Fermilab History and Archives Project

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NAL's summer archaeologlcal team dig and sift for artifacts at the "Pohl" site near Butterfield road. They include (Left to Right) Tom Dickens, Nancy and Alan Randlov and Ellen Fowler (seated)
NAL's summer archaeologlcal team dig and sift for artifacts at the "Pohl" site near Butterfield road. They include (Left to Right) Tom Dickens, Nancy and Alan Randlov and Ellen Fowler (seated)
(Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL)


DIG THAT LINK WITH THE PAST?

proposal that a yard-by-yard survey be made of the NAL site to discover pre-historic sites was made by Prof. Stuart Struever, a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University. In a lecture at the Curia, Prof. Struever said that no area of the type such as NAL's 6,800-acres in northeastern Illinois ever had been properly surveyed by anthropologists and archaeologists. Much could be learned about buffalo hunting camps, agricultural base camps and transitory Indian tribes that once were apparently present in this region. Prof. Struever believes.

Dr. Struever proposed that, a walking survey be made of the site after development of a tightly-knit grid system so that when a historical item is found it can be known where it was picked up. He urged NAL employees and others who find artifacts on the site to note precisely where they were located so that their discovery can be correlated with other data.

Dr. Struever told the audience that there has been relatively little, if any, systematic exploration of the Fox River Valley by scholars, although it promises to be an interesting sector because of its proximity to high points in land, water and fertile ground. Time is fleeting for archaeological "digs" in this area as suburbia expands and other massive construction proceeds, Prof. Struever said. What has already been dug up, he said, is a "lost area." It would take two graduate students about three months to make the walking survey, he estimated.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 2 No. 4, January 29, 1970

 

DIGGING UP THE PAST AT NAL

Susan Howser

Susan Howser

Early in January, Prof. Stuart Struever, of Northwesten University's department of anthropology, proposed that a yard-by-yard survey be made of the NAL grounds for prehistoric sites. He noted that no area of the type such as NAL's 6,800 acres in north eastern Illinois ever had been properly surveyed by anthropologists and archaeologists. Much could be learned about buffalo hunting camps, agricultural base camps and transitory Indian tribes that once were apparently present in this general geographic region, Prof. Struever suggested.

Dr. Struever proposed that, as soon as the snow left the ground, a walking survey be started of the NAL site after development of a tightly-knit grid system that any historical item that might be found could be identified later as to the precise location of its discovery, etc. He urged NAL employees and others who find artifacts on the site to note exactly where they were located so that their discovery could be correlated with other data.

Ann Early

Ann Early

Through the years, there has been relatively little, if any, systematic exploration of the Fox River Valley by scholars although it promises to be an interesting sector because of its proximity to high points in land, water and fertile grounds. Time is fleeting for archaeological "digs" in this area as suburbia expands and major construction developments such as new factories and highways proceed.

With the encouragement of Dr. Robert R. Wilson, NAL's director, a group of archaeologists from Northwestern University now is conducting a survey of NAL land to locate and analyze remains of prehistoric Indian settlements in the area. To date, they have located a few areas which seem to be small hunting camps, perhaps inhabited for a day or two by a small band of Indians. They are hoping to locate several more as the survey proceeds.

Two of the archaeologists, Ann Early, of Massachusetts, a graduate student advisor, and Susan Howser, are on the site nearly every working day. They would be glad to meet with any NAL staff members to talk about what they have found to date -- and what the prospects are of finding artifacts at a later date. Phase One of their activities will end in the month of June.

Last week, Dr. Wilson issued the following "message to NAL archaeologists:"
"Because the remains from the sites already discovered have been widely scattered and a positive identification of sites is move difficult than under ordinary conditions, the archaeologists have asked for, and I would like to declare, a one month moratorium on collecting activities on NAL land except for certain areas.Those of you who just can't wait and want to do collecting during this period should stop at the Archaeology House (former Mensing Farm on south side of Batavia Road between main gate and village entrance) between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. or 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. any day, to find out what areas are excepted from the moratorium."


