Archaeology and Dickson Mounds

Don DicksonDon DicksonIn 1927, Dr. Don F. Dickson, a chiropractor, began an exploration of an Indian burial site on land owned by his father. That work would have far-reaching effects on American archaeology. Using a new technique of uncovering the remains but leaving them intact in the ground for study, Dickson and his relatives excavated a 30 by 60 foot area of the cemetery, exposing the skeletons of 247 Indian burials and their accompanying grave offerings. These were protected under a museum building which, despite its setting in a remote location and its opening during a time of failing national economy, attracted over 90,000 visitors in its first two years of operation. Conducted at the same time as the sensational excavation of Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, these Fulton County excavations immediately attracted national and international attention, including features in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and more scholarly popular publications like National Geographic.

Scientific institutions soon became interested in research in Fulton County; the foremost of these investigations was carried out by the University of Chicago between 1930 and 1934. On the bluff just northeast of Dickson Mounds, located within the Emiquon Preserve , the University established the first formal training program of scientific, problem-oriented, archaeological field research in the eastern United States. Many of the investigative techniques still used in modern archaeology were refined at this unique field school. A contingent of gifted students who received instruction here would go on to become leaders in American and world archaeology. Because of this pioneering contribution to the science of archaeology, Fulton County is often referred to as the “Birthplace of Modern American Archaeology.”

Dickson Mounds MuseumDickson Mounds MuseumA new museum of anthropology was dedicated at Dickson Mounds in 1972, and it continues to be a leading center for archaeological research and interpretation. This facility is one of the premier on-site archaeological museums in the United States. Through continuing research, innovative exhibits, educational programs, field trips, lectures by authorities on a variety of natural and cultural topics, visitors to Dickson Mounds Museum are provided with a unique opportunity to experience the developing story of man in Illinois.

The Dickson Mounds Museum , also a branch of the Illinois State Museum and a National Register Historic Site, offers a unique opportunity to explore American Indian history in an awe-inspiring journey through 12,000 years of human experience in the Illinois River Valley. Visitors to the museum will encounter innovative interpretive exhibits; exciting hands-on activities; archaeological sites; and a variety of special events in a rural setting. The museum is open year-round, daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). There is no admission charge. The Museum is located just off of Illinois Route 97/78 between Lewistown and Havana. Call 309-547-3721 for more information.