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MC participating in first annual National Archaeology Day

Barry McNamara
10/17/2011
Students at Monmouth’s Central Intermediate School were able to see and touch some of the arrowheads and other items from Monmouth College’s Native American Artifact Collection. The outreach was part of the college’s celebration of National Archaeology Day.
Participation in the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) first annual National Archaeology Day will be among the highlights of a busy month for the Monmouth College classics department.

The month’s activities will conclude with an Archaeology Lecture by University of Illinois faculty member Shannan Stewart on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Morgan Room in Poling Hall.

On Oct. 22, the AIA will partner with its 108 local societies to host events across the U.S. and Canada for people of all ages and interests. On National Archaeology Day itself, the Western Illinois Society will sponsor a guided trip to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Monmouth College will also host a special display of artifact collections to accompany its Homecoming celebrations that weekend.

The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Ill., lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia.

Once one of the greatest cities of the world, Cahokia was larger than London was in the year 1250. The Mississippians who lived there were accomplished builders who erected a wide variety of structures, from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries.

With funding from the Archaeological Institute of America, the Western Illinois Society is providing free bus transportation from Monmouth to the site and has arranged for a tour by an expert guide. Professional archaeologists from Monmouth College and Knox College will also participate in the trip, which will depart from the Monmouth campus at 7 a.m. The bus will return to Monmouth at about 8 p.m. Participants are advised to take a bag lunch or funds to purchase lunch at the snackshop on site. Seating on the bus is limited and reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting MC classics professor Tom Sienkewicz at tjsienkewicz@monmouthcollege.edu.

The AIA’s Western Illinois Society is also celebrating National Archaeology Day with a number of activities in the days leading up to Oct. 22. Earlier this month, local elementary school students were invited to Monmouth College, where they heard what life is like for archaeologists in the field. They were given a chance to see and hold some of the artifacts held in the two MC collections – the Native American Artifact Collection and the Shields Collection of Art and Antiquities.

On Oct. 14, MC archaeology students took some of those artifacts on the road, showing them to students at Monmouth’s Central Intermediate School.

Free and open to the public, the lecture on Oct. 24 is titled “The Dining Gaul:
Daily Life at Hellenistic Gordion.”

“In the early third century B.C., the Greek world was plagued by tribes of Gauls migrating east from their Danube homeland,” said Stewart, who is a visiting assistant professor of classics at the University of Illinois. “Ancient historians described their barbaric behavior, and ancient sculptors represented their distinct physiognomy in the now famous Capitoline Dying Gauls.

Stewart says that not all Gauls were terrorists. Many found a new and permanent home at the site of Gordion in Anatolia (central Turkey).

“Through recent excavation and research at Gordion, we can now reconstruct one complex and fascinating aspect of the Gauls that did not concern ancient historians or artists – their daily life,” Stewart said.

A non-profit group founded in 1879, the AIA is North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archaeology. It works through local societies that collaborate with the institute in achieving its goal of preserving the world’s archaeological resources and cultural heritage for the benefit of people in the present and in the future.

The AIA has nearly 250,000 members from all walks of life, and this diverse group is united by a shared passion for archaeology and its role in furthering human knowledge. National Archaeology Day is an opportunity for the AIA to promote local and national archaeological resources and events to ensure that people stay informed and connected with archaeological work throughout the year

More information on National Archaeology Day is available at the AIA website at www.archaeological.org. Monmouth College’s AIA contact is Professor Sienkewicz.