Source: The Village Crier Vol. 2 No. 17, April 30, 1970

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THE PAST BECOMES THE PRESENT AT NAL

Ann Early reviews some of the artifacts she has found in her survey of the NAL site.
Ann Early reviews some of the artifacts she has found in her survey of the NAL site.
(Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL)

An informal interim report on the progress of the archaeologic-anthropological "diggings" on the NAL site was made to the Village Crier by Miss Ann Early, of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Miss Early, studying for her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, after graduating from Beloit College (BA) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (MA), led a survey of the grounds to locate, analyze and store remains of pre-historic Indian settlements in the NAL area.

So far, 18 or 19 sites of Indian occupation have been uncovered on the NAL's 6,800-acre site. Miss Early reported. "We are about two-thirds completed in our survey," she said, "and we are hopeful of locating even more settlement areas."

Miss Early completed her area-by-area investigation of the NAL site July 15. By September 15 she hopes to have completed a report for Robert R. Wilson, NAL director, and Professor Stuart Struever, of Northwestern University's department of anthropology. It will cover what has been found and offer suggestions on whether further investigations should be conducted by qualified scholars on the NAL site.

"I am pleased by what we have found," said Miss Early. "Actually, we have discovered more than we expected to locate on this site. All of the artifacts have been washed and are being catalogued and stored in the Mensing farmhouse on the site. A number of our discoveries are quite old and require further analysis," she said

Miss Early's colleague at the beginning of the study was Miss Susan Howser, of Salem, Oregon, a junior in anthropology at Northwestern. Miss Howser left her assignment to join Professor Struever and other students in a similar expedition on the Illinois River area near St. Louis.

In the last fortnight, some of the many artifacts collected by Miss Early were stolen by a thief or thieves who entered a building on the site in which they had been stored. Several bags and boxes of specimens were taken. An electric typewriter also was stolen. The FBI has been called in to investigate the theft.

It is understood, however, that Miss Early had taken precautions against such an event by photographing some of her more Important finds as well as putting the major portion of her archaeological specimens that she had been unearthing on the NAL site, in another place for safe-keeping. Rudy Dorner, NAL Site Manager, said that most of the artifacts taken in the burglary appeared to be of relatively little value in the context of the scholarly work being done by Miss Early under the direction of Professor Struever.

Typical of the relics uncovered by Archaeologist Ann Early are these Indian points found In the southwestern corner of the NAL site. Some of the arrowheads are believed to be from the middle woodland culture period which dates from 0 A.D, to the 18th century
Typical of the relics uncovered by Archaeologist Ann Early are these Indian points found In the southwestern corner of the NAL site. Some of the arrowheads are believed to be from the middle woodland culture period which dates from 0 A.D, to the 18th century
Other points found on the former Bartelt property are relics of first century occupants. It is believed that the NAL site has been occupied by several different cultures
Other points found on the former Bartelt property are relics of first century occupants. It is believed that the NAL site has been occupied by several different cultures.
(Photos by Ann Early)

See the arrowhead collection for more photos.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 2 No. 30, July 30, 1970

PROFESSOR STRUEVER SPEAKS TO NALWO

Mrs. Isabel Walker, President, NALWO

Mrs. Isabel Walker, President, NALWO

The hope that the NAL site again will be the locale of an intensive archaeological search in the summer of 1971 was expressed by Prof. Stuart Struever. Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University, in a lecture sponsored by the NAL Women's Organization.

About 100 persons attended Prof. Struever's seminar, held in the NAL Village Barn. It was the first Fall meeting of 1970 for the group, and was preceded by a tea.

Prof. Struever outlined the historical background and the intensive efforts of two students, Miss Ann Early and Miss Susan Howser, whom he supervised, in conducting a survey of the NAL grounds for pre-historic sites. He pointed out that "this was the first time in the history of archaeology in the Middle West that a small area was given a foot by foot scrutiny by trained observers for artifacts and clues as to the possible location of early life." For weeks the two co-eds walked over portions of the entire 6,800-acre site.

