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Volunteers dig up history in field near Colona

Tom Loebel and a group of about a dozen volunteers spent Sunday sifting through a Quad Cities field, hoping to find artifacts dating back more than 9,000 years.

COLONA, Ill. — In a big field near Colona, a group of about a dozen volunteers is searching for small signs of history.

"It’s a big puzzle," said Kenny Hipskind. "And some of the pieces are missing."

Hipskind first found artifacts in the field in 2000, along with his son. He brought some of what he found to an archaeologist.

"And he was very interested in what I was finding because he knew, he knew better than I knew it was unusual to find that stuff down here," Hipskind said.

That's where Tom Loebel comes in, helping put that puzzle together.

"Sites of this time frame are pretty rare," Loebel said.

Loebel is an archaeologist at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, which is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

Loebel and Hipskind started organizing the dig project at the field in the fall of 2020, and are now digging for 10 days, trying to find as many artifacts as they can in a specific area in the field.

"There’s nothing organic left, no bone, no wood no antler," Loebel said. "So we have to rely on the remains of the stone tools to help us interpret what was happening at this site."

Loebel and his team use a grid system at the dig site, so they can reconstruct the site in a lab once the digging is complete, Loebel said.

Loebel also asked News 8 not reveal the exact location of the dig site, to protect the project's accuracy.

During the project, volunteers are sifting through that small part of the field where Hipskind first found those artifacts.

"This style of point generally classify as during the late Paleoindian periods," Loebel said.

What the group has dug up so far dates back more than 9,000 years, Loebel said.

"So essentially we’re excavating the top 10 inches or so of soil and sifting all of that through to recover everything," Loebel said.

Piecing together history, from a group so determined to dig up as much as they can find.

The group started their 10-day dig project on Friday, May 7. They will wrap up their project on Sunday, May 16. 

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