Saturday, June 29, 2019

Fossils of the "H Animal" and "Y Animal" discovered at Mazon Creek, near Braidwood, Illinois. A 310 million year old mystery.

The “H Animal," Etacystis Communis.
It was a soft-bodied invertebrate that lived in shallow tropical coastal waters of muddy estuaries (where the tide meets the stream) during the Pennsylvanian geological period, about 310 million years ago. Many exquisitely preserved specimens are found in the ironstone nodules that make up the deposits.
The majority of collecting areas are the spoil heaps of abandoned coal mines, the most famous of which is Peabody Coal Pit 11. Francis Creek shale pit 11 now serves as a cooling pond for the Braidwood nuclear power plant, but with over 100 other localities, specimens still come to light.

It is thought to be a filter-feeding organism that grew throughout its lifetime, achieving a maximum length of 4.3 inches.
A little hard to see, but look at the darker "H" in the center of the fossil.
The classification is uncertain. The animal had a unique H-shaped body ranging from 3/4 inch to 4.3 inches long, and researchers have suggested a hemichordate (wormlike marine invertebrates) or hydrozoan (relatives of jellyfish) affinity. Examples of the H Animal have been found only in the Mazon Creek (River) fossil beds in Illinois.

The “Y Animal," Escumasia Roryi.
It is a puzzling creature. It has only found in the Peabody Coal Pit 11 of the Mazon Creek formation. The only species of the subfamily, it is Y-shaped, bilaterally symmetrical, soft-bodied and is about 6 inches in length.
It appears to have a mouth slit on the top between the two arms and a second opening on one side of the main body, presumably an anus, though there is no proof that it is an anus. It is attached to the sea floor by a stalk attached to a round base. Oddly, a specimen appears to have a short tube-like structure in between the two arms near the mouth.
Because of the lack of complex structures or apparent internal organs, it is believed that it must have been related to coelenerates (cnidarians) and may have used stinging nematocysts on its arms to capture prey. However, because of its bilateral symmetry and second opening, it can’t fit the technical definition of a coelenerate. 

Therefore, it is considered a separate group that may have broken off of the cnidarians and gone extinct as a failed evolutionary experiment. If it were to be classified as a coelenerate, the definition of coelenerate would have to be changed and a new class would have to be added.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Illinois' Greatest Fossil Mystery... Solved!

Since 1955, when amateur fossil hunter Francis Tully discovered an unlikely prehistoric creature in a coal mining area near Morris, Illinois, 55 miles south-west of Chicago, the 'thing' that was named Tullimonstrum (Tully monster) has presented one of the great puzzles in paleontology.
A Tully Monster in Motion.

Much as the people of Metropolis wondered whether Superman flying overhead was a bird or a plane. Scientists have struggled to classify these fossils that showed traits associated with several disparate animal types and such abnormalities as eyes mounted on an external bar and a long, toothy proboscis.

If you put a worm, a mollusk (snails, slugs, mussels, and octopuses), an arthropod (insects, spiders)
, and a fish in a box and shook it up, then you'd have a Tully monster, in the end. Paraphrased from Carmen Soriano, a paleontologist at Argonne National Laboratory.
Tullimonstrum gregarium, dorsal view, from an article titled, "The Tully monster is a vertebrate," in the Field Museum of Natural History's "Nature magazine."
The Tully's renown even stretched to the Illinois state legislature, which named it the official state fossil in 1989, some 308 million years after it inhabited the shallow salty waters that turned into Illinois' Mazon Creek geological deposits in Grundy County, one of the richest fossil troves on Earth.

About 540 million years ago, between the Gondwana and the Laurasia supercontinent [1] periods, when the Earth was about 4 billion years old, Illinois was south of the equator for the second time. Illinois was part of a low-lying basin covered by a shallow, warm tropical sea. As land masses shifted over time, this saltwater became trapped in aquifers that still exist underground today.

However, Tullimonstrum gregarium has a home on the Tree of Life rather than in the biological category known as the "problematica." Utilizing the synchrotron X-ray machine at Argonne and the Field Museum's collection of 2,000 Tully specimens, a team from those two institutions, Yale University and the American Museum of Natural History announced in a paper published in the journal "Nature" on March 16, 2016, that "The Tully monster is a vertebrate."
Morphology and Phylogeny of Tullimonstrum.
a: Chordate phylogeny including Tullimonstrum gregarium; lampreys in yellow; hagfishes in orange.
b: Reconstruction of Tullimonstrum. 
c: Tullimonstrum, oblique lateral view: 
    Eyb; eyebar; 
    My; myomeres; 
    GP; gill pouches; 
    CF; caudal fin; 
    No; notochord; 
    OtL; otic lobe, and OpL; optic lobe of the brain and dorsal fin.
d: Line drawing: black, teeth; brown, lingual organ; light grey, eyebar; dark green, gut and oesophagus;  ed, notochord; light green, brain; orange, tectal cartilages; pink, naris; purple, gill pouches; yellow, arcualia; dark blue, myosepta; blue with black stripes, fins with fin rays.

Below that headline, the paper describes Tully as belonging "on the stem lineage to Lampreys (an ancient extant lineage of jawless fish)," a find that "resolves the nature of a soft-bodied fossil which has been debated for more than 50 years."

"This is one of the mysteries that I heard about since I was a kid," said Soriano. "To be able to study, to basically 'unmonsterize' the monster, is really exciting."

"Resolving this is a big deal," said Scott Lidgard, the Field Museum's associate curator of fossil invertebrates and another of the paper's authors. "It's one of the examples used in textbooks around the world as what is called 'problematica,' " creatures that defied ready classification and were sometimes thought to be examples of extinct phyla or animal categories.

"This is kind of a poster child for that sort of evolutionary puzzle," Lidgard said. The finding "changes it from a mystery to a fishlike organism that is probably on the lineage leading to what we would recognize as lampreys."
An artist's reconstruction shows the Tully Monster, a type of jawless fish called a lamprey, as it would have looked 310 million years ago in this image.
It's also a big moment for those who study lesser prehistoric animals and realize, said Lidgard, that "we're never going to be as popular as dinosaurs and fossil birds."