Prof. Stuart Struever addresses NALWO group in Village Barn

Prof. Stuart Struever addresses NALWO group in Village Barn

Prof. Struever reported that the Summer, 1970, search apparently uncovered some 24 pre-historic sites on the NAL grounds. Of those, he said, it is believed that about 14 belonged to the Archaic period, (the era from about 7,500 B.C. down to about 1,000 B.C. in which man primarily was a hunter-gatherer).

Four more sites were related to the Woodland era, which began about 1,000 B.C. In addition, Struever said, some eight to 10 sites appear to belong to the Mississippian period (800 A.D. to about 1,600 A.D., the beginning of recorded history in this sector).

Prof. Struever pointed out that the opportunities for archaeological investigations in the Chicago metropolitan area are diminishing year by year as the earth is being turned over for new homes, highways, and other modern developments. "I am pleased by the Laboratory's interest in its humanistic background," he said.

Prof. Struever was introduced by Mrs. Isabel Walker, President of NALWO.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 2 No. 43, Oct. 29, 1970

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ARCHAEOLOGIST TO TELL OF NAL SITE FINDINGS

In a former Kane County cornfield, not far from the main parking lot at the Central Laboratory, is a site that has been marked by archaeologists as "Early Archaic - 7,000 B.C. to 4,000 B.C."

On the map of the archaeological diggers, developed under the direction of Miss Ann Early, the area is known as the "Frog Site" because the "A. Frogg Farm" was located there. It is one of the 24 sites on the NAL's 6,800 acres where evidence of early man's wanderings have been discovered after days of patient research by scholars.

In her report of 1970 activities on the NAL site. Miss Early, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, observes:

"The National Accelerator Laboratory site has been occupied occasionally since approximately 7,000 B.C. Cultural material recovered from the archaeological occupations on the site demonstrates the presence of at least four major prehistoric cultural traditions at the NAL site. These range from the Early Archaic cultural tradition through the Upper Mississippian era. A later tradition, early Historic, is also represented."

Ann Early (L.), leader of NAL summer archaeological "dig", leads group in sifting the artifacts. With her are Bill Kneip and Pam Eskey. Note trunk at left side of photo for safe-keeping of their "finds"
Ann Early (L.), leader of NAL summer archaeological "dig", leads group in sifting the artifacts.
With her are Bill Kneip and Pam Eskey. Note trunk at left side of photo for safe-keeping
of their "finds"

Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL

Miss Early goes on to say that the extent and intensity of each of the prehistoric NAL land occupations varies considerably. The most frequent occupations occurred during the "Archaic" (7,000-4,000 B.C.) and "Upper Mississippian Langford"  (1300-1600 A.D.) periods. In contrast, "Woodland" occupations (2,500 B.C.-500 A.D.) are small in number; they are restricted to certain areas of the NAL property and represent brief trips for hunting or nutgathering from larger, more permanent settlements found along the banks of larger rivers in Illinois.

During the spring and summer of 1970, a small team of archaeologists, including Miss Early, surveyed the NAL property for evidence of Indian cultures. All were from Northwestern University and were students of Prof. Stuart Struever.

Their initial report noted that "our attention was first drawn to NAL because several employees had discovered arrowheads and other chipped stone tools which were lying in plowed fields in various areas of the site. This material was evidence that at some time in the past, groups of Indians had once visited, and perhaps lived on, NAL property."

During three months in the summer of 1970, walking over all of the plowed land on the NAL property, the group recorded the location of the stone tools, potsherds, and other artifacts they discovered. Twenty-four sites were located during the 1970 survey and a quantity of individual or "stray" artifacts was collected and recorded from non-site areas.

