Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Geocaching - Digging It!

The view!
It was a beautiful early summer day and we were enjoying a scenic drive along the Illinois river.  Of course we were making the drive more enjoyable and more scenic by picking up a few caches along the way!   A few miles outside of Havana, Illinois we saw a cache that seemed to fit the theme of our day: GC431TT “Just For The View Of It.”  We quickly turned off the highway and took the little gravel road that led to the cache.  After parking the car, the first thing we did was to enjoy the view across the Illinois River valley.  From here we could see lush green fields and the river in the distance…absolutely beautiful!

 However, we were soon distracted from the view by something happening on top of the hill to our left.  Looking up, we saw a man standing up under a tent awning and several nearby tripods with boxes hanging beneath them. As with most geocachers I am naturally curious so I walked up the base of the hill and shouted up, “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing up there?”  “It’s an archaeological dig!” came the reply.  I quickly asked for, and received, permission to climb up and take a look.When I reached the digging site I was greeted by Greg, the team leader.  He explained that they were from The University of California, Santa Barbara as part of the Living with War Archaeological Project. This is the third year of excavations at this site.  In that time they've found remains of two large structures, probably council buildings, as well as numerous dwellings, granaries, and fire pits.  These remains date back about 1000 years ago and from two different Native American cultures, the Oneota and the Mississippian.

As luck would have it, the archaeologists were excavating half of a granary pit that had been backfilled with ancient rubbish.  As I was standing there, the digger in the pit, Brian, held up a jaw bone that he had just unearthed.  They said it looked like a raccoon’s jawbone.  I commented that it looked pretty new to me, but they said that the composition of the soil here kept artifacts in surprisingly new condition….even 1000 year old bones!

The picture to the right shows Brian digging in the granary.  If you look closely in front of him you’ll see pieces of bone, pottery, utensils and other ancient rubbish, just waiting to be rediscovered and turned into an artifact!

I could have stayed here all day, but I had to let the diggers get back to work.  Reluctantly I started to leave but I had one final question.  “What do you do with the site after you’re done,” I asked.  I was stunned to learn that they rebury the site…letting it return to its original use and leaving the remaining treasures hidden below for perhaps future digs and study.

Making new discoveries like this are just one more reason we really dig Geocaching!  (Okay, bad pun, but it fits!)

Note:  If you’d like more information search for “Living with War Archaeological Project” on Facebook.

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