The Tully monster is named for its assemblage of features, not for any sort of fearsome size. The biggest of the many specimens that have been found suggested a maximum length of about 18 inches and a typical length of 12 inches.

But because Mazon Creek fossils are so well preserved, there is a lot of Tully to study. Skeletons have not survived, but detailed impressions in stone have.

"If you see the specimens, they are typically well preserved," Soriano said. "It's not that they are a blob in the rock."

Tully, a pipefitter for Texaco and lifelong fossil hound, described his find to the Tribune in a story in 1987, also the year of his death:

"I found two rocks that had cracked open from natural weathering. They held something completely different. I knew right away. I'd never seen anything like it. None of the books had it. I'd never seen it in museums or at rock clubs. So I brought it to Chicago to the Field Museum to see if they could figure out what the devil it was."
Another artist's artwork shows the Tully Monster.
The first scientific paper describing the Tully monster and its vivid Latin name came in the mid-1960s from one of Lidgard's predecessors at the museum, who "thought it was a worm," Lidgard said.

Later papers proposed that it was a "free-swimming shell-less snail," he said, and then a conodont, an extinct eel-like creature very rare in the fossil record.

"I've been looking at this thing for 30 years," said Lidgard. "Years ago, I had a stab at it, thinking it might be related to squids. We gave up. We didn't publish anything."

What got the ball rolling again was Lidgard hearing about Victoria McCoy, a Yale grad student exploring the Mazon Creek deposits who would become the paper's lead author.

They met at a 2014 conference, and the following year, an assembled team spent three weeks at the Field Museum studying its Tully specimens.

The Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, southwest of Chicago, came into the picture because of its advanced imaging techniques using the Advanced Photon Source, an electron accelerator and storage ring that "provides ultra-bright, high-energy storage ring-generated x-ray beams for research in almost all scientific disciplines," according to Argonne.

"The thing with these machines is they are incredibly powerful microscopes," Soriano said. "We can get information not only on the morphology of the sample but also on the structure and composition."

It allows people "to see what no one saw before basically," she said.

What the scientists saw as they studied the Argonne imagery, digital photographs of the fossils, and the fossils themselves were characteristics that tied the Tully monster to lampreys.

For instance, a chemical analysis of the eyestalks showed the presence of zinc, "very similar to the material in the eyes of vertebrate fossil fishes," said Lidgard.

"Tully is usually preserved so that you're looking down on its back," he added. "Every so often, you can see its side. In those twisted fossils, we found very few where we think we can distinguish openings we interpret as openings to a particular kind of gill structure present in very primitive fishes like lampreys."
And they were able to find the animal's gut trace, as well as the shadow of its digestive system, in the lower part of the body, which suggested that what had previously been thought to be a gut trace up on the back was, in fact, a notochord, a flexible rod in the back.

That made it a primitive vertebrate, he said. He does not recall a moment where somebody said, "Hey, lamprey!" but recalls that "it became more and more clear," he said. "As those results started coming in, it was pretty convincing immediately."

So if the Tully monster is now a known vertebrate lamprey ancestor with a place in the historical animal record, that raises two big questions:

First, do all those specimens at the Field Museum move out of the invertebrate department?

Paul Mayer, collections manager of invertebrate fossils, laughed. "I've been talking with the vertebrate fossil collection manager," he said. "We'll wait a few years and make sure there's no rebuttal. It's a lot of work to move these things up the stairs to where his collection is."

Question two: Does the Tully monster need to be renamed?

"No, because it's still a monster," said Soriano. "It's something really different from anything we have seen. It's one of a kind. If you return to this idea of a monster as anything strange, it's still strange."

ADDITIONAL READING: Prehistoric Saltwater Shark Nursery Fossils Found in Illinois.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Vaalbara...............3,636–2,803 (million years ago)
Ur.....................2,803–2,408 (million years ago)
Kenorland..............2,720–2,114 (million years ago)
Arctica................2,114–1,995 (million years ago)
Atlantica..............1,991-1,124 (million years ago)
Columbia(Nuna).........1,820–1,350 (million years ago)
Rodinia................1,130–750 (million years ago)
Pannotia...............633-573 (million years ago)
Gondwana...............596-578 (million years ago)
Laurasia & Gondwana....472-451 (million years ago)
Pangaea................335-175 (million years ago)

The Tully monster was a soft-bodied invertebrate found only in Illinois and is the official Illinois state fossil. Look how cute he is!
You can own your own cute 12" soft-bodied Tully monster plushy from Paleozoic Pals.

The Kinderhook plates were discovered in 1843 in an Indian mound near Kinderhook, Illinois.

The Kinderhook plates are a set of six small, bell-shaped brass pieces with strange engravings claimed to have been discovered in 1843 in an Indian mound near Kinderhook, Illinois.
Purported Discovery
On April 16, 1843, Robert Wiley, a merchant living in Kinderhook, began to dig a deep shaft in the center of an Indian mound near the village. It was reported in the Quincy Whig that the reason for Wiley's sudden interest in archaeology was that he had dreamed for three nights in a row that there was treasure buried beneath the mound. At first, he undertook the excavation alone, and reached a depth of about ten feet before he abandoned the work, finding it too laborious an undertaking. 

On April 23, he returned with a group of ten or twelve companions to assist him. They soon reached a bed of limestone, apparently charred by fire. Another two feet down, they discovered human bones, also charred, and "six plates of brass of a bell shape, each having a hole near the small end, and a ring through them all, and clasped with two clasps". A member of the excavation team, W. P. Harris, took the plates home, washed them, and treated them with sulphuric acid. Once they were clean, they were found to be covered in strange characters resembling hieroglyphics.

