As the excavator carefully scraped their trowel across the unit floor, a subtle yet visible change in the soil’s color and texture appeared, followed by the merest hint of a brightly-colored piece of chert. Would this become a new insight into the prehistoric cultures of the lower Illinois River valley? The excavator continued to work carefully around the perimeter of the artifact…

Excavators Discussing an Artifact

Yes, the excitement of  discovery is very real for archeologists as well as for anyone interested in the science of the past. From that first quickening of the pulse when something is spotted to the moment it leaves the ground, every thought and action is directed towards the meticulous recording of the object’s size, location, and relation to other artifacts in the unit. These moments are well-documented on television, in print media, and online:  the well-groomed archeologist explaining the minute details of the find, the glossy photographs of the artifact, the repercussions of its unearthing, etc.

After the initial discovery, however, comes many weeks (if not months) of processing, cataloging, analyzing and interpreting the significance of these discoveries. For anyone who has participated in archeological laboratory work, you know what we’re talking about! It’s the seldom-witnessed “behind-the-scenes” aspects of archeological research that truly set the stage for our understanding of prehistory.

After the first rush comes the reality: dramatic moments of discovery don’t pay for radiocarbon dating, your lab’s utility bills, or new trowels for next year’s group of students. As we begin this year’s summer excavation season, we’re already looking towards next year’s grant deadlines, conference proposals, program options, and more. Your help is needed to meet our annual fundraising goal of $300,000. With your support, we can keep the excitement of discovery real for future archeologists (and current ones, too!).

Excavating at Mound House

By becoming a sustaining member of the Center for American Archeology, you provide the support we need to do our work year-round. Please consider joining at the level that best suits your budget. We’ve got some great incentives for sustaining donors! For more information, please visit our outreach page at:

Thank you!

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