mark R. Schurr (Research Scientist & Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame); Research interests: archaeology of Eastern Woodlands, geophysical survey techniques, analytical chemistry, stable isotope analysis and fluoride dating


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