Located here at the base of the Picnic Hill bluff is the Pond Site, a ca. 50 B.C. work site (or the work area for a larger settlement as yet unrecognized) for Native Americans belonging to the Middle Woodland period of occupations. The activities conducted at this site were highly specialized, and the dominant activity involved light cutting tasks.
The Woodland era of Native American prehistory is characterized by widespread production of pottery, the cultivation of certain local plants, the establishment of more permanent villages, organized trade, and ritualized burial of the dead in earthen mounds.
Despite cultivating plants such as sunflower, pigweed, lambsquarters, marsh elder, gourds, and squash, these Woodland people were not full-scale agriculturalists and continued to rely on hunting and gathering for a major portion of their diet. The variety of material goods increased during the Woodland period, which saw the appearance of the chipped stone hoes as well as goods such as copper and marine shells that could have been acquired through trade with distant peoples.
The first archaeological investigation at the Pond Site occurred when Marion Dickson (brother of museum namesake Don Dickson) and Patrick Munson dug a trench here in 1957. In 1961, formal excavations began under the direction of the Illinois State Museum, uncovering a variety of trash and fire pits, a concentration of broken pottery, and a variety of stone knives. The low frequency of weapons discovered seems to indicate that hunting was not a major activity at the Pond Site.