The plates were briefly exhibited in the city, and then sent on to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint (Mormon) movement. Twenty years earlier, on September 22, 1823, Smith claimed to have uncovered a set of golden plates, and, according to Latter Day Saint belief, translated them into the Book of Mormon. The finders of the Kinderhook plates, and the general public, were keen to know if Smith would be able to decipher the symbols on the Kinderhook plates as well. The Times and Seasons, a Latter Day Saint publication, claimed that the existence of the Kinderhook plates lent further credibility to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Parley Pratt wrote that the plates contained Egyptian engravings and "the genealogy of one of the ancient Jaredites back to Ham the son of Noah."

Smith's Response
Smith's private secretary, William Clayton, recorded that upon receiving the plates, Smith sent for his "Hebrew Bible & Lexicon," suggesting that he was going to attempt to translate the plates by conventional means, rather than by use of a seer stone or direct revelation. On May 1st, Clayton wrote in his journal:
I have seen 6 brass plates... covered with ancient characters of language containing from 30 to 40 on each side of the plates. Prest J. [Joseph Smith] has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.
The History of the Church also states Smith said the following:
I have translated a portion of [the plates] and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.
Stanley B. Kimball says the statement found in History of the Church could have been an altered version of William Clayton's statement, placing Smith in the first person. Diane Wirth, writing in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon (2:210), states: 
"A first-person narrative was apparently a common practice of this time period when a biographical work was being compiled. Since such words were never penned by the Prophet, they cannot be uncritically accepted as his words or his opinion."
Rediscovery, Analysis, and Classification as a Hoax
The Kinderhook plates were presumed lost, but for decades The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) published facsimiles of them in its official History of the Church. In 1920, one of the plates came into the possession of the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). In 1966, this remaining plate was tested at Brigham Young University. The inscriptions matched facsimiles of the plate published contemporaneously, but the question remained whether this was an original Kinderhook plate, or a later copy.

Though there was little evidence of whether the Kinderhook Plates were ancient or a contemporary fabrication, some within the LDS Church believed them to be genuine. The September 1962 Improvement Era, an official magazine of the church, ran an article by Welby W. Ricks stating that the Kinderhook plates were genuine. In 1979, apostle Mark E. Petersen wrote a book called "Those Gold Plates!" In the first chapter, Peterson describes various ancient cultures that have written records on metal plates.

Then Peterson claims: "There are the Kinderhook plates, too, found in America and now in the possession of the Chicago Historical Society. Controversy has surrounded these plates and their engravings, but most experts agree they are of ancient vintage."

In 1980, Professor D. Lynn Johnson of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University examined the remaining plate. He used microscopy and various scanning devices and determined that the tolerances and composition of its metal proved entirely consistent with the facilities available in a 19th-century blacksmith shop and, more importantly, found traces of nitrogen in what were clearly nitric acid-etched grooves. 

This matches what was stated in an 1879 letter to James T. Cobb, in which Wilbur Fugate confesses to the hoax: "Wiley and I made the hieroglyphics by making impressions on beeswax and filling them with acid and putting it on the plates. When they were finished we put them together with rust made of nitric acid, old iron and lead, and bound them with a piece of hoop iron, covering them completely with rust". According to Fugate, Wiley had planted the plates at the bottom of the hole he had dug in the mound, before fetching a group of others to witness the discovery.

In addition, Johnson discovered evidence that this particular plate was among those examined by early Mormons, including Smith, and not a later copy. One of the features of the plate was the presence of small dents in the surface caused by a hexagonally-shaped tool. Johnson noticed that one of these dents had inadvertently been interpreted in the facsimile as a stroke in one of the characters. If the plate owned by the Chicago Historical Society had been a copy made from the facsimiles in History of the Church, that stroke in that character would have been etched, like the rest of the characters. He concluded that this plate was one that Smith examined, that it was not of ancient origin, and that it was in fact etched with acid, not engraved.

In 1981, the official magazine of the LDS Church ran an article stating that the plates were a hoax, and asserted that there was no proof that Smith made any attempt to translate the plates: "There is no evidence that the Prophet Joseph Smith ever took up the matter with the Lord, as he did when working with the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham."

The Confession
According to Wilbur Fugate in 1879, the plates were carefully forged by himself and two other men from Kinderhook, Bridge Whitten and Robert Wiley, who were testing the validity of the claims made by Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, at that time headquartered in Nauvoo. According to Latter Day Saint belief, the Book of Mormon was originally translated by Smith from a record engraved on golden plates by ancient indigenous people.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Looters of Prehistoric Native American Archeological Sites is a Big Problem in Illinois and the Mississippi Valley.

Southern Illinois District Court vs, Mr. Leslie Jones (results below in sub-section).

As Geoff Donaldson sprinted across a barren southern Illinois crop field at dusk on January 26, 2007, he breathed aloud a prayer: "Lord, please make me invisible."

The 35-year-old uniformed officer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was trying to wriggle into his Ghillie suit, full-body camouflage that makes a turkey hunter resemble a mossy tree stump. He wasn't hunting turkey that evening, though. He was stalking a thief. And, after a year of cat-and-mouse, Donaldson wanted his man.
Disguised in deep-cover camouflage known as a Ghillie suit,
Geoff Donaldson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in
Southern Illinois caught a major looter on video.
In March of 2006, Donaldson received a tip: A car was often seen parked on private land near a remote corner of Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, about 25 miles east of Cape Girardeau. He found the vehicle, peeked inside and found some hand-digging tools. People sometimes gather ginseng in these parts, he knew. But something didn't feel right.

The next day Donaldson was hiking along a creek bottom when he spied a man upon a ridge spur below a bluff acting "skittish." His name was Leslie Jones, of Creal Springs, Illinois. Jones had facial hair, Donaldson recalls, and a trim, muscular physique, "the picture of an axman."

Among tall oaks and maple trees, Jones kept hunkering over something, then glancing up. Donaldson dropped out of sight and tried to sneak in for a closer look. When he arrived a few minutes later, Jones was gone, though his handiwork remained: Hundreds of square yards of federal soil were torn up.

