Volunteers dig archaeology fever
BY KRYSTIN E.
KASAK The Times reporter
219.548.4353 | Sunday, June 22, 2008
KOUTS | The latest
saga of Indiana Jones might have dug up more than just a crystal
skull. Leaders of a local archaeological dig said it might also be
one of the reasons behind this year's surge in volunteers.
The annual excavation along the historically fertile
near Kouts has drawn interest from a record number of volunteers
this year. Not only is the dig attracting more local residents, but
it also has lured out-of-state and out-of-country volunteers --
coming from as far away as
"We're way in advance of where we ever were in the past,"
said John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical
Society. "We normally get a rush at the last minute but this
year, there's been a steady stream of them coming in."
In addition to the archaeology fever provided by Harrison Ford's
latest flick, the dig might be garnering more interest due to its
recent discoveries and awards, Hodson said.
Since the excavations began in 2003, amateur archaeologists have
unearthed hundreds of thousands of artifacts from
's earliest inhabitants, dating back 8,000 years. Last year's
treasurers included a spearhead dating to about 1000 to 1500 B.C., a
5-cent piece from the early 1800s, animal bones and various historic
and prehistoric pottery.
During the final days of the excavation, diggers also discovered a
large underground structure that Hodson said will be a main focus of
this summer's dig.
has said the structure could be anything from an ice house to a
cabin basement to even a summer kitchen. The first step will be to
find the structure's boundaries and set up units around the
perimeter, Hodson said.
"We just keep coming up with a lot of mysteries," Hodson
said. "The site covers such a wide range of history and so many
great things keep coming up here. We're finding styles of pottery
that haven't been seen before."
Schurr, who heads up the anthropology department at the University
of Notre Dame, publicized this year's dig in the Archaeological
Institute of America. Hodson said he believes it also helped
generate additional interest in the site.
This year's dig is from July 7 to 24. The project will run from 9
a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The only requirement for
participation is to become a member of the Kankakee Valley
Historical Society. More information can be found on the society's
Web site, www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.com.
The Kankakee Valley Historical Society will hold an informational
meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kouts Library about this year's
archaeological dig along the
. A video about the dig will be shown and past volunteers will
answer questions. Officials also will be signing up volunteers for
the excavation, which is from July 7 to 24. The library is at
101 E. Daumer Road
archaeological dig site getting more volunteers
June 17, 2008
BY CHARLES M.
BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent
KOUTS -- Organizers of the annual volunteer archaeological dig on
the Kankakee River at
are getting an unprecedented response to their notices for sign-ups
this year, not only from people, but from
The Kankakee Valley Historical Society, which owns the abandoned
building on the north bank of the river, will host a pair of
meetings in the coming week as part of preparations for the sixth
three-week summer excavation at the Collier Lodge.
"We're all amazed. I don't know if it's the Indiana Jones
thing, or what. We've been getting three or four new volunteers a
week," KVHS president John Hodson said.
Hodson said this year's dig has attracted the attention of
members of the South Suburban Archaeological Society of Homewood,
Ill., a chapter of the Illinois Association for the Advancement of
He said the work crews will include four students from
, where geography professor Ron Janke has arranged college credit
, who has been overseeing the project every year, has also made
credits available to students working at the site.
Graduate students are coming from
, Hodson said.
But most of the workers are amateurs and volunteers. Some have
worked at sites on several continents, while others are teenagers
who had just come to watch and were drawn in by the thrill of
All that's required is payment of KVHS membership dues and, for
those under 18, a release signed by a parent or guardian.
"We have a deal with the Holiday Inn Express in
for suites at a special rate during the dig," Hodson said.
He said he and Schurr are going to
today to meet with state Historic Preservation Officials as the
first step in applying for a grant to write an application for the
lodge to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an
Hodson said Jim Hitz, director of Taltree Arboretum, has asked
the society to set up a booth at Taltree's 10-year celebration on
July 19, during the dig.
"This is a great opportunity for us to develop a strong
partnership with Taltree," he said.
Saturday is the day for a work party at the dig site to clean up
the trailer and field lab that was donated for the project.
Dame professor again will lead Collier excavation in July
CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent
every chair in the meeting room at the Lake County Public Library in
was filled recently for a preview of this summer's archaeological dig at the
abandoned Collier Lodge at Baum's Bridge by
, associate professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the
University of Notre Dame.
and Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson presented a video
on the excavations that are going into their sixth year at Collier Lodge, the
last of the hunting clubs in the former Grand Kankakee Marsh.
