2010 Archaeology Field School

Figure 2: Mississippian bottle from the LGC Hanning Collection.


Lawrenz Gun Club Site (11Cs4)

In 2010, the Department of Anthropology at IUPUI conducted a six-week field school investigating the habitation area of a late prehistoric, Mississippian period site known as the Lawrenz Gun Club (LGC; 11Cs4). LGC is a probable regional center during the Mississippian period, with the most substantial occupation likely dating between the late 12th and 14th centuries.  Located approximately 9 km northeast of the city of Beardstown (see Figure 1), the site is situated in the picturesque floodplain of the Sangamon River as it enters the central Illinois River valley of west-central Illinois.  The excavations were directed by Dr. Jeremy Wilson (IUPUI) with the co-operation and support of Mr. Larry Conrad and Dr. Patricia Anderson from Western Illinois University. 

The class revolved around hands-on instruction in archaeological principles and field techniques. Students were trained in the basic methods of professional field archaeology.  This included methods of excavation, survey, sampling, field photography, mapping, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and preliminary laboratory techniques.  Students were provided with the basic knowledge and techniques necessary to secure future employment in the field of Cultural Resource Management (CRM), a specialized branch of archaeology that works within the context of historic preservation and environmental legislation.  Students that successfully complete the field course can be considered as qualified for entry-level positions with firms and agencies that specialize in CRM. 

Formal lectures, scheduled for the lunch-hour, evenings, and rain days provided background on the Pre-Columbian Period in the Eastern Woodlands and, more specifically, west-central Illinois. Lectures on research design and implementation, field and laboratory methods, and the relationship between “data” and interpretation were also be given.  A series of field trips to prominent archaeological sites and museums in the region were also undertaken.

Participants will be expected to regularly interact with the local community, volunteers, and educational groups during site tours.  Following completion of the field school, opportunities for continued study and analysis in the lab at IUPUI will be provided for interested students.  Those choosing to perform laboratory analyses are expected to present their results at a regional professional meeting with the possibility of a subsequent publication.

Dr. Jeremy J. Wilson

Department of Anthropology

Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

425 University Boulevard

Indianapolis, IN 46202-5140

For additional information, contact:

Phone: 317-274-5787

Fax: 317-274-2347

E-mail: wilsojer@iupui.edu

Research Project & Goals

The Lawrenz Gun Club site is one of a handful of documented Mississippian villages in the valley (Figure 1).  The site is relatively unique given its location on the eastern floodplain of the Illinois Valley.  Most other Mississippian-era towns in the region are found on the western bluffs of the valley in defensible positions with accompanying palisades.  LGC also retains the remnants of multiple platform mounds that fronted the village (Figures 4 & 5).  No other Mississippian period towns  in the central Illinois River valley are known to have had multiple platform mounds.

LGC is well-known for a large cache of 44 Mill Creek chert hoes discovered by a local avocational archaeologist in 1956 (Figure 7), when it was called the Mound Lake site (Miller, 1958).  The ceramic assemblage from the site suggests inhabitation began during the early stages of the Mississippian period in the central Illinois River valley, during which time Cahokia figured prominently in regional politics and development.  However, occupation of LGC extended into the period of Cahokia’s decline, with the majority of ceramics dating between late 13th and early 14th centuries.

Research goals for the field season included 1) determining the configuration, extent, and intensity of the habitation area at LGC, 2) assessing the likelihood LGC was palisaded (i.e., fortified; see Figure 7), 3) the development of a professional map for the site (currently none exists), 4) assessing the site’s chronological position through the excavation and subsequent chronometric dating of structures and associated features, and 5) preliminarily evaluating LGC’s chronological and cultural relationship to more northern and southern Mississippian centers in the valley.  Figure 6 is a 1938 aerial photography of LGC that presents evidence for the existence of a demarcated dense midden/village area enclosed on the northwest and southwest sides by a wall and/or small embankment.

Figure 9: Mississippian plate with sunbursts, circles, and crosses from the LGC Hanning Collection.

Course Structure

Field school ran from Wednesday, May 12th through Wednesday, June 23rd.  This corresponded with the first session of summer classes for IUPUI.  Those non-IUPUI students with Spring semester courses extending beyond May 12th were allowed to join the class late.

The field school was taken for six or four credit hours.  The class was open to both undergraduates and graduates.  Those individuals taking the class for four credits were expected to be there for three of the five days per week (e.g., Monday through Wednesday or Wednesday through Friday).


Figure 1: Mississippian centers (in red) and modern municipalities (in blue) of the central Illinois River valley.

Figure 7: Mill Creek hoe from the LGC Hanning Collection.

Image  courtesy of Dr. Patricia Anderson, Western Illinois University.


Hester TJ, Shafer H, Feder K. 2008. Field Methods in Archaeology (7th Edition). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Miller D. 1958. The Mound Lake Site Spade Cache. Central States Archaeological Journal 4: 96-98.

Figure 11: Partial disk from a catlinite pipe from the LGC Hanning Collection.

Image courtesy of Dr. Patricia Anderson, Western Illinois University.

Figure 8: Chunkey stone from the LGC Hanning Collection.

Image courtesy of Dr. Patricia Anderson, Western Illinois University.

Figure 3: Mississippian jar from the LGC Hanning Collection.


Figure 4: Probable Mississippian period mounds at LGC.


Figure 5: Platform mound with a farmhouse atop it at LGC.


Figure 6: 1938 aerial photo of LGC.

Image  courtesy of Rich Fishel, ITARP

Figure 10: Chunkey stone from the Kingston Lake site.