Dickson Mounds

Dickson Mounds
Dickson Mounds
Nearest city: Lewistown, Illinois
Governing body: State
NRHP Reference#: 72000457
Added to NRHP: May 5, 1972[1]

Dickson Mounds is a Native American settlement site and burial mound complex near Lewistown, Illinois, is located in Fulton County on a low bluff overlooking the Illinois River. It is a large burial complex containing at least two cemeteries, ten burial mounds, and a platform mound. Dickson Mounds was founded by 800 CE and were in use until after 1250 CE. The site is named in honor of chiropractor Don Dickson, who began excavating it in 1927 and opened a private museum that formerly operated on the site.[2]

The Dickson Mounds Museum is a museum erected on the site in 1972 by the U.S. state of Illinois; it describes the life cycles and culture of Native Americans living in the Illinois River valley over a period of 12,000 years since the last Ice Age. The museum is part of the Illinois State Museum system.[3]


Native life site

Ogden-Fettie Mound Group

While the members of most hunter-gatherer cultures travel extensively or even practice a nomadic lifestyle, the exceptional productivity of the Illinois River valley in fish, shellfish and game made it possible for semi-permanent settlements to develop. Archaeological examination of these sites have generated significant insights into the living conditions of Native Americans over time and the levels of technology they possessed.

A large parcel of the adjacent river bottomland is undergoing preservation and ecosystem restoration as part of the Emiquon Project. The Emiquon wetlands generated much of the food eaten by the people who lived on or near this blufftop site.[citation needed] In 2009, an excavation by Michigan State University turned up shards of pottery, arrowheads and the foundations of houses and other structures that date back to about 1300 CE.

Some of the people who lived here were actually buried in Dickson Mounds itself. Their skeletons were excavated and displayed to the public from the 1930s until 1992, when in a controversial move the burial display was resealed due to Native American concerns.[2] It is estimated that there are at least 3,000 burials at this site. The earlier burials were in mounds, while later burials were in cemeteries.[citation needed] "One group of four Mississippian people buried together appear to have been sacrificed at the Dickson Site" (Archaeology of Native North America, 2010, Dean R. Snow, Pennsylvania State University)

After the sealing,the museum was renovated as a series of galleries that attempt to portray the history of the site. For example, the River Valley Gallery exhibition attempts to depict indigenous life patterns here since the close of the last Ice Age, while the "Reflections on Three Worlds" Gallery exhibition attempts to describe how scholars have used archeological findings to generate inductive evidence on the residents' life and culture.[3]


The site was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1972.[1]

See also

  • List of Hopewell sites
  • List of Mississippian sites
  • List of burial mounds in the United States


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  2. ^ a b "History". State of Illinois. http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismsites/dickson/history.htm/. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Welcome to ISM Dickson Mounds Museum". State of Illinois. http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismsites/dickson/. Retrieved 2009-10-21. Note: This website mistakenly asserts that Dickson Mounds is a National Historic Site

External links

Coordinates: 40°21′02″N 90°06′57″W / 40.3506°N 90.1159°W / 40.3506; -90.1159

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