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Foundation for Illinois Colonial and American Studies

Foundation for Illinois Colonial and American Studies FICAS will post about our ongoing archaeological and historical studies focusing on the colonial exp

Have a look at Mark Walcyznski's new web article about the men stationed at Fort St. Louis at Starved Rock between 1683 ...
10/11/2022
Stationed at Le Rocher | FICAS

Have a look at Mark Walcyznski's new web article about the men stationed at Fort St. Louis at Starved Rock between 1683 and 1691. It's a remarkable list.

    Fort St. Louis was constructed on the summit of Le Rocher (known today as Starved Rock) during the winter of 1682-83, by men working under the authority of French explorer Robert Cavelier -  also known as “La Salle.” In late summer of 1683, with his five-year patent royal expired, La Sall...

NEW WEBSITEAfter a false start with a problematic server and buggy software, we can finally announce that the FICAS webs...
08/30/2022
Home | FICAS

NEW WEBSITE
After a false start with a problematic server and buggy software, we can finally announce that the FICAS website is up and running properly. The site is intended to be content-heavy, with summaries, resources, as well as the results of our own research. Much of it is still under construction, but new content will be added regularly and the site will be an ever-evolving one. See you there!
www.illinoiscolony.org

The Foundation for Colonial and American Studies (FICAS) was established in 2019 to preserve and express the legacy of the Indigenous, French, and Early American communities of the “Illinois Country” as they were during colonial and frontier periods of transition and settlement between circa 165...

TRIBAL ILLINOIS SIGNATURESIn July of 1773, the “Illinois and Wabash Land Company” (composed of a number of British Colon...
07/15/2022

TRIBAL ILLINOIS SIGNATURES
In July of 1773, the “Illinois and Wabash Land Company” (composed of a number of British Colonial merchants) attempted to purchase two massive tracts of land from the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Peoria Tribes. The sale didn’t stick, and the Tribes retained their land into the American period. But the transaction left behind a deed that contains some remarkable insights into Tribal leadership.

At the end of the deed, each of the Tribal leaders made his mark. Those that were baptized were noted as such, their Christian names added, and those men signed with a simple “X”. Notably, those that were not baptized retained their traditional pictographic signatures. Such signatures are very rare in the Illinois Country.

Here are the pictographic signatures and their names, as understood by the British:

We’ve been working in curation lately. This project involved the sorting and re-boxing of redware pottery excavated at t...
03/18/2022

We’ve been working in curation lately. This project involved the sorting and re-boxing of redware pottery excavated at the site of an 1820s and 1830s kiln site located along an ancient road known as “Edwards Trace” in central Illinois. In certain places, digging at the site of a pottery kiln literally produces more ceramics than soil.

Archaeology focuses a lot on objects, but generally can’t see very far into the mindset of those who once possessed and ...
01/11/2022

Archaeology focuses a lot on objects, but generally can’t see very far into the mindset of those who once possessed and used those objects. We recently asked our resident linguist, Michael McCafferty, about the various words in the Illinois-Miami language used to describe guns and gun parts. One of the reasons for the question was that the gun and its components represented very new objects to indigenous American societies during the 17th century. So, new words had to be assembled to describe such things. And the construction of language says a lot about how one observes things.

Take for instance the Illinois-Miami word < michtecopinte >. It is the word for “trigger.” But as Michael points out, the Illinois used the same word for “bowstring.” The same word for a little piece of brass made in a European factory and fitted to a gun, and the long piece of sinew that had been used on bows for 1000 years. Michtecopinte. New objects, but not really new concepts. Aim and pull.

When the U.S. purchased the old Le Poincet house in Cahokia to use as a Territorial Courthouse back in 1793, they began ...
12/07/2021

When the U.S. purchased the old Le Poincet house in Cahokia to use as a Territorial Courthouse back in 1793, they began to make their own mess around the place - adding to an archaeological record already 50 years old. Pictured below are fragments of refined ceramics used during the Territorial Era at the courthouse. A creamware plate, a fancy overglaze painted saucer, some annular or "dipt" bowls and pitchers, and a couple of pieces of "China Glaze" pearlware saucers. Good eating at the court...

The summer village of the Kaskaskia between 1720 and 1770, possibly known then as “Rouensa” by its residents, has produc...
09/24/2021

The summer village of the Kaskaskia between 1720 and 1770, possibly known then as “Rouensa” by its residents, has produced nearly 10,000 glass beads. At first glance, they look to be a rainbow. But when one starts counting, one realizes that 80% are white. This is a big deal, considering the wide variety of colors available to the Kaskaskia during the mid-18th century. White mattered, as it had for centuries when beads were fashioned from marine shell. Just because something was made in a European factory didn't preclude it from being imbued with ancient meaning. And people can make choices. They clearly did at Rouensa.

Here’s something from the 19th century French heritage of the Mississippi Valley. Sometime after 1800, French tin-glazed...
09/23/2021

Here’s something from the 19th century French heritage of the Mississippi Valley.