"It looked like hogs had gotten into it," Donaldson recalls. He noted several piles of broken spear points and stone chips. It appeared that Jones, for months, had been systematically unearthing Native American artifacts.

Picking up an arrowhead or digging a small hole on federal property might lead to a citation, but looting that causes damage in excess of $500 is a felony. Donaldson contacted the U.S. attorney's office, which listed the evidence they'd need for a felony conviction: a video of Jones excavating the material, then pocketing it and returning home. "You've got to be kidding me," Donaldson thought.

For the next ten months, he and his colleagues spent more than 300 man-hours spread out in the woods, waiting for Jones. Digital cameras at the ready, they sat on watch through sweltering summer humidity and cold winter rains. Sometimes, officers from the U.S. Forest Service or Illinois Department of Natural Resources joined the party.

"We kept just missing him," Donaldson groans.

Around 4 a.m. on that late January day in 2007, the team took up positions in the shadows of the forest. Hours crawled by and still no sign of the thief. Late that afternoon Donaldson radioed to the others: Pack it up. On their drive back to the staging area in Marion, Illinois, word came that Jones' car was parked near the refuge.

Donaldson remembers racing back to Cypress Creek under a darkening sky. "The idea is to become one with nature," he says. He reached the top of the bluff and scanned below for Jones. Nothing.

Then he inched down the slope toward Jones' "honey hole" — the site of the most intense digging. A tedious half-hour later, he was standing smack in the middle of it. All was quiet for several moments. Then he heard the thrashing of leaves.

Donaldson peered over his left shoulder and froze. A mere twenty feet away, Leslie Jones had stopped in his tracks. He was gripping a hand shovel and staring at Donaldson's neck. The officer assumed his cover was blown and prepared to show his badge. But Jones only blinked, looked past him and trudged off to dig someplace else. The camouflage had worked. "It was a heart-pounding experience," Donaldson recalls.
Geoff Donaldson and other agents at the federal and state levels spent nearly a year chasing down artifact thief Leslie Jones.
He shot enough incriminating video of Jones to secure a search warrant. When federal and state agents raided Jones' residence the next day, they discovered thousands of artifacts stored in old ammunition boxes, coolers and paint buckets.

Archaeologists later determined that about 900 artifacts came from the refuge. A third of these were stone tools left by Native Americans that no human hands had likely touched since about 1,000 BC, or earlier, the scientists reported.

But authorities also seized an additional 12,000 Indian artifacts of uncertain origin. Among these were needles and hooks made from animal bone, clay figurines, pottery shards and something more unsettling: fragments of human skulls, femurs, jaws, and teeth.

"It was particularly disturbing that there was no hesitation picking up human remains," says Tim Santel, a Fish and Wildlife special agent.

Jones confessed to making money off the stolen artifacts by selling them to collectors. "He may have gotten spear points worth hundreds of dollars," suggests Mark Wagner, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale archaeologist who evaluated the seized items. "We don't know. They've all disappeared into this dealer network."
In his illegal hunt for artifacts, Leslie Jones, 50, of Creal Springs, Illinois, tore up enough federal soil to fill a semitrailer.
Leslie Jones was a familiar face to local law enforcement, having been arrested twice for growing marijuana on someone else's land. "I assume he was selling it," says Sheriff Elry Faulkner. That he was mixed up in the illicit trade for both artifacts and drugs was no isolated incident.

Folks have been picking around for arrowheads throughout the Midwest for generations. But now, archaeologists report that a nefarious breed of looter is stripping history wholesale from public and private soil. The worst ones are essentially grave robbers who come armed, often in the dark of night, to plunder Native American burial grounds. Some hawk the artifacts on eBay or other sites. Others use them as currency for drugs.

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, where authorities say the methamphetamine epidemic is again gaining steam, addicts known as "twiggers" (tweakers who dig) have been mining rock shelters and caves for anything of value — possibly even skeletal remains. The weird nexus between looting and meth has been noted by experts for several years, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Today, these shady characters are leaving their footprints in America's heartland.

"What's really frustrating is that archaeological sites are nonrenewable," says Neal Lopinot, a Missouri State University archaeologist. "Once they're destroyed, that's it. They're gone."

The bluff line running south from Cahokia Mounds to Dupo, Illinois, is "crawling" with archaeological sites, observes Julie Holt, who chairs the anthropology department at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. "You can't put a shovel in the ground without hitting something," she says.
Extensive looting of an archaeological site.
In the 1800s digging into Indian burials was something families did on Sunday outings. At the time, it was widely believed that the earthwork mounds along the Mississippi and eastward had been built by an advanced race that was squeezed out by the more primitive Native Americans.

As a result, if you plucked an intriguing item from a mound, you'd probably have no qualms about taking it home to display on the mantel, says Iowa-based archaeological researcher Bob Palmer.

"In some parts of the country people still find mound-digging to be acceptable," Palmer notes. Last fall, roughly 60 miles downriver from St. Louis, a landowner reported the damage to the burial mound on his property, prompting Dawn Cobb of the Illinois historic preservation office to drive down to investigate.

"There was this huge, gaping hole with human remains scattered around," Cobb remembers. Illinois, like Missouri and Arkansas, has a law protecting unmarked graves. If someone gets an owner's permission, they can dig on private property. However, if they hit bone, they must stop. That law clearly failed to deter anyone in this case.

"We had no leads," Cobb says. "The hole was at least a year old. There's nothing the landowner can do from a legal standpoint."

South of the bootheel, on the Arkansas side of the Central Mississippi Valley, Terry Melton feels that frustration. The 42-year-old chicken farmer has been running looters off his family's land in the Strawberry and Black river bottoms for at least a decade. None has been convicted. On one occasion, he felt threatened enough by a trio of them to brandish an AK-47.

"There's got to be something down here worth selling, otherwise the idiots wouldn't keep coming back," Melton says, bouncing his pickup truck over a potholed dirt road as he heads toward a remote soybean field surrounding two small burial mounds.

