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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Honorary Degree to Alan Harn

June 07, 2014

Citation read by Jon Wagner, professor of anthropology, Knox College.

President Amott, I am honored to present Alan Harn, assistant curator of anthropology at the Dickson Mounds Museum, for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

The lifework of Alan Harn, a self-educated archeologist, more than qualifies him for the honor bestowed upon him today. Working at the nationally renowned Dickson Mounds archaeological museum and research center, Mr. Harn has conducted investigations of the late prehistoric cultures of Central Illinois, focusing his attention on the network of populations resulting in the creation of sites like Dickson Mounds, built some seven hundred to nine hundred years ago. He is considered to be the leading expert on this important site and other native cultures in the region. Located in Fulton County, Illinois, just 50 miles south of the Knox campus in Galesburg, the mounds are believed to contain the remains of more than 2,000 people.

Mr. Harn was born just west of the mounds and, as a boy, began collecting artifacts and recording archaeological sites in the area. During his high school years, he worked on archaeological excavations and attended summer archaeological field schools conducted by the Illinois State Museum. He knew and, eventually, would come to work with Dr. Don Dickson, who owned the property and had carried out excavations at Dickson Mounds starting in the 1920s. Dickson sold the site to the State of Illinois in 1945, and, in 1994, the state undertook a widely acclaimed, state-of-the-art renovation of the popular Dickson Mounds Museum.

After conducting archaeological investigations for Southern Illinois University, Mr. Harn accepted a position at Dickson Mounds Museum in 1962. During his 52 years at the site, he has worked with, learned from, and tutored prominent archaeologists and has personally surveyed, excavated, recorded, and analyzed countless archaeological remains. His scientific illustrations have appeared in numerous publications, and he is the author of more than 80 scientific articles, papers, and reports, as well as four books, including, most recently, Six Hundred Generations There: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives of Life at Emiquon, The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Properties, Fulton County, Illinois, published in 2012. This year, he will complete a definitive volume describing 87 years of research and discoveries at the Dickson Mounds site.

For decades, Mr. Harn has also been a great friend to Knox College, taking time from his research and writing agenda to guide visiting groups of students through the museum, as well as the laboratory and collections areas normally open only to research staff and visiting scholars. And he has no plan to stop his work anytime soon. "If I ever retire, I'll be here every day until my health won't let me get around anymore, because there are so many things to discover," he recently told the State Journal Register.

President Amott, in honor of his more than 50 years researching and analyzing the archaeological history of Illinois' Dickson Mounds, I present Alan Harn for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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Printed on Thursday, July 27, 2017

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