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Published in The Wisconsin Archeologist Volume 85, Number 1, January - June 2004
The archaeological signature of the Highlands Site near Channahon, Illinois, represents a small, short-duration historic period Native American occupation situated on an upland bluff overlooking the Des Plaines River. Archaeological investigations conducted by Prairie Archaeology & Research (then known as Environmental Compliance Consultants, Inc.) in 1997 resulted in the identification and complete excavation of six shallow features consisting of four irregularly shaped basins, a large hearth containing cracked rock and charcoal, and an enigmatic semi-circular shallow depression or trench-like feature. Historic period artifacts were sparse and included glass seed beads, pieces of scrap copper and lead, triangular projectile points and rich amounts of subsistence remains including elk and bison were recovered.
The Highlands site is distinct from other regional historic Native American archaeological sites in the area surrounding the southern Lake Michigan basin in that the site appears to represent a specialized, very short-term occupation at which minimal subsistence-related activities occurred. In addition, the site's limited array and general lack of material remains, its absence of clear evidence of structural remains, and its absence of subsurface storage and waste disposal facilities which would be typical of a habitation suggests the site functioned in a manner other than for habitation.
Using historical accounts and illustrations of Potawatomi sites and religious customs and activities, the Highlands Site appears to represent a Potawatomi ritual location dating to the late 18th or early 19th century. Although graves or human skeletal material were not encountered, the analyses of the artifact assemblage, feature morphology and patterning, and interpretation of the faunal assemblage suggests the Highlands site was utilized as a mortuary location.