Sometime after 1800, French tin-glazed (faience) unguent or salve pots became very popular in the American markets of St. Louis and New Orleans. These little pots contained various types of viscous substances - medicinal salves or cosmetics. Their precedents date back to the 16th century, but the 19th century versions are different, with straight sides, small flaring lips, and no shoulders. They were generally coated in a bright green or bright blue tin glazes. A small percentage are marked with the names and addresses of the Parisian (or New Orleans) apothecaries that filled them. Like many old European ceramic traditions, French unguent pots were replaced in the international market by British whiteware pots during the mid-19th century.

Well, its becoming clear that we're not very good at keeping up with social media, but we hope we have a good excuse. We...
06/18/2021

Well, its becoming clear that we're not very good at keeping up with social media, but we hope we have a good excuse. We are still busy processing 100s of artifacts and writing books about some remarkable places, people, and things. In the meantime, here's an image of something that has nothing to do with what we are working on at the moment, culled from our digital archives at FICAS.

These are examples of some of the few colonial-era artifacts that are still extant from the 1930s excavations at the "Cahokia Courthouse", which began life in the 1740s as the home of the Le Poincet family in the village of Cahokia. On the left is the only known fragment in Illinois of what must have been a common item at the time - a pewter porringer. On the right is a hand-forged hoe, made in France or perhaps by a blacksmith in the Illinois Country.

A few descendants of the Le Poincets are still around, and one of them makes a mean chicken bouillon.

It's been a while since our last post, as we are deep in the preparation of our first volume (more about that soon). How...
03/28/2021
Village Publishers, Inc. | Reconstructing an Eighteenth-Century Village: Chartres in the Illinois, by Margaret Kimball Brown

It's been a while since our last post, as we are deep in the preparation of our first volume (more about that soon). However, we would like to pass this along:
The village of Chartres in Illinois was the colonial capital of the entire region during the 18th century. It supported the fort and was the governmental center of the Illinois Colony. It was abandoned with the arrival of the British in 1765, and by 1800 most of it has been washed away by the Mississippi. No maps of the village exist, and no social history of the large and vibrant place has ever been attempted. Until now. Margaret Brown has managed to resurrect the built environment of the town, and also breath life into the people who lived there and essentially ran the Illinois colony. This is a must read - published by Village Publishers.
http://www.villagepublishers.com/chartres.html?fbclid=IwAR1Qv8AuYIOg3Vcu5-qIkhUIhsUOOYwBeBODFtXBAtfQfBS_4px2YleiBCc

Reconstructing an Eighteenth-Century Village Chartres in the Illinois  by Margaret Kimball Brown 340 pages ▪ 7 × 10 inches ▪ 53 illustrations 4 interpretive maps of the village of Chartres Softbound ▪ $30.00 + shipping

We have been buried under the analysis of over 10,000 artifacts from the site of the principal village of the Kaskaskia ...
11/16/2020

We have been buried under the analysis of over 10,000 artifacts from the site of the principal village of the Kaskaskia during the 18th century in Illinois, so our social media posts have been a bit sparse this fall….
One of those items is particularly unusual – a large French hand gr***de. These hollow, cast iron spheres were filled with powder and a fuse inserted. At detonation, the sphere would explode, sending iron fragments in every direction. The gr***de was probably part of the munitions stored at the nearby Fort de Chartres. How it ended up in the village, and what it was used for there, is unknown.
The artifact is one of many that will be included our forthcoming book about the site, due out next year.

This just a small sample of the many brass kettle fragments found at the site of the principal village of the Kaskaskia,...
10/01/2020

This just a small sample of the many brass kettle fragments found at the site of the principal village of the Kaskaskia, occupied between the 1720s and 1760s in southern Illinois. At least 3 of these are actually replacement ears for kettles (the part that holds the bail or handle). Such kettles were subjected to heavy use, and the manufactured ears often failed. The Kaskaskia were avid metalsmiths, however, and these replacement ears were fashioned by folding carefully cut pieces of scrap kettle brass into squares, piercing them, and then attaching them to the rim of the kettle using homemade rivets, also fashioned from scrap brass. The ear at the top is very large – over 3” wide and made of a number of layers of folded brass.
Recycling and reuse, circa 1740.

These, along with many other examples, will be contained in our book about the site and its artifacts, to be published next year.

Archaeologists spend a lot of time talking about pottery. This humble little fragment from our 2012 work at Fort de Char...
09/03/2020

Archaeologists spend a lot of time talking about pottery. This humble little fragment from our 2012 work at Fort de Chartres is an illustration of why that is.

Ninety-nine percent of the ceramics we find at eighteenth century sites in Illinois are European products – mostly French wares made before 1760. French merchants and colonists brought these here. The Native American residents of Illinois had ceased to make pottery by this time, and were using brass kettles and the occasional piece of French faience. The dominant indigenous group during the occupation of Fort de Chartres was the Illinois nation. By the time the third fort was constructed in 1732, the Illinois had been without a native pottery tradition for about 50 years.