Analyzing the evidence of the oldest occupation. Miss Early states, "The most intensive Archaic activity appears to have been carried out around the small ponds in the southeast corner of the property. Evidence indicates that small groups of Archaic peoples repeatedly visited this area and established living areas around the ponds while they engaged in hunting activities and in gathering and processing plant foods."

Following a sporadic occupation during the Woodland period, the site was occupied again shortly after 1200 A.D., when members of the "Langford" culture began exploiting the area. The Langford tradition seems to have been centered in Northern Illinois, along the Illinois River, and such sites present distinct types of pottery and bone and shell tools, and ways of burial. A dense oak-hickory forest which once covered the western portion of the site provided locales for a different kind of hunting and nut-gathering activity by the Langford inhabitants.

Miss Early returned to NAL early in the summer of 1971 to continue her "dig" and she had a number of young men and women working with her including: Allen and Nancy Randlov, graduate students at the University of Massachusetts; Michael Boyton, graduate student at Chico St. College, California; and David Hinterberger, Cathy Thompson, Mary Fowler, Pamela Eskey, William Kneip and Thomas Dickens.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 31, August 5, 1971

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A GLIMPSE AT 8,000 YEARS OF HISTORY

"He lives twice who can at once employ the present well and even enjoy the past..."

Some of the tools used by people inhabiting the land of the National Accelerator Laboratory over the past 8,000 years returned for a brief visit on Wednesday, November 22, Mr. August Mier of Batavia brought his unique collection of over 900 pre-historic artifacts to the Laboratory, picked up in over sixty years of walking the grounds which are now part of the world's largest facility for the study of subatomic particles.

As the prairie land was cleared for farming in the late 1800's, plows turned up many of the objects that had been hidden so long. Many people, like Mr. Mier, began to collect the strange souvenirs - pieces of bone and pottery, tools, and the arrowheads used for hunting by the ancient peoples. Many of the pieces are works of art, in stone, slate, and metal.

One of Mr. Mier's prized sets of arrowheads he calls Fox Valley Clipped Wings - small, precisely-shaped points with delicate serrated edges. "I don't think these were used for hunting," he says. "They are too fragile. They were either used in ceremonies or to demonstrate the skill of the maker. They are very rare."

Stone tools of prehistoric people found on NAL site by August Mier over the past sixty years
Stone tools of prehistoric people found on NAL site by August Mier over the past sixty years
August Mier (center), Ed Brezina (L) , and George E. Ruchty of Hinsdale, who also collects artifacts
August Mier (center), Ed Brezina (L) , and George E. Ruchty of Hinsdale, who also collects artifacts

Mr. Mier mounted his collection on bright-colored foam material inside stainless steel frames 9 inches x 12 inches. He arranged the points in a variety of designs, grouped according to the location where he found them. Each piece is labelled with the date of finding which coordinates with a master log book Mr. Mier maintains. He walked most of the twenty-five mile area around Batavia, an exercise he began after an injury he suffered in World War I threatened to disable him.

In 1971 Mr. Mier loaned a portion of his collection to Miss Ann Early, an archaeologist who spent two summers studying the NAL site. His careful recording of the locations of his findings allowed Miss Early to identify thirteen additional sites where life had previously existed. Miss Early found that Mier's collection included samples of seven cultural traditions dating back to 7,000 B.C. Mr. Mier's collection was carefully photographed for inclusion in NAL's historical records.

The relics represent not only glimpses into the life styles of those people who roamed so long ago, but also Mr. Mier's recollections of the past sixty years and the people who settled the prairies of the NAL site. As a youngster wandering the fields, he listened to tales that were told of wood cutters in the NAL "Big Woods" levelling by hand walnut trees four feet in diameter that were then shipped from Chicago by boat to England. Another group of men told of an oak tree on the Griffith property eight feet in diameter that took two weeks to cut down.

