Learn about archaeology at Macktown Living History and Education Center

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Volunteers in July 2010 help out with the excavation of a rock wall at the site of the William Shores house at Macktown.

Macktown Living History Center, 2221 Freeport Rd. in Rockton, is the home of the first settlement in Winnebago County and dates back to the 1830’s. The national historic site is known by archaeologists and historians as a treasure trove of Native American history.

Dr. Rochelle Lurie, Ph.D, RPA and President of PRI Consulting Inc, is a Principal Investigator for many archaeological projects. Since 1993, Lurie and the field school team of students from nearby colleges have spent numerous summers excavating, identifying and recording the artifacts found at Macktown. 

Macktown is rich with artifacts from both the historic and prehistoric ages.

On Sunday, Sept. 12, from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M., amateur archaeologists will have another opportunity to participate in a dig. Macktown will host Archaeology Sunday, part of the Second Sunday series.

The event is free.

You will find out how archaeologists go about selecting where to dig, and how to set up an excavation site. Participants will participate in washing, screening, sorting and identifying artifacts that have been collected.

On Saturday, Sept.25, from 1:00- 5:00 p.m., Dr. Lurie and avocational archaeologist Peter Czyzewski will conduct an Artifact Identification Workshop at Macktown. Fee is $15.00 for non-members and free for members. 

If you like the idea of unearthing clues to the past, this is an opportunity to learn from experienced archaeologists who will share their knowledge of how to find, identify and record prehistoric artifacts, such as chipped stone tools, ground stone artifacts, and ceramic shards.

You will learn how to determine when they were made, how they were used, and the process of setting up, excavating a site and collecting artifacts.

Participants are encouraged to bring artifacts they have found for possible identification.

Registration for this hands-on workshop is due by September 15, with room for a maximum of 10 people. To register or for more information, email [email protected]. Workshop cost is $15.00/person for non-members, but free for Macktown Living History members

For more information, visit macktownlivinghistory.com.


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Lurie serves on the Board of Directors for Macktown Living History Center, where she has led public programs many times, even some specifically for children. She is a particular expert on the prehistoric Paleo-Indians, who came to northern Illinois after the Wisconsin ice sheet retreated, 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. According to her website, one of her areas of expertise includes "lithic analysis." An expert in "lithic analysis" might be able to tell you if that chip of rock you found in your yard was created a hundred centuries ago when a prehistoric hunter was making a spear point. Or not.

Since 1990, Illinois state law often requires archaeological surveys be conducted before large-scale developments and government projects can begin. That's what Dr. Lurie, who is past President of the Illinois Archaeological Survey (IAS), and her colleagues have often been called to investigate.

Lurie says that some sites intentionally are not fully excavated, to preserve these “non-renewable resources” for archaeologists with more advanced future technology to study later. Even picking up arrowheads from the ground might remove important clues.

Dr. Lurie has worked on artifacts from all periods, including the pre-Civil War Powers Walker house in McHenry County and ancient plant samples for the New Lenox Park District in Will County.

Michael McGinnis assisted with research and reporting on this story.

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