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Excavations at the Greenbrier Site
Summer 2000

 
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Dr. Morrow and Scott Akridge
Scott Akridge and Dr. Julie Morrow taking field notes at the 2000 Arkansas Archeological Society Training Program.

For the second year in a row the Arkansas Archaeological Society conducted excavations, under the direction of Dr. Julie Morrow at the Greenbrier site (3IN1) as part of their Annual Training Program. Artifacts, features, and radiocarbon dates from the 1999 excavations indicate that the site was intensively occupied during the Late Mississippi era (A.D. 1350-1550). As always, there were a variety of interesting classes offered which makes the Society Training Program much more than just a dig, but an opportunity to study, understand, and appreciate people of former eras.

Excavations
Society members expose a layer of clay daub inside the house while Dr. Skip Stewart-Abernathy takes field notes.

During the 1999 excavations at the Greenbrier site we encountered a possible burned dwelling in Test Unit 7 (Location 3). Evidence for the burned house included two carbonized pine posts and a layer of hard, fired clay well below the present ground surface. Radiocarbon dating of these two posts places people at the Greenbrier site in the 16th century, coincident with Hernando de DeSoto's expedition into Arkansas.

Screening
All deposits from the Greenbrier site were processed by screening or flotation. Standardized recovery of plant remains and other small items will allow us to make more accurate interpretations of past human behavior and the pre-contact environment at the site.

Excavations in 2000 were geared toward determining the size and form of this 16th-century structure and investigating the other potential interior and exterior features like hearths, trash pits, and storage pits to learn about daily life of Native Americans at the Greenbrier site. After mechanically stripping the plowzone at Location 3, we excavated a set of 2 x 2-meter test squares (in 10 cm levels) surrounding Test Unit 7. All excavated soil was screened through ¼-inch hardware cloth or put through the flotation process in order to collect plant remains and other items smaller than ¼-inch.

Basic Excavation class
Under the direction of Dr. Tom Green, the Basic Excavation class learns how to maximize the information potential in the archeological record. Class members spent part of each day learning the basics of archeology in the classroom and acquired hands-on experience in the field where they excavated and recorded their observations.

One of the most exciting and important discoveries during the 2000 Training program excavations was a set of charred wooden posts and post molds that correspond to exterior wall supports of a 6-meter east-west wide and (minimum) 5-meter long house with rounded corners. We do not know the total size of the house because the south wall was located beyond the limits of the excavation. Below the plowzone, a thin layer of black, artifact-rich soil capped the burned house. Below the layer of dark soil and in the approximate middle of the house was a large concentration of burned clay daub (kind of like house plaster). Artifacts found inside the house include Nodena (willow leaf-shaped) arrow points in various stages of manufacture, bone and antler tools, perforated shell tempered pottery sherd discs, Barton Incised and Parkin Punctated pottery sherds (some with strap handles), several complete and nearly complete shell-tempered pottery vessels, grinding stones, celts and celt fragments (woodworking tools), mussel shell spoons and an abundance of animal bone scraps suggestive of past meals. Burned clay daub was by far the most abundant artifact recovered during the 2000 excavations. Because the house burned, there are many fragments of clay daub with impressions of cane, grass, and posts that can help us reconstruct what this 16th-century house looked like. Sealed mud-dauber nests were also recovered and analysis of the insects inside can determine what season the house burned and possibly even provide clues about the 16th-century environment.

Screening in the rain
Despite at least four torrential rains, we managed to get a lot of field and laboratory work completed. When we could not excavate due to rain, work continued at the field lab.

Due to a rainy field season in 2000, we spent a lot of time in the lab. Some folks even enjoyed washing artifacts in the rain! Many artifacts were carefully washed, sorted into categories by material (stone, bone, clay, shell, etc.), and labeled by Arkansas Archeological Society members at the field laboratory located at the Desha School. Currently, Dr. Julie Morrow (Arkansas Archeological Survey, Jonesboro), Arkansas Archeological Society members, and students from Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and Washington University in St. Louis are each undertaking analysis of different categories of artifacts (stone tools and flaking debris, ceramics, animal bones, and plant remains) from the Greenbrier site. Plans are underway for an interpretive exhibit at the Old Independence Regional Museum in Batesville, Arkansas.

Dr. Julie Morrow
AAS Station Archeologist
Arkansas State University, Jonesboro

 

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