Meet the Experts




Dr. Susan Alt, Indiana University Bloomington, began her work at Cahokia and the surrounding villages. She became convinced immigrants were a large part of the population explosion and began looking into where the people might have come from and why they were there. She has recently investigated sites in southern Indiana to learn more about the people and the homeland. Susan is also doing work on subtle kinds of violence, structural violence, and the kinds of inequalities that sponsor violence.

Dr. William Bomar, has been the director of the University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park for 14 years where he directed the design, development, and installation of the park’s award-winning permanent museum exhibition, Lost Realm of the Black Warrior. For over 23 years, he has worked in numerous museums and heritage sites including the Atlanta History Center, the Nebraska State Historical Society, and the Coastal Heritage Society in Savannah, Ga.

Dr. John H. Blitz, University of Alabama, has located the remains of many previously unknown buried houses at Moundville with remote-sensing equipment. He has uncovered middens (ancient garbage piles) that have enabled him to construct an inventory of household status and wealth for different areas of the site. His excavations on Mound P are allowing him to evaluate the possibility of mound use during the early historic period, at a time after Moundville was thought to be abandoned.

Dr. James A. Brown, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, studies the evolution of sedentism, the determination of social organizational features of ancient societies through mortuary analysis, the economics of long-distance exchange, and the social and ideological dimensions of chiefdom level. His recent research has focused on the use of iconographic materials to investigate certain religious traditions of the Mississippian.

Dr. Thomas Emerson, Director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, is a specialist in North American Eastern Woodlands archaeology, especially of the Upper Mississippi River Valley region. His research has generally centered on the archaeology, religious ideology, and political economy of late prehistoric Mississippian cultures. His work has included mortuary analyses, subsistence studies, archaeological ethnicity, archaeometric sourcing of raw materials, faunal analysis, Great Lakes maritime research, archaeological law and compliance, heritage management, and cultural resource management.

Dr. Mark Esarey, Cahokia Site Manager, has been instrumental in helping define the Mark of the Mississippians and in selecting the archeologists and anthropologists to serve as advisors to the project. Mark was previously the Illinois State Archaeologist and the State Historic Preservation Office’s Chief Archaeologist. He recently was named a Distinguished Alumnus by Illinois State University.

William Iseminger, Associate Site Manager at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, is a professional archaeologist who has worked at Cahokia Mounds since 1971 in both archaeological and museum related activities. An author of several books on Cahokia, Bill has served as both expert advisor and editor on multiple projects developed by the Cahokia Mounds Society and the production team.

Dr. John Kelly, Washington University, has focused his work on ritual and its role in Mississippian society. He is currently excavating sites at Cahokia and in and around East St. Louis and St. Louis proper. Most recently Kelly has been involved in the rediscovery of the Mississippian mound center in East St. Louis. It was assumed that this mound center had been destroyed during early industrial and commercial development. However, a study of historical documents and collections together with recent excavations have provided evidence of the site in the backyards and alleys of the present city.

Dr. Adam King, University of South Carolina, is reconstructing the history of polities associated with Etowah. Current projects include creating GIS layers and a relational database to analyze the extensive mortuary data from Etowah's Mound C, exploring beliefs about the sacred and their intersection with social inequality through the study of Mississippian art and iconography, and investigating the layout of the Etowah site through full cover remote sensing surveys.

Dr. Vernon James Knight, University of Alabama, has conducted field research in several regions over the last 25 years. His interests include origin and development of complex societies, archaeology of social organization and religion, and archaeological approaches to iconography. His work particularly concerns the late prehistoric, early historic, and colonial periods of the Southeast and Caribbean, with an emphasis on ethno-historical reconstruction.


Dr. Timothy R. Pauketat, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, has several ongoing field, lab, and writing projects underway that build on his research on (a) the rise of Cahokia, (b) the Mississippianization of the midcontinent, and (c) the role of religion at Cahokia and elsewhere. This has led to his direction of over 10 years of large-scale excavations at farming settlements to the east of Cahokia.

Dennis Peterson, Archaeologist, is currently the Site Manager of the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center and participated in the Spiro Mounds excavations, conducted from 1979 to 1982. His continuing work includes project such as the “Spiro Mounds: Prehistoric Gateway; Present-day Enigma” exhibit with the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


Dr. F. Kent Reilly, Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, and Director, Center for the Study of Arts and Symbolism of Ancient America, is a pre-historian. His research interest is in the study of the visual artifacts of ancient civilizations as valuable works of art in themselves, not just as documentary evidence of the past. His current interests include the prehistoric Mississippian Period of the Southeast.

Dr. George Sabo, University of Arkansas, studies human/environment relationships, expressive culture among Southeastern Indians from pre-contact to modern times, American Indian interactions with European explorers and colonists in the Southeast, and the anthropology of history in modern Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw communities in Oklahoma. His current projects include a study of 15th-18th century art, ritual, and social interaction in the Arkansas River Valley.


Dr. Paul D. Welch, Southern Illinois University, studies the interaction of economics with social and political organization in small-scale societies. He has been working on Mississippian and archeological sites for his entire career, starting back in the late 1970s. He began in the Moundville area and in the mid-'90s moved to western Tennessee to the Shiloh site. In 2001 he began work at the Kincaid site, another major Mississippian site in southernmost Illinois.

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