Modoc Rock Shelter

The Modoc Rock Shelter is a rock cliff at the edge of the Mississippi River Valley that was undercut by Ice Age floods. This site is significant for its archaeological evidence of human habitation during the Archaic period in the Eastern United States. It is located on the northeastern side of County Road 7 (Bluff Road) southeast of Prairie du Rocher in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.[2]

Modoc Rock Shelter
Part of the site
LocationRandolph County, Illinois, USA
Nearest cityModoc, Illinois
Coordinates38°03′46″N 90°03′49″W
ArchitectNatural Feature
Architectural stylePrehistoric Erosion
NRHP reference #66000328
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLJanuary 20, 1961[2]


The site has over 28 feet of sediment that contain artifacts. Evidence from the site, including four separate periods of Archaic occupation and one of a later period, suggests that the cultures of the Eastern Woodlands may have been comparable in age to the big game hunting cultures of the Great Plains. Based on the analysis of artifacts, archaeologists discovered that 9,000 years ago this rock shelter was used as a short-term camp by small hunting groups; by 6,000 years ago this rock shelter was used for long-term based camps by several families which were involved in activities of everyday life; and, by around 4,000 years ago evidence found in the sediment layers suggests the site was again used by small hunting parties as a short-term camp.[3] There tools included concave projectile points, scrapers, choppers, hammer stones, and bone awls. Evidence has shown that during occupation, the inhabitants had a diet that consisted of deer, raccoon, opossum, birds, and fish.

Many of the footpaths leading to these caves still exist, although they are almost impossible to access due to deterioration.

Archaeological history

The Modoc Rock Shelter site was discovered in 1951 by archaeologist Irwin Peithmann, who is known for teaching himself about the customs of Native Americans by living among them.

See also


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. "Modoc Rock Shelter". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
  3. "Illinois State Museum". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
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