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The Archaic and Woodland book cover image
July 1988
Center for American Archaeology

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The Archaic and Woodland Cemeteries at the Elizabeth Site in the Lower Illinois Valley

Edited by: 
Douglas Charles
Steven Leigh
Jane Buikstra

The Elizabeth site consisted of early Middle Woodland and Late Woodland cemeteries, and Middle/Late Archaic midden and burials, atop a bluff on the west side of the lower Illinois River. The excavation of the site is described in detail, with abundant illustration. Demographic and pathologic analyses of the skeletal remains revealed a relatively high incidence of disease among Middle Woodland adults, but the authors suggest that this is accounted for by the age-accumulative nature of pathologic markers and the relatively high older-adult survivorship in the Middle Woodland sample.

After presentation of the ceramic (primarily Middle Woodland) and lithic (primarily Archaic) analyses, the report concludes with two chapters that compare the Middle Woodland cemeteries to Middle Woodland cemeteries in the lower and central parts of the Illinois River valley, the Mississippi River valley and beyond. The first of these comparative chapters considers similarities between sites in terms of the pattern of artifact associations and concludes that these patterns are not particularly sensitive markers of regional population groupings. The second comparative chapter considers the structure of the Elizabeth cemeteries — the way(s) that the mortuary facilities were built and used, how this changed through time and how the Elizabeth facilities compare with Middle Woodland mortuary facilities elsewhere. This report, especially the fascinating final chapter by Jill Bullington, should be read by everyone who teaches or investigates eastern United States prehistory.


Jane Buikstra is a Regents' Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Her research encompasses bioarchaeology, paleopathology, forensic anthropology and paleodemography. Among her current work is an investigation of the evolutionary history of ancient tuberculosis in the Americas based on archaeologically recovered pathogen DNA.