Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Researchers prepare for this year’s archaeological explorations at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Man operating ground penetratin radar
Dr. Chad Hill, a post-doctoral fellow at Dartmouth College, works with a robot-borne ground-penetrating radar unit to look for archaeological features at the Middle Grant Creek Site at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. USDA Forest Service photo by Joe Wheeler.

Illinois — The week of June 3, researchers from the University of Notre Dame and Dartmouth College conducted non-ground-disturbing prospection in preparation for this summer’s project at the Middle Grant Creek Site at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie from July 15 through August 9. Scientists worked with ground-penetrating radar, a magnetometer, and thermal and optical imaging to identify possible archaeological features for scientific evaluation.   

Ground-penetrating radar images the ground below the surface to help identify archaeological features. Dr. Jesse Casana and post-doctoral fellow Dr. Chad Hill, both of Dartmouth College, employed thermal imaging and an experimental robot-borne ground-penetrating radar as well as other tools. Click ahead to see video of Hill working with ground-penetrating radar robot.

Since 2016, Professor Mark Schurr and Dr. Madeleine McLeester of the University of Notre Dame have been exploring the site under an Archaeological Resources Protection Act permit.

The Middle Grant Creek Site is an Oneota Culture (ca. A.D. 1150-1700) resource extraction and utilization site, dating to the Huber Phase (ca. A.D. 1600). Phase II testing in 2006 determined that it was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Volunteers with the Passport in Time program work side-by-side Schurr and McLeester as they explore the site’s deep storage pits, which, so far, have yielded unique pottery, animal bones, a shell from Florida, projectile points, painted mussel shells and more.

Those who will be involved in the project will receive hands-on experience with scientific site exploration and screening methods and recording the site information. Together, volunteers and scientists will be looking for evidence of how Huber people lived and interacted with their environment, which is essential to better understanding the land as it is today.