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Archeology talk focuses on early Native American cultures in Illinois

An upcoming Prairie’s Edge Master Naturalists event will give attendees the opportunity to learn about early Native American cultures in Illinois through archeological information.

The Master Naturalists have arranged for Fred Christensen, president of the East Central Illinois Archeological Society, to present “Illinois Archeology, An Overview” at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Douglas-Hart Nature Center in Mattoon. The Master Naturalists program is part of University of Illinois Extension.

People have lived in Illinois for 12,000 years, and archeology provides most of the information about them for all but the last four centuries. Christensen’s talk will provide a survey of those millennia before written history.

Ways of life during that era ranged from the Paleo-Indian Ice Age hunters and gatherers through the mound building Hopewell and Mississippian cultures to the Native American peoples contacted by 17th-century French missionaries and fur traders.  Historical archeology continues the story to the present. 

Christensen will describe these cultures, and the scientific techniques used now to understand them. He is a former history instructor at University of Kentucky and ROTC instructor at U of I, and he taught the Army’s Command and General Staff Course for eight years.

He retired in 2007 from the U of I Admissions and Records office. There, he oversaw the issuance of diplomas for graduates and maintenance of graduate records for PhD candidates. He spent 28 years in the Army Reserves, including five years of active duty, before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1997.

Since retirement, Christensen has taught adult-education classes for 13 years at the U of I’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). His lifelong interest in and study of history and archeology have contributed to these classes and their content.

Registration is free for Christensen’s talk at the Nature Center, 2204 DeWitt Ave. Attendees can register at or call the Extension office in Coles County at 217-345-7034.

To maintain a safe environment for all, Extension is asking participants to wear a face covering and practice social distancing guidelines at this event. If attendees need an accommodation to participate, they can call 217-345-7034. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time for meeting access needs.

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