The Meltons have been farming this flat expanse for at least a century. Humans first occupied it 10,000 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating of artifacts. Scientists have identified at least 40 ancient human skeletons in this area, where looters have struck three times since last October.

Juliet Morrow of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey began a meticulous excavation of one of the mounds in June 2009. "It's really depressing," she says. With a furrowed brow, she points out bone fragments and evidence of haphazard digging. The site is important, she says, because nothing is known about the Archaic period (8,000 BC to 1,000 BC) in Arkansas.

Melton says he's found so much trash over the years that he knows which brand of cigarettes and beer the trespassers like most (Marlboro Lights and Busch). He once even found a sock that someone used to wipe his butt.

Other clues are more subtle. The reason that dozens of small holes dot the soil, Morrow notes, is that looters slide fishing rods and old radio antennas deep into the ground to feel for something hard. Sometimes, they'll paint their shovels white to make them easier to see in the dark. You can tell they come at night, she adds, because they inadvertently leave behind perfect spear points, some 4,000 years old.

She can't say how much one of those might be worth to a looter. "Professional archaeologists do not appraise anything," she explains. "It's priceless; you can't put a dollar value on it."

The major prize for looters in this area used to be decorated ceramic pots dating back to the time of first European contact 500 years ago. But whole vessels are fairly rare now, and on these northeast Arkansan mounds, only shards remain.

Terry Melton's cousin, Jamie Nunnally, has parked his truck and joined the group. Clad in camouflage overalls, he says he once fired shots in the air to scare looters off his nearby field. "We'll probably never get it stopped," he says. "I quit calling the law."

Both cousins remember the wild nighttime chase of June 13, 2005. They caught two thieves leaving the mound around 12:30 a.m. and pursued them at high speeds through the bottoms. The perpetrators not only dropped their bag of stolen artifacts, but they also jumped a small bridge, lost their muffler and ditched their pickup, leaving a shovel inside. The sheriff's deputies from two different counties showed up. No convictions resulted.

Melton complains that the judge won't discipline the looters, even though it's always the same crowd. Nunnally claims these individuals have also been picked up by the sheriff on drug-related charges. He's convinced they sell artifacts to buy dope.

The situation makes Morrow furious. "Maybe the judge or prosecuting attorneys consider this a petty crime," she says, exasperated. "But it's a felony."

A deputy did recently come out and collect evidence, she notes. But that only happened because the sheriff's office was pressured by Carrie Wilson, a member of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, which claims the area as ancestral territory.

"I can be very persistent," Wilson says later in a phone interview. "But Julie needs to be careful. I need to be careful. There would be people very glad to see us go away. You have to understand, there is a contingent that's dangerous. And sometimes, you're not dealing with somebody with a full deck."

After the scientists leave, Melton and Nunnally stroll through the field, searching for arrowheads. They regularly plow through the mound sites to plant crops. For Melton, that's not the same as digging into a grave. Farming activities are exempt under the burial protection law, he points out.

Back in his pickup, climbing out of the bottoms toward the nearest town, Melton admits, "I love history, and I'd love to dig. But I won't, out of the simple reason that there are dead people down there. It's about respect. Even if they're 4,000 years old, it's still a person."

Farmers in Missouri's Franklin and Jefferson counties have been bristling lately, says Joe Harl of the Archaeological Research Center in St. Louis. Here, where the Ozark Mountains begin to roll west and south, he hears more and more landowners complaining of unwelcome surface collectors — and sometimes diggers — on their property.

"Many have said they're going to get guns," Harl reports. "It's worse than the [illegal] deer hunters."

The problem is not confined to private land. Mark Twain National Forest covers approximately 1.5 million acres of Missouri, most of it in the state's southeastern quarter. Heritage program manager Keri Hicks says Mark Twain has the most caves in the national forest system, and a majority "have been looted into oblivion" since about the 1950s.

These days, an e-mail will trickle in every couple of months from a forest employee who's discovered a hole, shovel or screen, says Hicks. When someone checks on it, they might find that the disturbance is a couple years old or more.

"We don't have enough law enforcement to be effective with trying to protect or monitor it," Hicks says.

Archaeologist James Halpern says he and another employee have been assigned to 515,000 acres in the southwestern portion of the forest. "It's pretty hard to check everything," says Halpern. "There are tons of sites and places on the forest I've never even heard of, let alone been to."

On the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, where 135 miles of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers are designated federal property, authorities write about five citations per year for pilfering arrowheads, says park archaeologist James Price. Each carries a $225 fine.

There was one major case there in the last decade, says Jodi Towery, a federal law enforcer on the Riverways. Looters wearing headlamps came cruising in at night on ATVs. They tore two feet down into a 20-by-30-foot plot. Towery caught them on camera but couldn't positively ID them. When a mushroom hunter stole one of her cameras, word spread that the site was under surveillance — and the digging ceased.

This particular case taught her one thing: "Some of the people who collect artifacts are also known to do drugs. It's kind of the same crowd."

Sergeant Kevin Glaser of the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force has also noticed that connection. The number of meth-lab incidents has tripled from 2008 to 2009 in the ten counties under his supervision, he says. And he's noticed something odd: "We've gone into meth houses, and we'll literally find tubs of arrowheads."

Larry Keen, the supervisor of the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force, also reports that he often finds artifacts during meth busts. Keen says "I think whenever they get high, they've got to do something, so they wander around and get arrowheads and rocks."

There's probably more to it than that, says Richard Rawson, a professor at UCLA's School of Medicine. For 35 years he has studied addiction, with an emphasis on methamphetamines. He says meth users can stay up for days, focusing intensely on a redundant task until they collapse from fatigue.

Rawson says he has not heard of any link between meth users and arrowhead hunting, but, he reasons, "Somewhere in the background of their thinking, there's some motive for getting these things. They're not out there collecting leaves."

