2004 Investigations at Eaker
In June 2004, 2005 and 2006 Arkansas's Annual Training Program in Archeology took place at the Eaker site. We carried out excavation, controlled surface collection, geophysical investigations, and mapping.
Mathew Incised pottery, dating to between AD 1200 and 1400
These investigations were designed to give us both horizontal and vertical views of the site. The summaries below provide preliminary interpretations of the 2004 work.

Controlled surface collection (CSC). CSC allows us to take a horizontal look at the site. Portions of the site were gridded off into 2 meter square units, and we collected artifacts from the surface of each unit. When this information is processed and plotted in a mapping program, we should be able to see hot spots of high artifact density or, alternatively, spots where artifact density is low. After analysis of the artifacts, we may also be able to discern components from different time periods or activity areas.

Geophysical investigations. Jami Lockhart undertook geophysical investigations across the northeastern part of the site in June 2004, following up on earlier investigations in the spring of 2003. The geophysical investigations revealed clusters of anomalies suggestive of houses or other cultural features. Winding through the whole area are long linear anomalies that may be earthquake effects.

Excavation, Area A — Searching for a Palisade. Area A is located at the east edge of the site where a dip is visible in the topography. This dip runs perpendicular to Pemiscot Bayou. Given its location at the edge of the site, its orientation to the bayou, and the fact that some Mississippian settlements were enclosed by moat/embankment complexes, we hypothesized that this dip is the remains of a moat.

Profile of unit Area B showing layer of earthquake sand

Geophysical investigations in this area did not show any cultural features, but fortifications sometimes do not show up well. In order to say one way or the other whether this dip is the remains of a moat or of a modern farming-related water furrow, we dug a trench across it. The trench revealed only natural and modern cultural features and showed conclusively that no prehistoric fortification existed in this area. If a fortification exists at the Eaker site, it is not at this location.

Excavation, Area B – Earthquake Impact at Eaker. Geophysical investigations in Area B revealed a mysterious long linear anomaly, near the edge of a large area of anomalies that may represent cultural features such as houses. We suspected that this linear anomaly was the result of earthquake activity.

Excavations in Area B extended to 160 centimeters below surface. Our preliminary interpretation is that the lowest levels (Level 11 and below) represent a midden dating to between A.D. 1200 and 1400. This date range comes from the finding, in Level 17, of a very well-executed example of Matthews Incised pottery, a type which is known date to between A.D. 1200 and 1400. A radiocarbon sample from this unit yielded a date range of between AD1310 and 1630.

Possible roof thatching or matting

This occupation is overlain by sand from an earthquake-induced sand blow. The sand layer does not appear to have resulted from the 1811-1812 series of earthquakes and may represent the earthquake series that occurred in the New Madrid Seismic Zone around AD 1450.

Above the earthquake sand is gray brown silt that may be water deposited. Some cultural materials are present, suggesting that this may be wash from nearby occupation areas. At about 20 cmbs, a thin band of olive yellow silt may indicate a later earthquake event. Near the surface, in Levels 1 and 2 are large amounts of burned clay, along with artifacts, suggesting an occupation postdating the waterlain soil and possibly the second earthquake.

Excavation, Area D – A Mississippian House. Remote sensing results for Area D showed an anomaly that we interpreted as a house. Excavation in Area D was conducted to expand our understanding of Mississippian houses, how they were constructed, and what activities went on at them.

Postholes and possible hearth

In the two excavation units in Area D, we found a zone of occupation between about 30 and 50 centimeters below surface, perhaps somewhat higher and lower as well. Within this zone there was a band of features, including large concentrations of burned clay, small charred logs, a chunk of charred matting or roof thatch, ash lenses, postholes, a possible pit containing deer bones, and a possible hearth (layers of ash, charcoal, and burned clay). It is unclear whether this zone represents one occupation or more than one. The depth of the midden and the complicated nature of the many postholes argues for more than one occupation.

Below the postulated occupation zone are primarily features that are likely to have been intrusive. Multiple postholes were apparent in this lower zone, although no pattern was discerned.

Both zones were cut by two small earthquake cracks, the tops of which were between 30 and 40 cmbs. One crack appears to have impacted occupation materials already in place. The earthquake effects are most likely attributable to the ca. AD 1450 earthquake or the 1811-1812 series of earthquakes.

Outline of pit after excavation

Excavation, Area E – The Pit. In Area E, we found a geophysical signature that we hypothesized related to cultural activity (perhaps a house) and earthquake activity. Our hypothesis was partially borne out. No earthquake features were encountered, but cultural activity in the form of midden and a large pit was immediately apparent.

Excavation in Area E leads us to suspect that this area was an irregularly shaped pit or pits dug to varying depths, perhaps to acquire clay for pottery making or silt for wall plaster. The open pit then probably served as a disposal location, thereby accounting for the large numbers of artifacts (such as the base of a funnel, many notched/ticked ceramic vessel rims, several very large strap handles, and several effigies from ceramic vessels) and animal bones. No deposition layers are visible in the profiles, suggesting that the pit was filled within a limited time frame.


Excavations at Area E in 2004

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