45-minute video on the history of the dig, which began in 2003 as an
all-volunteer effort supervised by Schurr under contract with the KVHS, the
professor laid out plans for the 21â2
weeks of field activity at the site in July.
be doing pretty much what I did in the past, managing everything as site
supervisor," Schurr said.
the work will pick up with investigation of what he calls "the
megafeature" uncovered on the last day of the 2007 dig, a corner of the
foundation of what might be a large cabin from the era of French fur traders
in the 17th century, when Europeans first visited the area.
hope to answer the question, 'How big was it?' We will put in new units (dig
new holes) to find out," he said.
said the Collier Lodge site deserves to be on the National Register of
Historic Places, and he will compile an application package with a state grant
grant will allow us to go through state archives in
and research other records," Schurr said.
years, excavations have uncovered prehistoric roasting pits and other
features, yielding thousands of artifacts that might be up to 10,000 years
the first to arrive for the program were Beth Spicknall of
and her sons, Mike, 12, and Matthew, 7, all interested in visiting the dig
is the only place I can work on my archaeology merit badge without going to
another state," said Mike, a member of Boy Scout Troop 45 in
those planning to return to work this summer was Johan Arif, a professor from
who moved to
for postdoctoral studies after joining the 2006 dig. He said he wants to go
back to his country to do similar excavations with what he learns here.
the audience were members of the South Suburban Archaeological Society in
of the volunteers in the video said while she cleaned freshly dug artifacts,
"We don't appreciate our past, but here, you can feel it."
public is welcome to view excavation work at the Collier Lodge site on the
from July 7 to 24.
Release forms and parental permission for those under age 18 are required for
all volunteer workers, who must be Kankakee Valley Historical Society members
and pay one-year dues of $30 per person or $40 for a family. For more
information and times, visit the Web site
Article in "Senior
Life" May issue (click to enlarge) New
Unearthing reveals links to the past
By TIM ASIILEY Staff Writer
Shovel full by shovel full, slowly but surely, the history of an area along
the Kankakee River in
is being revealed.
Each year since 2003, a group led by . lark Schurr, a professor at the
University of Notre Dame and chair of the university s anthropology
department, has been digging for artifacts near the river close to Kouts. The
excavation site is the old Collier Lodge, the last of the Kankakee Marsh
hunting lodge still standing.
The annual dig is a collaboration between Notre Dame and the Kankakee Valley
Historical Society and includes students from
, as well as other colleges. Some of those who participate are experienced in
archaeology, but many are amateurs who are either students or members of the
society and want to experience the process of unearthing artifacts. This year,
the group will be at the site July 7-24.
During the two and a half weeks the amateur archaeologists arc at the
excavation site, they typically put in roughly seven-hour days Monday through
Thursday. "On any given day, about 35 to 40 people will be involved, with
about a hundred people over the course of the season," Schurr said via
a-mail. "The unit leaders and other trained people dig and those less
experienced or so inclined help by screening or washing and sorting
artifacts. Even' day starts with a tour of the site to see what will be
One of the major objectives of the project has been to learn more about the
early inhabitants of
. And much has been accomplished toward that end.
Last year, artifacts discovered included a spearhead dating back to
approximately 1500 B.C., a 5-cent piece from the early 1800s, animal bones
and historic and prehistoric pottery. But just prior to the close of the 2007
dig, a large underground structure. 5 by 17 feet in size, was discovered. This
structure, believed to be the home of the
ferry, will be the focus of the 2008 dig.
Other discoveries have included pottery, which is evidence of a possible
American Indian culture in the
More discoveries are anticipated for 2008, including
animal bones, pottery, stone tools, food remains and garbage pits. Taken
together, these clues will shed more light on the early life of
Digging for and unearthing historical treasures is literally history unfolding
before a person's eyes, so understandably the digs have attracted people front
a wide variety of backgrounds and locations. It is not uncommon, for examples,
to see retirees show up or grandparents bring their grandchildren.
The historical society purchased the property where the excavation site is
located and hopes to restore it for a museum depicting the history, of the
early dwellers of the county. For the time being, the artifacts discovered
will become part of a collection at Notre Dame, but Schurr noted eventually
the artifacts need to be put on display somewhere publicly to tell the story
of the Collier Lodge,
Schurr's efforts have not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, he was presented
the Rodney F. Ganey award. The award is given annually to a Notre Dame faculty
member who is involved in a community basest project which deals with a local
question and involves students and a local organization.
The dig is a public project and visitors and volunteers are welcomed. Though
previous archaeological field work experience is not required to work at the
site, some experienced field workers will be needed this year.
For more information about volunteering, call John or
with the Kankakee Valley Historical Society at 219-766-2302. Information, as
well as applications may also be found online at www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org.
In addition, an informational meeting and sign-up for the dig is planned for
6:30 p.m. June 24 at the Kouts Library,
101 E. Daumer Rd.
Schurr is originally from
and has been teaching at Notre Dame for 14 years. I have been conducting
excavations from grad school when I was studying to be an archaeologist.
Dig leader nets honor for
Dr. Mark Schurr and
family at Ganey Award Banquet
Dr. Mark Schurr and Dr.