Special agent Robert Still recalls catching a woman stealing artifacts from the Buffalo National River in northwest Arkansas. She grew so agitated that she pulled out a revolver and a large knife. "I had to disarm her," says Still. Then there was the looter who came lunging at him with a jagged-edged garden tool. "We've had officers shot over this type of stuff."

If theft here is more dramatic, so is the scenery. The flinty blue hills arcing across the horizon — known as the Boston Mountains — are the highest on the Ozark Plateau. Steep slopes of cedar, hardwood, and pine drop down into streams lined by limestone bluffs. Tucked back into the hillsides are hundreds of rock shelters and caves, all of them rife with history — and vulnerable to plunder.

"Industrial-strength looters" have been invading the Buffalo River for several years, says federal archaeologist Caven Clark. He's worked at numerous parks in the western United States, including the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Southeastern Missouri has a problem, he adds, but not like here. "When I got here, what I found was more looting than I'd ever seen before." Much if it, he says, is linked to drugs.

Of the 350 caves and rock shelters in and around the Buffalo, more than 95 percent of them have been worked over, Clark estimates. In the last three years, he says, 22 serious cases were reported, some of which went to federal court where the pillagers were prosecuted under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Passed in 1979, the act prohibits looting on federal property.

Crooks target the sheltered sites because humans have huddled in them for millenniums and artifacts have accumulated. Compared to the wet caves of the eastern Ozarks, the sites here are relatively dry, which has helped preserve the bark fiber sandals, fabrics, and cordage. "Those things would fetch an unbelievable price," Clark says, but they are very rare.

The serious thieves wear camouflage and burrow ferociously into the ground. "I've seen some holes you could probably drop a Volkswagen into," says Clark, adding that they also leave plenty of trash. "We joke that Mountain Dew might as well be probable cause."

Special agent Still estimates that 70 percent of the archaeological crimes he's worked have some drug connection. Caven Clark has seen the same correlation. "Bad boys are bad boys," he says.

What complicates investigations, he continues, is that the artifacts are often used as currency and bartered for drugs. Looters know, for example, that a nice Dalton point (8,500 BC to 7,900 BC) might be sold on the Internet for a couple hundred dollars or more, while a more generic point might get $10 to $40 from a collector.

"If you're in a bluff shelter all day," Clark says, "you're all pumped up on drugs, and you find six points you can turn into $20 each — there's money to be made."

Outside federal property in this part of the state, "a new wave of looting has been seen in epidemic proportions" over the last ten years, according to Jerry Hilliard, assistant station archaeologist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He fields eight to ten calls a year from a landowner or sheriff's deputy about such crime. "And that's the tip of the iceberg," he says, "because university people are sometimes the last people to get called."

Landowners can't report looting if they're not aware of it, according to Arkansas state archaeologist Dr. Ann Early. But even if they're aware of illicit digging, she adds, they might still keep mum to avoid unwanted attention. "A lot of digging may be going on in the counties, and the sheriffs may know nothing about it," says Early.

Hilliard is alarmed by the scale of the thievery. He says backhoes and dump trucks have been used to secretly haul huge amounts of unsifted soil away from sites. In 2003 a group in Madison County rigged a pump from a stream to a power-sprayer then blasted the inside of a nearby cave to uncover valuable items.

More recently, in Carroll County, another gang fired up a generator and ran lights into a cave. There, they cooked crank and dug several trenches five feet deep in search of ancient objects. Authorities on the scene later collected scattered human leg bones.

The group even tried to sell a human skull at a flea market, Hilliard says. "I think there is a weird underworld of selling, buying and trading of human skeletal material because I've heard these kinds of stories over the years," Hilliard says. "I'm not sure I'd want to get into that world.

Special agent Still believes there is a black market for human remains, though he's had no direct contact with it in the Midwest. After interrogating numerous grave robbers, he's noticed that "typically human remains still tend to give people the heebie-jeebies." They might use a human bone as a poker for their campfire or play with them and bat them around, he says, but generally, they leave the bones onsite.

If you stumble across ancient remains on federal property and then fail to report them, secretly remove them or try to sell them, you're guilty of violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act enacted by Congress in 1990. Anti-looting laws have not been warmly received in the deep Ozarks, where, jokes Clark, "digging is a custom among our people."

Hilliard agrees that quirks of highland culture play a role at the state level, too. "Government intervention has always been something that rural folks in the Ozarks have been very skeptical of," he says. "They don't want to be told what they can or can't do on their land."

Agent Still remembers how one man guilty of looting informed him in 2007 that only a prison term could stop him from digging. Sure enough, during the sentencing process, he was caught stealing in the exact area of his original offense.

"It's an addiction," Still says.

The artifact collector show held annually in Collinsville, Illinois, is one of the largest in the country. Before this year's [2010] event, on March 20 and 21, organizer Floyd Ritter said he'd be welcoming 3,000 visitors from across the nation. But anybody trying to hawk items unearthed from burial grounds, he says, was banned.

Asked how he could tell if an artifact was robbed, Ritter responds, "There's no way to tell."

Many archaeologists distinguish between good and bad collectors. The good ones, they say, display a good-natured curiosity about an arrowhead. The bad ones disregard the law and the artifact's history and care only about finding the highest bidder. They amass their inventories from low-level looters.

The finest specimens find their way to major dealers, who in turn sell them overseas, mostly to the Japanese, says Larry Zimmerman, an anthropology professor at Indiana and Purdue universities. "On the high-end stuff," he says, "Americans have been pretty much the middleman."

Zimmerman says collectors' shows, such as the one at Collinsville, are often "an archaeologist's nightmare." But eBay also worries him. Five years ago, as chair of the Society for American Archaeology's ethics committee, he lobbied the auction site to at least concede that the online antiquities trade is keeping looters in business.

"They basically said, 'Thank you very much for your concern,'" remembers Zimmerman. "They weren't very helpful." But he does point out that eBay will shut down any auction of human remains or artifacts known to be stolen.

"The problem is that eBay is so big, it's unmanageable," Zimmerman says. "Even if they had ten eBay cops, they couldn't control the antiquities trade."

