Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Artifact Analyses Dispute Assumptions About A Prehistoric Society

Date:
August 3, 2001
Source:
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Fragments of red stone artifacts – bits of smoking pipes, decorative ear lobe spools and a figurine, all plucked out of rich prehistoric soil in the U.S. Midwest – used to tell one story about the complex culture and the ancient people who left them behind. Now they tell another.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Fragments of red stone artifacts – bits of smoking pipes, decorative ear lobe spools and a figurine, all plucked out of rich prehistoric soil in the U.S. Midwest – used to tell one story about the complex culture and the ancient people who left them behind. Now they tell another.

Related Articles


So say University of Illinois scientists, whose recent mineral analyses of red stone artifacts from Cahokia are upsetting an apple cart of important archaeological assumptions. Among other things, their study shoots down the idea that the great mound-building mecca in what now is southwestern Illinois traded extensively with distant cultures to the northwest.

One of several Middle Mississippian chiefdoms, Cahokia was inhabited from A.D. 700 to 1400, and at its peak at about 1100, it had a population of 20,000. Cahokia was the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico, a culture that seems to have been focused on religion. The new findings about the ancient culture are discussed in the current issue of Plains Anthropologist.

Using X-ray diffraction and spectroscopic analysis, Thomas Emerson, an archaeologist, and Randall Hughes, a geologist, have discovered that most of the red stone fragments found at Cahokia are not made of the rare catlinite stone that originates in western Minnesota, but rather, are a more local Missouri red flint clay. This finding shatters the long-held belief that the presence of catlinite in Cahokia proved that the Cahokian people traded on a large scale with their Upper Mississippi River Valley neighbors. The new tests also show that the catlinite that was found at Cahokia arrived after the great Cahokian culture had disappeared – with Oneota people in the 14th century or with later protohistoric or historic groups in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Extensive trade, Emerson said, "is often touted as an important factor in early civilizations," but, based on the new evidence, such was not the case for Cahokia. "Essentially, our argument is that large-scale political and social complexity does not automatically entail large-scale economic networks."

False assumptions have always colored the study of red stone artifacts in general and red stone pipes in particular, the UI researchers wrote, including the general consensus that all aboriginal red pipes were made of catlinite. Because most investigators have been unable to distinguish between visually similar red siltstones, pipestone and catlinite, they have misidentified most archaeological specimens as catlinite. Moreover, until now, few mineralogical studies of red pipes have been conducted. The new study demonstrates that catlinite is mineralogically different from similar stones in that it doesn’t contain quartz. In their work, the UI team used a new piece of experimental equipment in the field: the Portable Infrared Mineral Analyzer (PIMA), which they are testing under a National Science Foundation grant. "The technique appears to be most useful as a first-line method of mineral identification and in those instances where destructive sampling is prohibited," the authors wrote.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Artifact Analyses Dispute Assumptions About A Prehistoric Society." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010802080753.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. (2001, August 3). Artifact Analyses Dispute Assumptions About A Prehistoric Society. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010802080753.htm
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Artifact Analyses Dispute Assumptions About A Prehistoric Society." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010802080753.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Discovery Of 'Dragon' Dinosaur In China Could Explain Myths

Discovery Of 'Dragon' Dinosaur In China Could Explain Myths

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) A long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period was discovered in China. Researchers think it could answer mythology questions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battle of Waterloo Artefacts Go on Display at Windsor Castle

Battle of Waterloo Artefacts Go on Display at Windsor Castle

AFP (Jan. 29, 2015) Artefacts from the Battle of Waterloo go on display at Windsor Castle to mark the 200th anniversary of the momentous battle. The exhibition includes contemporary prints, drawings and personal belongings of French Emperor Napoleon. Duration: 00:31 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mideast Skull Find Sheds Light on Human Ancestors' Trek

Mideast Skull Find Sheds Light on Human Ancestors' Trek

AFP (Jan. 29, 2015) A 55,000-year-old partial skull found in the Middle East gives clues to when our ancestors left their African homeland, and strengthens theories that they co-habited with Neanderthals. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Say Earliest Snakes Lived Alongside The Dinosaurs

Scientists Say Earliest Snakes Lived Alongside The Dinosaurs

Newsy (Jan. 28, 2015) Wrongly categorized as lizard fossils, snake fossils now show the reptile could have developed earlier than we thought — 70 million years earlier. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins