Archaeology of Madison County -- Artifacts from the Madison County Historical Society and courtesy of Dr. Julie Zimmermann

 

Julie Zimmermann
Photograph of Dr. Zimmermann at the Gehring site excavation.

 

Dr. Zimmermann (born Sept. 1968) is a witty woman who is inspiring — a successful professional archaeologist — and an admired professor. She was born in Barnhart, Missouri, and lived there until she earned a scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis. This opportunity opened up an academic route for her to pursue.

At Washington University, she completed her undergraduate studies in Anthropology focusing in Archaeology. During her first field school in 1987 she became hooked on the dig. As Dr. Zimmermann’s professional career blossomed, she worked on many different sites in the Midwest and along the East Coast. However, the bulk of her work has been here in Madison County.

Today she is an anthropology professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) where she conducts the archaeological field school at the Gehring site.

Peck Hall
Dr. Zimmermann’s office and laboratory are in Peck Hall (SIUE). This is where she and her students first analyze the archaeological material from the field schools.

 

Neither Dr. Zimmermann, nor her family, have ever participated in artifact collecting. However, at SIUE she keeps a comparative collection of animal bones. Dr. Zimmermann’s specialty in archaeology is zooarchaeology, which means she is an expert at identifying prehistoric animal bones. Using the comparative method, she uses her bone collection to identify bones found in excavations. Her collection is relatively small in comparison to John Sutter‘s and Raymond Smith‘s, but it serves a scientific purpose for teaching and research rather than one of personal enjoyment.

Zimmermann’s Inspiration

Dr. Zimmermann is a little atypical when it comes to filling the stereotype of an archaeologist. She was not inspired by an artifact or collecting. Instead, reading books and a desire to understand the deeper questions of human history lured her to archaeology. At the age of thirteen Dr. Zimmermann read a book, The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier (1969). It was about people and places in a different land and an earlier time. From there her curiosity only grew.

The House on the Strand
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969.

The Gehring Site

Gehring site
Map of the Gehring site (click image to enlarge). Courtesy of Dr. Julie Zimmermann.
 

In 2013 the Gehring site was in the process of a full excavation on the SIUE campus when Feature 203 was unearthed. In 21st century excavation sites the finds are very commonly in broken pieces. While there remain very few intact arrow points to be found, scientific archaeologists gather the little bits of them and shattered ceramics and assemble them to form a clearer picture. But there was one item in Feature 203 that was astounding — a small figurine!

Types of Artifacts graph