Ancient Mississippian-era hammered-copper decorations, including headdress ornaments, jewelry and clothing embellishments, have been unearthed near the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Tuesday.
The site was the location of Cahokia, a large, prehistoric city of perhaps 20,000 inhabitants, the News-Democrat said.
"It's the only one (copper workshop) that's been discovered," said James A. Brown, a professor of archaeology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
A self-taught archaeologist, Greg Perino, who died in 2005 at age 91, originally found the workshop in the 1950s. Perino had mapped the area of the site, but his mapping was crude and made it difficult to locate the site, the newspaper said.
Brown and his research partner John Kelly, an archaeology lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis, have led the search for the workshop for eight years, the newspaper said.
Kelly and Brown said the purpose of most of the excavations is to discover the Cahokia's true role in the Southeast Ceremonial Complex, a series of ancient sites that stretched from Wisconsin through Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia.
The rediscovery of the copper workshop has gained national attention. The National Geographic Society is helping to fund the research.
"As we learn more, we will be able to see all of this in a very different, non-primitive storyline. We will see this as the run-up to civilization," said Brown.