Preserving the Past for the Future

The Powell Archaeological Research Center (PARC) is an organization dedicated to saving archaeological data for future study. It has been formed by individuals concerned about the destruction of archaeological sites by ongoing development in the metropolitan St. Louis area.

Location. The Powell Archaeological Research Center (PARC) is located on the western edge of the Cahokia Mounds Archaeological Site at the Fingerhut House. The house has been purchased to serve as a research center and was, at one time, the home of the Fingerhut family who owned the area of the western portion of the Cahokia Site. Located on Collinsville Road, the Fingerhut House lies across from the site of Powell Mound, the third largest mound of the Cahokia Site. Powell Mound was destroyed during the 1930s when the surrounding area began to be developed.

Our beginnings. PARC was established in October 1997 by a small group of individuals interested in the purchase of the Marie Fingerhut house located on the western periphery of the Cahokia Site.

Challenges. The large Mississippian site of Cahokia covers about six square miles with nearly 100 mounds located within its boundaries. Approximately half of this area and a majority of the remaining mounds comprise the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site that is owned and maintained by the State of Illinois. However, this leaves much of the site in private ownership and thus subject to development. Furthermore, at least five other major Mississippian mound centers and hundreds of other sites and mounds that surround Cahokia are endangered from development. These sites, no matter how large or small, all contribute to our understanding of the Native American occupation of the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Unfortunately, an intense amount of development is underway. This economic growth of course, is nothing new. What is new is the accelerated rate of expansion, much of it urban sprawl. Our concern is how to deal with the problem of protecting these sites for future generations to enjoy.

Opportunities. A number of approaches furthering protection exist. For example, several federal and state laws are in place to assist in this endeavor, however, many sites are still left unprotected by these laws or the laws are simply ignored. While many developers have cooperated with archaeologists over the years to help salvage information or preserve sites, others have not been as eager. We at PARC believe a greater understanding of the importance of our past can be conveyed through education. This will hopefully lead to increased cooperation and ultimately help save the areas archaeological resources. While Cahokia Mounds serves as an important focal point for much public education, one of PARC's goals is to provide educational programs complementing those already provided.

Another way to preserve the region's past is to purchase property when it becomes available. This was the motivation behind the recent purchase of the Fingerhut house and the surrounding 2.5 acres. Therefore, we have made the purchase of archaeological properties an additional objective of PARC We are working with the Archaeological Conservancy to help achieve this goal.

However, obtaining property necessitates raising money. Moneys raised has provided the financial base for the purchase of the Fingerhut property.

Excavation is another way to preserve and gain archaeological information. However, this is a last resort and can be a time consuming and costly affair. Every member of our board has been involved in volunteering their time for salvage archaeology during their professional careers. While very gratifying, we are getting older and less mobile, and we need a younger generation to continue this tradition.

It is hoped that what we do with PARC becomes a tradition and that it will transcend our own personal and professional lives. PARC is not meant to replace organizations that have a long history of involvement in the region. Instead we hope to serve as a clearinghouse or focal point for the numerous opportunities that exist for St. Louis regional archaeology.