Map of the Beloit College mounds published in Increase A. Lapham’s book Antiquities of Wisconsin (Smithsonian Institution, 1855), based on an 1852 survey by Beloit College science professor Stephen P. Lathrop.
This week as you walk across campus, you might find yourself wondering what Dr. Shannon Fie and her students are doing with pin flags, measuring tapes, and strange-looking electronic instruments. They are working with Jarrod Burks, director of archaeological geophysics at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc., conducting surveys of the campus Indian mounds.
The Beloit campus features 20 conical, linear, and effigy mounds built between about A.D. 400 and 1200. Similar mounds are found throughout southern Wisconsin and surrounding states. They were built by Native Americans identified by archaeologists as Late Woodland people. These people may include ancestors of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people and other tribes.
Geophysical survey techniques such as magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar identify, measure, and map underground anomalies and patterns that may indicate ancient features and deposits. Being able to “see” beneath the surface without disturbing the ground allows archaeologists and property managers to learn a great deal about mounds and entire landscapes without any digging. The use of geophysical tools is on the rise as computing power, data storage capacities, and accessibility to instrumentation have increased and as interest in site documentation and preservation has grown.
The Logan Museum houses material excavated from various parts of campus, including the mounds (when mound digging was more common, and legal). However, documentation on most of those excavations is relatively sparse. This week’s geophysical survey will provide much-needed contextual information on the mounds, their contents, and their surroundings.
Support from these sources has made the survey possible: the department of anthropology, the Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit College Physical Plant, the Labs Across the Curriculum initiative through the Program and Professional Development Committee, and the Sustainability Leadership Committee.
To help the campus community learn about new archaeological discoveries from geophysical surveys, Burks will discuss his work at some of Ohio’s most iconic ancient earthwork sites including Serpent Mound, Hopewell Mound Group, and Fort Ancient. Please join us for his presentation, Archaeology’s Geophysical Survey Revolution: Rediscovering Ancient Earthworks in the Ohio Valley on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. in room 150, Center for the Sciences. The talk is cosponsored by the Three Rivers Archaeological Society, a chapter of both the Illinois Association for Advancement of Archaeology and the Wisconsin Archeological Society. Map of the Beloit College mounds published in Increase A. Lapham’s book Antiquities of Wisconsin (Smithsonian Institution, 1855), based on an 1852 survey by Beloit College science professor Stephen P. Lathrop.