Archaeologists uncover Stone Age copper workshop in Illinois

COLLINSVILLE -- About 800 years ago, in a large room lit by a wood fire, fierce-looking men bedecked in bright feathers and polished copper ornaments gathered to smoke and talk.

Their intricate jewelry -- fanciful objects hammered from chunks of naturally occurring raw copper -- reflected the firelight. A variety of these ancient Mississippian-era copper decorations have turned up throughout Illinois and the Southeast United States, including triangular, 8-inch long-earrings embossed at the ends with a human face, headdress ornaments depicting stylized birds, even diminutive but carefully crafted copper ovals that may have been applied to a ritualistic leather belt or cape. When they are unearthed, these antiquities are covered with a green or gray patina.

Today, traffic on Collinsville Road passes a short distance from the collection of over more than 80 mounds where, archaeologists say, this American Stone Age scene is thought to have regularly occurred.

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