Terrence (Terry) Martin at Ganey Award Banquet
Dr. Mark Schurr and
KVHS members at Ganey Award Banquet
KRYSTIN E. KASAK
Monday, March 17, 2008 |
| Thanks to a university professor, people new to
archaeology have been able to participate in excavations along the
. The amateur diggers over the last five years have unearthed thousands of
artifacts while learning about soil types, fossil dating and native animals.
has received a lot of praise for his use of volunteers, and his efforts have
helped him capture a community-based research award this year from the
University of Notre Dame.
Schurr, who heads up the university's anthropology department, recently
learned he is the recipient of this year's Rodney F. Ganey award. One faculty
member earns the distinction each year for a community-based project that
deals with a local question while involving students and a local organization.
Schurr's dig involves a collaboration with the Kankakee Valley Historical
Society each year and repeatedly draws students from various colleges,
including Notre Dame and
. One of the project's aims has been to discover more about
's earliest inhabitants.
Besides students, the dig has attracted people from a variety of backgrounds
and locales, such as retirees, granddaughter-grandfather teams and teachers.
"Everybody who works with Mark is in awe of what they learn,"
historical society official
said. "He's patient enough to teach us, and he doesn't ask any less of
the volunteers than he would of his peers."
Hodson spent about a month putting together Schurr's 13-page letter of
nomination, which included information from the past five years of excavations
and how the project has affected the surrounding region.
Accompanying the award is a $5,000 prize, which Schurr said he likely will use
toward costs of testing artifacts, such as carbon dating and animal bone
Schurr will receive the accolade formally at an award banquet April 2.
dig to resume
CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent
-- Volunteer diggers for the Kankakee Valley Historical Society's sixth annual
summer excavation at Baum's Bridge won't make history when they resume the
ongoing scientific investigation that is rewriting the story of
history (and prehistory) already is there, much of it still buried beneath the
outflow of silt and sand from the glacier that receded more than 12,000 years
ago, leaving behind
and the Valparaiso Terminal Moraine.
president John Hodson said last summer's dig ended in a movie-style
cliffhanger when the outlines of a 5-by-17-foot building foundation were
unearthed at the end of the three-week session led by
, chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.
Schurr calls it the 'megafeature,' " said Hodson in his
home, a mile from the excavation site at the Collier Lodge, the last of the
old Kankakee Marsh hunting lodges still standing. "He's really
excited about this. It's enormous for its time."
society has bought the property in hopes of restoring it for a museum on the
history of the pioneers, French voyageurs, and American Indians who lived and
came here to hunt and trade from all over the continent.
has found pottery unique to the
, evidence of a possible American Indian culture in the
, where now there's a blank spot on the prehistoric map of the
region, Hodson said.
previous years, thousands of artifacts dating as much as 8,000 years have
been unearthed for study, but the sudden discovery of what may have been
the original dwelling for the
ferry that predated Baum's Bridge will have Schurr's crews focusing on the
region's pioneer days.
and Hodson will give several programs on their activities in the area this
spring, including one for the Midwest Open-Air Museums Coordinating Council on
Saturday, March 8, and another at the Lake County Public Library in
on Tuesday, April 29.
said half a dozen responses have been received, even though it's only
February, to notices that Schurr put out on the Internet and in archaeological
really trying to get unit leaders with field experience to work with our
regular volunteers," Hodson said.
students from as far away as
, are attracted by the chance to earn college credit. Schurr said graduate and
undergraduate students can receive credit through the ND summer session
have a girl who has worked at
(near Mesa Verde) in southwest
," he said.
said the project especially needs experienced, full-time field workers who can
be on site for all days of the dig. He said KVHS and Schurr are working to
have Collier Lodge placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the
Kankakee Valley Historical Society's 2008 Collier Lodge Dig is scheduled from
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, July 7 to 24 (weather permitting).
Applications to join the dig can be found at
information about the project is available at www.nd.edu/~mschurr/Collier_Lodge/Collier_Lodge.htm
Archaeological dig set for July
Society seeks volunteers for Collier Lodge project
BY KRYSTIN E. KASAK
Date posted online: Monday, January 28, 2008
KOUTS | Aspiring archaeologists
can now sign up for the sixth annual Collier Lodge dig, which has been
scheduled for July 7 through July 24.
The dig, which is along the historically fertile
near Kouts, routinely draws both experienced and novice volunteers of all
ages. The only requirement for participation is to become a member of the
Kankakee Valley Historical Society.
Past digs have unearthed thousands of artifacts from
's earliest inhabitants, dating back 8,000 years. Last year's treasures
included a spearhead dating to about 1000 to 1500 B.C., a 5-cent piece from
the early 1800s, animal bones, and various historic and prehistoric pottery.
During the final days of the excavation, diggers also discovered a large
underground structure that will likely be a focus of the 2008 dig, said
historical society President John Hodson.
"We just caught it at the very end," Hodson said. "So we really
want to explore that a bit more this year."
Hodson also said the society is looking for anyone with field experience to
serve as unit leaders this summer.
The project will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. To
download the application, log on to kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org/2008digapplication.htm.
"This is just a really great opportunity for people to get an idea of
what a dig is all about," Hodson said.