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The Prehistory of Salt Creek in Cook and Du Page Counties of Northern Illinois
by Brian G Bardy
May 17, 2014

Prehistoric hunter-gatherers began occupying the Salt Creek Valley as early as 10,500 years BP after the last Woodfordian glacier retreated northward out of the Great Lakes region. The late Pleistocene climate was cooler and wetter supporting open spruce woodland; a mixture of coniferous forest, tundra and grassland intermixed in the undulating moraine uplands and valleys in the region. Many post-glacial lakes and ponds dotted the landscape but few lasted into the Holocene epoch. Warmer and dryer climatic conditions replaced the post-glacial vegetation as prairie grasses expanded eastward out of the Great Plains into Illinois. The formation of the Prairie Peninsula; a mosaic of xeric deciduous forest, prairie, and oak - savannah flourished over 8,000 years into the early 1800s.

Salt Creek possesses a low stream gradient, less than two feet per mile, fostering the development of riverine and riparian resources, which were heavily exploited by groups of hunter-gatherers during the Early Archaic (10,000 - 8,000 BP), Middle Archaic (8,000 - 5,000 BP), Late Archaic (5,000 - 3,000 BP) and subsequent Woodland periods.

Painting by Susan Van Horn

Multi-component sites occur in areas supporting a diversity of resources, specifically in wetlands adjacent to Salt Creek's main channel and in ecotone settings; transition zones such as forest edge environments, locations where floodplain forest borders on upland prairie or oak savannah. Base camps adjacent to wetlands exhibit a multitude of stone tool remains including discarded spear point tips and bases, exhausted spear points, recycled tools, a variety of bifacial blanks and preforms; utilitarian tools used in processing food, making clothing, and woodworking for making shelter and manufacturing watercraft. Wetlands were a critical feature in fostering the development of sedentism; permanent settlements among hunter-gathering societies, a critical element of cultural complexity largely overlooked by agriculture, which has been credited for the advancement of civilizations in both the Old and New Worlds.

Figure 1: Early Archaic (10,000 - 8,000 BP) projectile points

Figure 2: Middle Archaic (5,000 - 3,000 BP) projectile points

Projectile Photos by Brian Bardy
Photo of Brian Bardy by Val Spale
For more information click on profile of Brian Brady
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