Tom Stanly and Alexandria Mitchem, of the Penn Museum Blog, have written a series of interesting posts about the Penn Museum's 2015 archaeological excavations at the Smith Creek Site
along the eastern banks of the Mississippi River.
The Smith Creek Site, including three earthen mounds, flourished from 700 to 1200 CE, and the continuing excavations hope to knowledge of site use patterns (what kinds of activities were done at the site and where in the site these activities were primarily located).
The site is now on private property, and as such has not been examined in detail; unlike Cahokia, another Mississippian mound site which is a state historic site and under UNESCO World Heritage protection.
Into the Field: The Smith Creek Archaeological Project
May, 13, 2015.
" The main goals of the project will be to survey the landscape to gain a broad view of the site overall and determine just how much of the site was modified by its ancient designers; and to excavate at various points across the site with the intention of uncovering artifacts like ceramics, lithics, and plant and animal remains that may represent evidence of ancient food consumption, and unique features that can speak to a very big, underlying question: why was this mound center created in the first place?"
Why Would We Dig Here?
May, 20, 2015.
" The pattern that these sites follow, called the Coles Creek pattern, stands in contrast to some other, later and better-known mound sites in the Americas, such as Cahokia where a chief lived on top of the biggest mound and looked down on the people over whom he held power. At Coles Creek sites, there is little evidence that any one person held political rule over any other portion of the population."
The Unusual Legacy of J. Ashley SibleyMay, 28, 2015.
"When speaking to tribes about conducting archaeological work on prehistoric Native sites, Meg says that the main concern is often over ancient burials. Tribes don’t want Native remains dug out of the ground, especially when there’s no pressing research question that will be answered by doing so. So this year’s excavations are being conducted in areas of the site where there is no evidence for the presence of human remains."
Let's Meet the TeamJune, 4, 2015.
"Excavation is underway at Smith Creek, and we have a stellar team of students, both graduate and undergraduate, working hard in the field to make this year’s field season a successful one. They each bring their own interests, strengths, and levels of expertise to the project. Here’s a brief introduction for each of our intrepid excavators."
June, 5, 2015.
"Besides taking color measurements, the team also measured the lay of the land and mapped in important cultural features using a total station – the same kind you see being used in construction projects. These highly accurate measurements indicate exactly where a point is in space (both east-west and north-south, as well as elevation above sea level) and will allow Meg to enter her data into various software programs and create detailed maps of the excavation features and site topography."
Notes from Mississippi- Alexandria Mitchem
June, 9, 2015.
"So now I, and some of my fellow classmates, get to carry on that work. Let me tell you, it is not easy. It’s pretty much impossible to look cool while being an archaeologist. Basically the only thing Indiana Jones got right was that hat, because believe me, the only thing worse than digging in the sweltering Mississippi heat would be digging here with a sunburn."
What are we finding?
June, 11, 2015.
"The layers are identified sequentially as our excavators dig deeper into the ground, and the soil from each layer is run through screens of various measurements, depending on the layer. The idea is that you push the dirt through the screen, causing all the soil to loosen up and fall through; anything harder than soil and larger than the holes in the screen stays on top, leaving us with a collection of small objects like pottery sherds, animal bones, and rocks. At Smith Creek, even the rocks are significant, because the site lies on a bluff made completely of windblown silt—meaning that even small pebbles had to have been purposefully carried there at some point."
Shades of the Soil: Searching for Archaeological Features
June, 17, 2015.
"Typically, features are elements that are not easily removed from their context (as opposed to a potsherd or animal bone that can be dug out and picked up by hand). More specifically, they appear to us as differences in soil, identifiable largely due to their contrast with the color or texture of the soil surrounding them."
For more information,
- Penn Museum
- University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
- Smith Creek Archaeological Project- SCAP Facebook
- Smith Creek Archaeological Project Youtube
- The Archaeology of Catawbe Indian Communities in the Late 18th Century
- Dr. David Cranford, June 2015.
- Smith Creek Archaeological Project Podcast (iTunes)
- Episodes 1-2
- Penn Museum Youtube
- Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley
- Archaeological dig gives insight into area's past
- June 28, 2015.
- Anthropologist to present findings at Grand Village
- June 23, 2015.
- Mississippi Valley archaeological site reveals transition from hunter-gatherer to farming cultures of ancient Native Americans
- The Advocate, June 19, 2015.
- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
- Mississippi Archaeology Trails
- Grand Bay Site Culture
- Cole Creek Culture
- Uncovering Ancient St. Louis
- The Archaeological Channel
- UNESCO World Heritage