Islands in the Stream: A GIS Study of Prehistoric Ritual Landscapes Within Southern Illinois


Native Americans recognized unique natural features as representing parts of ritual landscapes imbued with power that also contained cultural elements including rock art and mortuary sites. One such landscape within Illinois consists of a three mile long isolated bluff segment located on the now-drained Mississippi River floodplain that prehistorically was surrounded by a mosaic of lakes, ponds, and swamps. In this paper we use GIS, LIDAR, and archaeological data to reconstruct the ancient lacustrine environment and the relation of prehistoric rock art, mortuary, and habitation sites to each other, the bluff, and the now-vanished natural landscape in which they once were contained. In combination these date indicate that the bluff, which would have appeared as a mound-like landform extending skyward out of the Mississippi River during periods of intense flooding, represented a loci of ritual activities in southwestern Illinois for over 2,000 years from the Middle Woodland to Mississippian periods.

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Cite this Record

Islands in the Stream: A GIS Study of Prehistoric Ritual Landscapes Within Southern Illinois. Mark Wagner, Kayeleigh Sharp, Go Matsumoto, Mary McCorvie, Heather Carey. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395178)


Gis Landscape Rock Art

Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;