Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference

The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS)-Prairie Research Institute (PRI) is bringing together world renowned archaeologists and leaders from around the country to take part in a public conference that will rethink the global relevance of an ancient American Indian city–Cahokia in southwestern Illinois–for today's world. The Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference is part of a series of open forums at the University of Illinois intended both to celebrate the land grant institution's sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary and to honor its esteemed tradition of research. The Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference will be held April 27, 2018 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, IL, and is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Illinois.

For nearly a century the University of Illinois has been researching Cahokia, a thousand-year-old urban center on the Mississippi that, archaeologists and Native descendants believe, dramatically affected the social history of North America, even into the colonial American era. The Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference will bring together the leading archaeological experts, stakeholders, and decision makers to discuss the past and future of Cahokia–a site with National Park or Monument potential.

"The Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference is the culmination of almost a century of research at the University of Illinois on this greatest of archaeological sites in America," said Thomas E. Emerson, Illinois State Archaeologist, Director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey

"The conclusion of the American Indian story of Cahokia and its people is still, in some ways, in the future. It has lessons yet to teach us all," added Timothy R. Pauketat, Associate Director for Research at ISAS.

Future Cahokia research initiatives will be revealed by the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the conference, which will incorporate new technological advances. 3D computer animation will be on display at the Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference, with the goal of immersing attendees in the experience of Cahokia as it existed a thousand years ago. Streaming videos, a display of unique stone carvings, and a virtual reality station will allow conference goers a rare opportunity to directly engage the ancient Cahokian past.

"Digital technology has advanced to the point that archaeologists and ordinary people can now re-imagine the past physically by using their own smart phones and tablets. We use lasers to map a mound and ground-penetrating scanners to see below its surface, and can now put you back inside its sacred temple virtually so that you feel its sacred interior," said Pauketat.

Featured speakers will include Dr. Barbara Mills from the University of Arizona, Marisa Cummings from the Omaha tribe, Timothy Good of the National Park Service, Dr. Thomas Emerson and Dr. Timothy Pauketat of the University of Illinois, and other high-profile university and government officials.

Ancient Cahokia Future Visions Conference and the following reception are free to all but registration is required for attendees. People interested in this event can register at the conference website Because of the high-profile nature of the conference and the projected number of attendees, people must register in order to attend.

In 2016, there was a movement to make Cahokia Mounds a unit of the National Park Service. One of the goals of the conference is to regain and expand the momentum of those efforts. Cahokia Mounds are an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources – Historic Preservation Division. Cahokia Mounds are located in Collinsville, IL near East St. Louis, IL. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey conducted the largest U.S. archaeological excavation from 2008-2012 in East St. Louis, IL. as part of the construction of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. The Ancient Cahokia Future Visions will bring current research on Cahokia and East St. Louis full circle as archaeologists and advocates discuss how these important sites are related. Speakers will also make the case for why Cahokia and other endangered sites need to be preserved and protected at the federal level.

The Illinois State Archaeological Survey is part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois. PRI is a world-class interdisciplinary research institute. By providing basic and applied scientific research, extensive expertise, and a wealth of data, PRI benefits the environment, economy, and people of Illinois. PRI's mission is to steward Illinois' natural and cultural resources by providing objective and timely research, data, and expertise to decision makers and stakeholders. Federal, state, and local government decision makers, industry and businesses of all types and sizes, farmers, energy and water utilities, nonprofit organizations, and the public rely on PRI expertise and data. PRI is the home of the state's five scientific surveys, which collectively have served the state for more than 165 years.


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