Ancient Heroes and Heroines in the Heartland Topic of Beckwith Lecture

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Feb. 27, 2006 – “Ancient Heroes and Heroines in the Heartland: Where Archaeology Meets History” will be the topic of the annual Beckwith Memorial Archaeology Lecture March 15 at Southeast Missouri State University.

Dr. Timothy Pauketat, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois, will present the lecture at 6:30 p.m. in the Southeast Missouri Regional Museum located in Memorial Hall Room 122.

Pauketat will discuss recent discoveries from the Mississippi valley, particularly at and around the great site of Cahokia, that point to a brief but intense “Mississippian civilization,” the details of which challenge conventional wisdom about American Indians and American history.  A wealth of data now allows archaeologists to point to specific causes and, possibly, the specific people behind the founding of an anomalous North American city and the spread of a pervasive political-religious cult across the eastern United States and into the eastern Great Plains. Singular events — a supernova, Mesoamerican contacts — caused a “Big Bang” 1,000 years ago that generated a North American cultural universe and affected the European colonization of the continent.

Pauketat’s research focuses on the “Mississippians” of the Midwest and their eastern Plains descendants, with particular emphasis on politics, religion, and the American Indian city of Cahokia. His approach puts people first and seeks the history in “pre-history.” He is the author/editor of several recent books, including North American Archaeology, Ancient Cahokia, and The Archaeology of Traditions. He also has just completed a popular book entitled Cahokia’s Big Bang and the Story of Ancient North America for Viking-Penguin Press.

The Thomas Beckwith Collection is comprised of artifacts of the Pre-Columbian Civilization, of the Middle Mississippi Civilization, which was located near the Charleston, Mo., area, according to Ellen Hahs, curator of education of the Museum. This extensive collection contains some 1,100 items including effigy bowls, water bottles and vessels. Beckwith presented the collection to the University in June 1913, shortly before his death. He had collected artifacts for 40 years.  Select pieces from the Beckwith Collection are on permanent display in the Southeast Missouri Regional Museum at Southeast.