About The Allscheid Rock Shelter
Monroe County, Illinois
Eight thousand years ago, a small group of hunter-gathers came to the hollow in this sandstone cliff nine miles south of present-day Waterloo, Illinois. Here they hunted, gathered and processed food, especially deer and hickory nuts.
This shelter would be used on and off for the next 7,500 years.
Touring his property in the early 1970s, Melvin Allscheid came upon the remote shelter. He knew immediately that it had been occupied by humans in the distant past: broken pottery and arrowheads could literally be scooped up out of the dust beneath the overhang.
From December 2, 1996 to August 1997, Melvin and an amateur archaeologist friend excavated the shelter site in three one-foot levels. Here are some of the entries from their daily log:
January 2, 1997 We started to dig on Level Two toward the back of the Shelter. Artifacts include several Woodland dart points, 1 bird point-1 inch long, 4 broken projectile tips, 1 exhausted Dalton point or drill, 1 piece of shaped bone with 3 drilled holes in the thick end. Also about 50 pieces of mostly cord-marked pottery.
February 6, 1997 It is obvious that these people ate a lot of deer. Many large bones seem to have been smashed to obtain marrow.
March 18-19, 1997 A large rock appeared deep into Level Two and throughout Level Three….Mel described the shape as being that of a large green sea turtle shell. On top of the stone there is a large manmade hole about 8 inches in diameter and at least two feet deep. A small hole next to the large one is connected to the bigger hole by a saddle-shaped area….Its use has been contemplated, with many suggestions offered. The popular theory is that it is a food-preparing or -processing feature.
Mid-May 1997 The large stone has taken a back seat to a very large stone – 20 feet by 7 feet has 16 holes and 2 shallow cups in it. The holes vary in depth from 20 to 32 inches. The use of these holes, referred to as hominy holes, is still a mystery!
Three feet below the surface, the soil was dark and contained charcoal and nutshell fragments, with grinding stones lying horizontally – evidence that this new layer had been undisturbed by previous digging.
At this point, Allscheid turned the site over to professionals at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. This archeological site has been identified as an Archaic Period site studied and documented for eight years by Washington University’s anthropology and archeological departments.
The Allscheid Rock Shelter Exhibit
History Museum of Monroe County
A replica of the rock shelter, constructed by Melvin Allscheid on a scale of I:I0 with hand- crafted figurines is prominently featured in the Allscheid-Metzger Gallery in the Monroe County History Museum in Waterloo, Illinois. In addition, there is a display case where a variety of artifacts are arranged in trays by period. There are other cases displaying a large variety of the many artifacts collected such as grinding and nutting stones. Videos of the rock shelter may be viewed when visiting the museum.
The museum is located at 724 Elaine Drive P.O. Box 28, Waterloo, IL 62298, 618-939-5008. Like us on Facebook at FB/Monroe County History Museum.com. Hours are Saturdays and Sundays from Noon to 3:00 P.M. Tours may be scheduled for any day at any time by emailing from this website or calling 618-939-8037 or 314-495-6269. Donations appreciated!