From Squares to Sites: Exposing the Archaeological Record in Illinois

Thomas E. Emerson, Dale L. McElrath

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In the 1930s and 40s Fay Cooper-Cole and the University of Chicago played key roles in the introduction of standardized archaeological field techniques and the professionalization of the discipline. But by the early 60s UC had abandoned Midwestern archaeology and institutions such as the University of Illinois, the Illinois State Museum, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and the newly created professional organization, the Illinois Archaeological Survey, took a leadership role in creating a new archaeological approach to field investigations – the switch from test squares to excavation blocks, from sampling sites to excavating sites. This change recognized that the primary driver of investigations in the state were development projects tied to road and reservoir construction. Archaeologists as diverse as Lewis Binford, Charles J. Bareis, and Warren Wittry employed heavy equipment to clear large portions of archaeological sites for recovery. This approach caused a sea change in research agendas from those focused on artifact typologies and chronologies to broader issues of community spatial and social organization, inter- and intrasite-level analyses of assemblage homogeneity and variation, and household and landscape archaeology—a focus that continues to dominate the region to this day.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication79th Annual Society for American Archaeology Conference
StatePublished - 2014


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