Dickson Mounds Museum: Interpreting a Past for a Better Future

Dickson Mounds Museum is an on-site archaeological museum located on the grounds of Dickson Mounds State Park. The purpose of the Museum, which is a branch of the Illinois State Museum, is to document the journey of American Indians in the Illinois River Valley.

I did not see a “No Photography” sign, therefore I took a few pictures at the Museum. These pictures of exhibits and artifacts are a glimpse at the history and culture that resides within the Museum.

Dickson Mounds Museum

The Dickson Mounds Museum is located on a bluff near the Illinois River between the towns of Lewistown and Havana. The Museum is around 60 miles northwest of the city of Springfield, along routes 97 and 78. Although the museum might seem out of the way for visitors to Illinois, I highly recommend a visit.


The architecture of the museum blends into the message and its location. The building is constructed in the form of a flat-topped mound with distinctive sloping sides. Your visit through the museum begins at the top of the three floors and you work your way down.

Illinois River Valley and Mounds

A short film introduces you to the story of the land and the people who occupied it. When you step outside the "River Valley Gallery", you can witness the panorama in front of you and imagine how the people of the valley lived on the land.

Reflections on Three Worlds

The Reflections on Three Worlds gallery shows archaeology, life, and culture of the Mississippian people whose sites surround the Dickson Mounds Museum.

Pottery at Dickson Mounds Museum

Pieces of pottery can be the most important evidence for identifying and dating the cultures associated with the sites discovered.

Ceremonial Mace

Ceremonial maces during the Mississippian period were elite objects and were reserved for those who wielded the highest authority and speak of superiority and dominion, which were essential attributes of a ruler in warrior society. The mace displayed here on the left, a remnant of Illinois' prehistoric culture, was discovered in 1915 and dates to circa AD 1200-1400.

Effigies and Totem

Mississippian statues provide a glimpse into their beliefs. Pottery was made from locally available clay sources, which was tempered with an additive to keep it from shrinking and cracking during the drying and firing process. The precise uses of stone human effigy pipes remain unknown but there is high probability of it being used for ceremonial significance.

The River Valley Gallery

The River Valley Gallery of the Disckson Mounds Museum traces interactions between the Illinois River Valley and its inhabitants who have lived in this area from the end of the Ice Age to today.

Mississippian Spider Gorget

The spider was an important symbol to the people of the Mississippian culture. The spider symbol, perhaps associated with women, symbolizes weaving, fertility, balance, and harmony.

The People of the Valley

The People of the Valley exhibit shows cultures from Ice Age hunters to the tribal groups that left Illinois in the ninth century.

The People of the Valley

The Mississippian period begins 1,100 years ago and continues in Illinois until 550 years ago. Mississippian people lived throughout Illinois. There are 2,379 Mississippian sites documented so far in Illinois.

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