Why Excavate at Eaker
Mississippian culture has fascinated archeologists for more than a century, but nearly all of what we know about it comes from the very largest Mississippian sites, such as Cahokia in Illinois, Moundville in Alabama, and Etowah in north Georgia. These were large towns with many very tall platform mounds (at least 100 at Cahokia). Their rulers and aristocrats were rich and powerful, something we know from excavations of elaborate burials around and under some of the mounds.
But this is only one perspective on Mississippian life. Just as in our own society, most people lived outside the big population centers, so an understanding of Mississippian culture based on studies of, for example, Cahokia, is a little like trying to understand American culture based only on studies of New York City. We hope our work at the Eaker site will help us understand the "real" Mississippian.
Although there are other Mississippian sites that might answer the questions we have about "small-town" Mississippian life, we chose Eaker for our investigations because several fortunate circumstances come together at the site.
First of all, the site is multi-component — it was occupied at several different times during the long Mississippian era. This means that we may be able look at how life might have differed in, say, AD 1200 vs. AD 1400.
Second, earlier investigations by Mid-Continental Research Associates (MCRA) revealed the presence of houses and other cultural features as well as earthquake features over an extensive area. This will allow us to explore the nature of Mississippian communities and the impact of earthquakes on the archeological resources.
Third, the Eaker site was owned by the Air Force for 50 years and was not farmed as extensively as other sites in the area. This means that the remains of Mississippian occupations which are typically very near the surface may not be as damaged by plowing as at other sites in the area.
And, fourth, the site is the focus of efforts to establish a National Park that interprets Mississippian culture. Investigations at Eaker will provide useful information for the management of the site and for future public interpretation programs.
Copyright ©2012 Arkansas Archeological Survey, Revised - April 2012