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Author Topic: Volunteers Help Protect Prehistoric Native-American Mounds in Missouri  (Read 79 times)
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« on: August 26, 2007, 02:49:58 AM »

By Mary Shapiro - Saturday, August 25, 2007 7:24 AM CDT

The Missouri Mound Adoption Project (MO-MAP) founded recently in Chesterfield hopes to use a coalition of volunteers to protect Missouri's remaining prehistoric Native American mounds.

Michael Fuller, professor of anthropology, and Kay Blalock, professor of history, both with St. Louis Community College, supervise and teach students from the community college and the University of Missouri-St. Louis during a Blake Mound Restoration Project workday, a model for the Missouri Mound Adoption Project (MO-MAP) founded recently in Chesterfield.

   "We may not be able to save every one of Missouri's remaining prehistoric Native American mounds, but with volunteers, we can try to save one at a time," said Mark Leach of Chesterfield, a trustee of the Missouri Archaeological Society and a member of the Chesterfield Landmarks Preservation Commission.

   "MO-MAP's approach is modeled after the recent success of the Blake Mound Restoration Project in Chesterfield," Leach said.

   MO-MAP builds on the traditional approach to mound protection -- keeping mound locations confidential, documenting them with state authorities and ensuring protection provided under Missouri's unmarked human burial law, he said.

   The new group's genesis began with a recent experience involving a group of 11 possible mounds in Chesterfield that were endangered by a proposed road project. 
   "Thick foliage has allowed these mounds to remain virtually undetected by the public, even though they are surrounded by schools and subdivisions," Leach said.

   "In December 2001, they were reported to the state," he said. "The possibility of burials associated with these mounds provided potential protection via Missouri's unmarked human burial law."

   But he recently was surprised to learn some Missouri Department of Transportation archaeologists were unaware of the 11 possible mounds in Chesterfield, due to not having access to a particular database.

   "Now, they're aware of those locations and asked me to help pinpoint them," he said.

   Leach soon recorded the GPS coordinates of each of the possible mounds.

   "We were pleased to note no fresh signs of looting at any of the mounds," he said. "However, much to our dismay, I also encountered a major Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) project taking place in the area.

   "Unfortunately, a section of one of the mounds had inadvertently been destroyed," he said.

   Leach said there are simply too many mounds, rock shelters and other sites for professional archaeologists to monitor.

   "Therefore, one by one, many of these sites are being lost," Leach said.

   MO-MAP has one nonprofessional volunteer watching over one mound, under the guidance of professional archaeologists.

    "Adopting a mound means that a volunteer holds the view, 'They may loot or bulldoze every other mound in Missouri, but not this mound, not my mound,'" Leach said.

    Volunteers identify the property owner, educate him/her on Missouri's unmarked burial law and instruct the landowner not to allow anyone, even someone claiming to be an archaeologist, to dig into the mound.

   They also document the mound's location with the state and contact local government, MoDOT, utilities and other entities that may need to be alerted to the mound's location.

   And they work with the property owner to prevent looting and possibly to restore existing damage.

   Joe Harl, an archaeologist with the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis, praised the new group.

   "This is a great way for the public to help protect our cultural heritage," he said.

   "Mounds are supposed to be protected by state law, but I don't know of anyone prosecuted for damaging them -- though mounds are destroyed daily by looting and construction," Harl said. "Future generations will be grateful for what volunteers do today."

   There are no dues or regular meetings to be part of MO-MAP.

   For more information, contact Leach at (314) 313-5715, or google macquest program and visit the links section, which is called "Dr. Mac's Big Messy Desk," to look for MO-MAP.

   Or visit the Web site http://associations.missouristate.edu/mas/macquest/Desk/indexMOMAP.htm.


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