This tiny fragment found at the fort is of Native manufacture, but it was not made in Illinois. It was made in the southern Mississippi Valley, probably by the Natchez. There are references in the historical record to “Indian pots full of oil” brought up from the southern part of the valley, where indigenous pottery traditions were still alive and well during the eighteenth century.

This little vessel would not have been big enough to use to ship bear’s oil upriver, however. It was probably a little bowl or small bottle, decorated in a pattern of incised lines. It probably came to Illinois as part of someone’s personal possessions. It was also one of the last pieces of traditional pottery in use in the central Mississippi River valley, where Native American ceramics had been made for over 2000 years prior to the arrival of the French.

Things are moving faster than we can keep up with here on the page. But there will be plenty of new information...
08/12/2020

Things are moving faster than we can keep up with here on the page. But there will be plenty of new information to share in the coming months. Meanwhile, FICAS has new digs! We are now headquartered on the campus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, in the historic Strawbridge Shepherd House. Just getting moved in, but have a look at that laboratory space……
More to come.

Atop the summit of Starved Rock on the Illinois River are the archaeological remains of a French fort, constructed for R...
07/18/2020

Atop the summit of Starved Rock on the Illinois River are the archaeological remains of a French fort, constructed for René-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle in 1682 and abandoned in 1691. In the fill of a cistern associated with the fort, excavated in the 1940s, are two small but remarkable artifacts: the earliest known fragment of European pottery found in Illinois, and one of the last traditional vessels made by the Illinois.
The tin-glazed European vessel is represented by single fragment. It does not appear to be of French origin and instead is more similar to Spanish majolica. It is the oldest tin-glazed sherd yet recovered in Illinois and probably represents one of the first such vessels used in the Illinois Country.
Fragments of a “Danner Cordmarked var La Salle” shell-tempered jar, also discarded in the abandoned cistern after 1680, may have been among the last such vessels made in the region - perhaps the Peoria tribe of the Illinois nation.

Here is something from the late 17th century in the Illinois Country. It's a large roasting pit, used by the Michigamea ...
06/24/2020

Here is something from the late 17th century in the Illinois Country. It's a large roasting pit, used by the Michigamea to cook food placed between a layer of smoldering logs and a layer of limestone. As we excavated in the pit in 2014, our hands became coated with a greasy black charred residue still attached to the upper surface of very well preserved carbonized logs. Remains of very old food. Also found in the pit was a fragment of a Bellermine jug dating to the 1680s- one of the oldest pieces of European pottery every found in Illinois.

We are currently analyzing, for publication, several collections from the early-to-mid 18th century grand village of the...
06/02/2020

We are currently analyzing, for publication, several collections from the early-to-mid 18th century grand village of the Kaskaskia in southern Illinois. Shown here are distinctive gaming pieces made from French faience and course earthenware. From what we can tell through the archaeology, the Illinois were mildly interested in French pottery, and both tablewares and kitchenwares are found across the site in small quantities. And when they broke, fragments were often recycled for use in a traditional game called "dish", which required gaming pieces with a decoration or marking on one side. This represents one of many examples of the repurposing of European goods at this Native village.

A note about the logo that we are using here on Facebook. This remarkable little image is a caricature of Philippe Renau...
05/21/2020

A note about the logo that we are using here on Facebook. This remarkable little image is a caricature of Philippe Renault, who was in charge of the lead mines across the Mississippi River from the colonial villages. It was rediscovered by Lawrie Cena Dean during her research with the Kaskaskia Manuscripts in the 1970s. The drawing was actually a doodle drawn on the cover of a register made by Judge De la Loere Flaucour, who was presumably bored during a hearing. The image predates 1743.

Welcome to the new page for the Foundation for Illinois Colonial and American Studies (FICAS). Have a look at o...
05/19/2020

Welcome to the new page for the Foundation for Illinois Colonial and American Studies (FICAS). Have a look at our Mission Statement in the "About" section, and please stay tuned as we get this page up and running. We are currently working on several exciting laboratory and publication projects, and will introduce those to you in forthcoming posts. Meanwhile, we will (somewhat randomly), open with an image of some previously unpublished redstone smoking pipes from the site of the 18th century grand village of the Kaskaskia, in southern Illinois. Much more to come.....

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Mission Statement

Founded in 2019, the mission of FICAS is to preserve the archaeological and historical legacy of colonial and frontier communities in the “Illinois Country” circa 1670-1840. Currently, our emphasis on the maintenance, study, and publication of archaeological collections and associated written records of the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

The “Illinois Country” was the name used by the French to refer to a large region located south of Lake Michigan, surrounding the confluences of the Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers. The name referred to the indigenous residents of the region – the Illinois Nation – who moved to the area around 1600 from the east. The central portion of this region became the State of Illinois in 1818.

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