Leslie Jones was sentenced January 25 in the Southern District of Illinois for his crimes at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Archaeologists calculated that he had churned up enough soil to fill a semitrailer, (details below).

"That's going to haunt him for the rest of his life," says Geoff Donaldson.

Dr. Julie Holt of SIUE was not as impressed. "The judge gave that guy a slap on the wrist," she complains. "Do you think if he dug up your grandma, he'd get 30 days? No. He'd be in prison for a long time with psychological testing. But somehow, it's OK if it's a Native American burial."

Donaldson says the origin of the skeletal material seized from Jones' residence is still under investigation. The offender declined to comment for this story.

Unlike Jones, most people sentenced for Archaeological Resources Protection Act violations don't end up in prison. In Bob Palmer's analysis of federal prosecutions from 1996 to 2005, he determined that 83 looters were found guilty. Of these, less than a fourth of them did any time and the ones who did serve no more than a year.

Last June federal agents swooped into southern Utah and arrested two dozen people suspected of playing a role in a network of illicit Indian artifact trading. (Curiously, two suspects and one informant have since committed suicide.) Announcing the raid, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar hailed a "new chapter" for protecting such items. The time of the U.S. government "simply looking the other way," he said, "is over."

Meanwhile, Native Americans like Carrie Wilson look with anxiety toward the future. "Somebody's looting a site every day, whether a rock shelter or some other place," says Wilson, who consults for various Native American tribes and claims Quapaw, Peoria, and Eastern Shawnee heritage.

"If they're not looting, agriculture is destroying our sites in such numbers that in a few years, there won't be sites left."


In January 2007, Mr. Leslie Jones was observed by Fish & Wildlife Service Refuge Officers digging and removing these artifacts from an archeological site on the Refuge. The site, as it was later determined, minimally dates to the Middle to Late Archaic to Middle Woodland periods (6000 BC to 400 AD). It is suggested that, based on the artifacts found, Indians used this site for stone tool production, cooking, and other domestic activities.

In late January of 2007, law enforcement officers and special agents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office seized 13,232 artifacts from Jones’ residence during the execution of a federal search warrant. These artifacts included pottery, clay figurines, tools, and over 200 pieces of human skeletal material. Jones later admitted living off the artifacts he collected and sold. 
Seized Indian artifacts from Leslie Jones residence.
“The damage caused by Leslie Jones can’t be measured in simple dollars,” said Tim Santel, Resident Agent-in-Charge for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Indiana, Illinois, Missouri). “These sites give us an unprecedented glimpse into the past. He has done devastating harm to the site, as many of these artifacts are lost forever, denying the American public much in the way of understanding past human existence.”

Staff from the Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale assessed the estimated value of the damage to the site at more than $150,000.  

“Archeological sites are similar to a museum,” said Mark Wagner, Staff Archaeologist, Center for Archaeological Investigations at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. “We wouldn't tolerate someone going into a museum and removing an object because they felt like it. These items don’t belong to archeologists, they were stolen from the American public.”

According to Mary McCorvie, Forest Archaeologist at Shawnee National Forest, public awareness and interest play a role in combating and preventing similar crimes.

“In Southern Illinois, we have a rich history of human occupation for 12-14 thousand years,” said McCorvie. Taking these pieces destroys critical pieces of our historical puzzle. It's important the public know how important and fragile these links to the past are, and the role they can play in combating this.

We've found that the public's interest in preservation is critical to reducing vandalism. People are aware of a number of sites like this that contain significant cultural resources, and we'd love them to both refrains from taking found artifacts, and report suspected incidences of vandalism or theft.”

Under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, it is a felony to disturb, alter, remove or damage archaeological sites and objects that are over 100 years old on Federal lands. Archaeological sites and artifacts are also protected by 36 Code of Federal Regulations, which prohibits digging in, excavating, disturbing, injuring, destroying, or in any way damaging prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resources, structure, site, artifact, property; or removing said items. Persons found guilty of offenses against the Archaeological Resources Protection Act could be punished by not more than two years in prison and not more than $250,000.00 for the first offense. 

On January 20, 2010, Leslie Jones, (then 50), of Creal Springs, Illinois, was sentenced to 30 days in a federal prison, 500 hours community service [ditch digging (he is experienced)], five years of probation, and to pay $150,326.06 in restitution to Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, for excavating, collecting, and transporting illegally taken archaeological resources from a prehistoric Indian site on the southern Illinois refuge. In his plea agreement, signed October 2009, Jones admitted selling the articles to interested collectors to supplement his income. Jones's case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Illinois.

Compiled by Dr.Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Help preserve our history by leaving archaeological sites and artifacts undisturbed and reporting any looters or evidence of looting activity that you see.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
---Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Theater History in Chicago in the Nineteenth Century.

The first public, professional performance in Chicago took place in 1834, one year after Chicago was incorporated as a town. It cost 50¢ for adults, 25¢ for children, and was staged by a Mr. Bowers, who promised to eat "fire-balls, burning sealing wax, live coals of fire and melted lead." Somehow, he also did ventriloquism. Other traveling showmen passed through over the next two years; the first traveling circus pitched its tent on Lake Street in the fall of 1836. 
The Sauganash Hotel. The log building on the left was Chicago's first drugstore.
The Eagle Exchange Tavern (later the Sauganash Hotel) is Chicago's first hotel and restaurant. Built in 1829 by Mark Beaubien, it was located at Wolf Point, the intersection of the north, south, and main branches of the Chicago River, at Lake and Market Streets (North Wacker Drive). The addition of the frame building became the Sauganash Hotel in 1831.

Wolf Point Tavern opened in December of 1828.
Eagle Exchange Tavern opened in 1829 - Sauganash Hotel opened in 1831 
The Green Tree Tavern wasn't built until 1833.

The Sauganash Hotel changed proprietors often in its twenty-year existence. It was named after Billy Caldwell "Sauganash," an interpreter in the British Indian Department. 

