The Petite Michele Site: An Early Middle Woodland Occupation in the American Bottom

Article excerpt

The Petite Michele Site: An Early Middle Woodland Occupation in the American Bottom. By Andrew C. Fortier with Contributions by Kathryn E. Parker, John T. Penman, Lucretia S. Kelly, Kristin Hedman, and George R. Milner. Transportation Archaeological Research Reports No. 19. Thomas E. Emerson, Series Editor (Urbana: Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004. Pp. xiv, 231. Tables, Illus., app., refs. Paper, $15.00).

The Petite Michele site is located on a sandy ridge overlooking the Goose Lake Meander, an abandoned channel "scar" of the Mississippi River located in the central portion of the American Bottom. The prehistoric site represents a large, multi-seasonal residential camp (probably fall through winter) from the "Cement Hollow phase" of the Early Middle Woodland cultural tradition. The Cement Hollow phase of that tradition dates roughly from 150 B. C. to 50 B. C. Archaeologists at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville conducted investigations at Petite Michele in 1992 and 1993 in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Transportation. The opportunity to excavate the site occurred when a proposed entry and exit ramp and adjacent borrow pit connected to Interstate 255 threatened to disturb or obliterate the entire occupation area. Large-scale excavations identified 86 pit features together with associated ceramic and lithic assemblages. The excavations also yielded botanical and faunal remains. While approximately 100 Middle Woodland sites have been identified in the American Bottom, very few are known to date from the Cement Hollow phase of occupation. Petite Michele is the most extensive Cement Hollow phase site to be explored by professional archaeologists.

The Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program (ITARP) curates the materials recovered in the excavations at Petite Michele. Andrew C. Fortier, the Special Projects Coordinator at ITARP, subsequently analyzed those materials and the field notes compiled by the SIU-Edwardsville field crew. Fortier is the principal author of the present volume published by ITARP, which also includes contributions on archaeobotany by Kathryn E. Parker, on fauna by John T. Penman and Lucretia S. Kelly, a discussion of site chronology based on radiocarbon dates by Fortier, and an appendix on human remains by Kristin Hedman and George R. Milner. Other appendices offer a user-friendly inventory of feature materials and an identification of chert types. A virtue of the research reports published by ITARP is that they are models of archaeological reporting-well organized and as jargon free as can be reasonably expected from a specialized research report. The readers of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society will likely find Fortier's concluding chapter on interpretation to be the most instructive. The author raises several questions regarding the cultural history of the site based on chronology and duration of settlement, land use, community organization, site function, and "local identity markers" reflected in technological practices. The means of subsistence and resource procurement used by the occupants of Petite Michele are summarized, as is the place of the site within a broader regional context. …


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