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Native American artifacts bring out the history of Starved Rock

Freshly donated collection dates back 10,000 years

OGLESBY — Dan Costello said his father, Dominic, a park ranger from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, used to walk his dog, Sam, throughout Starved Rock State Park and collect the Native American artifacts he spotted along the way.

On Sept. 27, Costello donated that collection to the Starved Rock Visitors Center.

To his pleasure, the artifacts were determined to be various tools telling the story of three different periods of human inhabitants at Starved Rock State Park, dating back as far as 10,000 years ago.

“It’s what my dad would have wanted,” Costello said of the donation. “I’ve always appreciated them, but it deserves to have a lot more than me appreciating them. It’s where they came from, it’s where they belong.”

Costello’s father worked at Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks, and their family lived in a house near the old entrance. Most of the artifacts were found in the meadow or nearby farm fields, Costello speculated. He said his dad would walk just about everywhere in the park.

Historian Mark Walczynski was on hand to accept the donation. Wasting little time, he was able to identify certain artifacts as side notches of the archaic period (8,000 to 1,000 B.C.) and durst points from inhabitants who were hunters and gatherers.

Other tools were identified from the Woodland period (500 B.C. to 1100) into the Mississippian period (800 to 1600) as native inhabitants transitioned from thousands of years as hunters and gatherers to a more agricultural society — and adapted as European settlers entered the area and started trading.

One item Walczynski referred to as a “Fox River point,” noting it was “very rare.”

Geologist and volunteer Joe Jakupcak said most of the tools are made of flint, and were likely found in fields where farmers tilled up the soil and brought them to surface. He acknowledged finding these kinds of tools is harder today because farmers don’t till these areas of the park.

“The Starved Rock area has an unbelievable history,” Walczynski said. “And it goes beyond when the Europeans arrived here. This is one of the most continuously inhabited areas of Illinois. There was a Peoria (Native American) village right where we’re at right now.”

Park Superintendent Keri Novak said the collection will be put into a display case at the visitors center once a proper display is determined. He said the artifacts will be reviewed, most likely by experts at the Illinois State Museum prior to their display.

“They will be on display here for people to enjoy,” Novak said. “We’re thankful to the donors, and we’re glad to share the history.”

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