Billy Caldwell's history was mainly fabricated, which you can read about by clicking the link in this paragraph. 

When Harry Isherwood, co-manager of this pioneering ensemble, arrived in Chicago in 1837, he said: "It was the most God-forsaken looking place it had ever been my misfortune to see." Then he went on to say: "The mud was knee-deep. No sidewalks except a small piece here and there. No hall that could be used to any advantage for theatrical presentation." A sign, he thought, that Chicago was not yet ready for culture.

However, the following morning he began to inspect every building that might be turned into something for his purpose. He finally decided on the abandoned dining room of the Sauganash Hotel. John Murphy, the proprietor of that pioneer habitation, had just opened a new and more commodious place to care for weary visitors to the new city and was glad to have a part of the building occupied.

Isherwood, who was not only a capable actor but a scenic artist as well (In fact, every company traveling in those days had someone that could and did paint scenery.), and his partner, Alexander McKinzie (who took care of bookings and logistics), nevertheless obtained an amusement license from the city council for $125.00 ($2,800 today). On Monday, October 23, 1837, they began offering plays, the first being James Sheridan Knowles' "The Hunchback." Other play titles included The Idiot Witness, The Stranger, and The Carpenter of Rouen. The bill changed every night, and the season lasted about six weeks, after which the company went on tour.

By 1839, the Sauganash returned to service as a hotel but was destroyed by fire on March 4, 1851, and subsequently torn down. The Wigwam 
(an Indian word meaning "temporary shelter") was built in its place nine years later.

When they returned to Chicago in the spring of 1838, Isherwood and McKinzie set up the company in an old wooden auction house called the Rialto. There was opposition to their presence: a formal petition cited fire risk; moral objections were also made. Even so, the city council voted to grant the troupe a new license. On September 3, 1839, two Chicago Theater shows — The Warlock of the Glen and The Midnight Hour — became the subjects of Chicago's first published theater review.

The ensemble members included Joseph and Cornelia Jefferson and their nine-year-old son Joseph Jr. The child sang comic songs, filled out crowd scenes, and played the Duke of York. He grew up to become one of the iconic performers of his time, a stage comedian widely, intensely, and fondly identified with several roles, especially Rip van Winkle. His connection with Chicago is memorialized in the Joseph Jefferson Awards, given annually for outstanding work in local professional Theater.

The Chicago Theater did not outlast its 1839 season, and Chicagoans went back to relying, for the most part, on touring shows and circuses. According to the story, a nonprofessional Thespian Society was formed by local men in 1842 and flourished — until somebody stole their sets.

The next great leap occurred in 1847, when John B. Rice, newly arrived from Buffalo, New York, contracted with a local alderman to build a theater near the corner of Randolph and Dearborn Streets. Rice's Theater opened on June 28 with a comedy called The Four Sisters, in which Mrs. Henry Hunt (later known as Louisa Lane Drew, a founder of the Barrymore dynasty) played all the title roles. According to newspaper accounts, the play and the place were enthusiastically received. Rice's Theater attracted major stars of the time, including Edwin Forrest and Junius Brutus Booth. Built of wood, it burned during the summer of 1850 but was replaced within six months by a new brick structure. John Rice sold his Theater in 1857 and began a successful political career, serving as mayor of Chicago from 1865 to 1869.

1857 was also the year McVicker's Theatre opened under the management of James H. McVicker, an actor and former employee of Rice's who owned a chain of theaters in cities around the United States.

McVicker's Theater, on Madison Street between State and Dearborn Streets, was built by Chicago actor and producer James H. McVicker in 1857. Photograph from 1863.

The sign on the building at the left says; Frank Munroes Green Room - Sands Pale Cream Ale. J.J. Sands' "Columbian Brewery," on the corner of Pine Street (N. Michigan Avenue) and E. Pearson Street, was built in 1855 and rivaled Lill & Diversy Brewery, Chicago's first commercial brewery. Both breweries produced pale or cream ale and were leveled in 1871 by the Great Chicago Fire.
As for everyone else, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was devastating and opportune for the Chicago theater community. James McVicker, as did David Henderson, took a leading role in the rebuilding. A Scottish-born newspaperman turned entrepreneur, Henderson built the Chicago Opera House, ran several other theaters, and produced a series of musicals with exotic Levantine settings (The Arabian Nights, Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba) that not only revived the Chicago stage but earned the city a reputation as an American theatrical hub into the 1900s.

If the affluent downtown crowds were looking for exotica and the new immigrants in the neighborhoods were longing for something familiar — and found it in their own theaters.

Lydia Thompson (1838-1908) introduced Victorian burlesque to America with her troupe, the "British Blondes," in 1868 and brought burlesque to Chicago in 1869

Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes, featuring Pauline Markham, Ada Harland, Lisa Weber, Olive, and Kate Logan.
Thompson's success inspired extraordinary reactions, including charges that her blonde hair was a wig and newspaper columns calling her an "English prostitute." Vehement protest swelled into a "war upon the blondes" that Lydia Thompson and Pauline Markham brought to a climax by horsewhipping Wilbur Storey, the Chicago Times editor, on the city's streets in 1869. Put on trial, the ladies were required to pay $100 damages ($1,900 today) each to Storey. They could not have purchased the ensuing publicity for ten times the fine amount. Thompson would enjoy six lucrative years in America before returning to England to reinstall herself in English theater. 

A German-language company was operating as early as 1852. Others followed quickly.

A Yiddish theater scene developed at the turn of the century and even produced a few mainstream stars. The best-known was Muni Weisenfreund, who became Paul Muni on Broadway and Hollywood. Muni first appeared onstage in 1908, at the age of 13, in the Metropolitan Theatre at Jefferson Street and 12th Street (today, Roosevelt Road), a theater his parents operated about a block away from the Maxwell Street Market. It differs from the Metropolitan Theatre at 4644 South Parkway (today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive), Chicago.

Compiled by Dr. 
Neil Gale, Ph.D.