By Patrick Clark
Patrick Durst isn`t digging for gold, but he found the tool that could have done so, a few thousand years ago.
‘This would be fastened or left onto a handle a stick and used for agriculture,’ says Patrick Durst showing a digging tool that looks like it was made yesterday.
It`s been a virtual goldmine for archeologists at the old stockyards in East St. Louis. For the past four years they`ve been uncovering artifacts as work progresses on the new Mississippi River Bridge.
‘It’s sort of an unparalleled opportunity to investigate a very large portion of a major metropolitan system major residential complex in the Midwest,’ says Durst.
Durst and a team of 80 archeologists have determined that from 900ad to 1200ad, as many as 3500 people lived where the stockyards stood. And like nearby Cahokia Mounds, this site might have had more.
‘At one time historically there were anywhere from 40 to 50 mounds documented and associate it in this area with the site,’ says Durst. ‘Throughout history, starting with the civil war, those sites actually became level due to some of the industry and railroad expansion in the East St. Louis area.’
They`ve unearthed evidence that a sophisticated sprawling metropolis stretched for eight miles on both sides of the river.
You can see there was some decorative incising that was done,’ says Durst. ‘And you can see the pigmentation and staining that was placed on this intentionally to decorate it.’
His team has found arrow heads, trowels, and even shark teeth and conch shells.
‘From Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Illinois, shells from the Gulf of Mexico,’ says Durst. ‘Things like that were obviously being traded to this area.’
But it wasn`t all work for the Native Mississippians. This chunky stone was their choice for fun, rolling it for game play.
‘So that’s our historical Saint Louis Cardinals?’ asks Patrick Clark.
‘They not gonna have a baseball team so this is the best thing we could come up with,’ says Durst.’
Through progress we can rediscover the past and some priceless items…whether they`re gold or just the tool used to dig it up.