"It was a time when there were flocks of quail and prairie chickens here. The swamps had geese, ducks, plover and snipe. Some had fish, and I have seen many strings of yellow-bellied bullheads caught there. Turtles were a nuisance, and some days logs were loaded with them, sunning themselves," Mr. Mier recalled.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 4 No. 39, November 30, 1972

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9,000-YEAR-OLD ARTIFACTS TELL FERMI SITE'S PREHISTORIC HERITAGE

"August Mier Collection" as originally installed on the l5th floor of Wilson Hall
"August Mier Collection" as originally installed on the l5th floor of Wilson Hall

Augie's artifacts have come home.

Arrowheads, stone tools, and shards of pottery left on Fermilab's site 7,000 years before Christ comprise a new public exhibit.

"Augie" is August Mier, 86, a retired Batavia resident. The permanent display - about 100 items - represents 80 years of artifact collecting by Mier. In March 1978 he donated to Fermilab many pieces he discovered while walking the Fermilab 6,800 acre site over eight decades prior to the beginning of construction in 1968 of the world's largest research center for studying subatomic particles.

A portion of the exhibit is titled "The August J. Mier Collection," housed in wall-mounted showcases. The collection is located in the south corridor of the Central Laboratory's l5th floor.

Display panels in the Mier collection contain a photo and brief biography of Mier and a map showing 17 Fermilab sites where he discovered artifacts. Three panels feature 9" x 12" stainless steel frames containing pieces mounted by Mier on brightly-colored foam.

Another portion of the archaeological exhibit explains the findings of a study group headed by Dr. Ann Early. In the summers of 1970 and 1971, during construction of Fermilab, Dr. Early and a small group of students focused on five sites which revealed identifiable artifacts of prehistoric residents on the Fermilab site. The findings are explained in detail in a written study prepared by Dr. Early. A copy is available in the Fermilab Archives.

Dr. Ann Early
Dr. Ann Early:
Archaeologist who excavated Indian
camp sites at Fermilab

Earliest occupants of the Fermilab site, she said, were in the Archaic culture - 7,000 to 1500 B.C.; later cultures included the Woodland period, 1500 B.C. to 500 A.D., and Upper Mississippian, 1300 A.D. to 1600 A.D. Examples of the relics which led to her conclusions are shown in one cabinet of the exhibit. Miss Early, with the Arkansas Archaeological Survey at Henderson State College in the early 1970s, served as a consultant during the collection's preparation.

Mier previewed the exhibit in early June 1978. He said that Fermilab provides a suitable location for history buffs to learn about early area natives through his collected artifacts.

His scavenging efforts began, he said, to earn money for school supplies. Over the years, he estimated that he collected more than 6,500 arrowheads. The date, location and condition of each find was recorded in a log book.

Mier specialized in hunting "clipped wing" arrowheads. The points were triangular blades with wing-shaped edges. Because poison was sometimes applied to the edges by Indians, the arrowheads are also called "poison points."

For prospective arrowhead hunters, Mier recommended searching on high ground or near water - typical Indian campgrounds. The expert said arrowheads will be uncovered in Batavia area fields for the next 200 years.

The exhibit is a permanent addition to the tour facilities at Fermilab. It is open without charge to self-guided tourists.

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AUGUST MIER

August Mier

A native of Batavia, August Mier was born in 1892. The lifelong area resident was an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist since age 6. He collected many archaeological artifacts locally and across the United States.

One of his favorite areas for hunting arrowheads was on and around what has become the Fermilab site. It has yielded a rich collection of artifacts, evidenced in the display which he assembled for the Laboratory. His collection of ceremonial projectile points is outstanding in both quantity and beauty.

Previous landowners and tenants of the Fermilab site also assembled collections; many site locales have been carefully combed over the years by other area residents and amateur collectors.

Mier had long been interested in both the ancient and modern history of the area. He was almost solely responsible for the preservation of the Pioneer Cemetery also on site. General G. Thompson Mead, a veteran of the War of 1812, is buried there.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 8, June 29, 1978

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