The First Two Days

The summer work has officially begun, and I’m happy to say that it’s off a smooth start. The range of first day activities included such time consuming tasks as moving all our gear from UA campus to Moundville, locating and stringing our units, and erecting canopies, but we had all of this done by 2:00 in the afternoon.

Crew members at present include myself, Erik Porth, Daniel Salberg, Clay Nelson, Daniel Cardwell, Kimberly Peace, Aaron Posey, and Traci Roller. Several others will join us in the coming weeks. The crew is divided into three teams and we are quite spread out. Artifacts and features have been very few so far, but that is to be expected since we have are not yet digging in undisturbed prehistoric deposits.

The view of Team 1 (at left) from Team 3 (bottom right/center).

Team 1 (Erik and Daniel C.) is located just off the back patio of the museum at a spot in the plaza where the magnetometer shows multiple large structures arranged in a courtyard group. Erik and Daniel C. have the pleasure of working under our largest canopy, graciously loaned to us by Moundville’s Office of Archaeological Research. Team 1 is closer to the road than the other two teams, and so has already entertained several visitors. Could you be next? We hope so!

The magnetometer anomalies being investigated by Team 1. The anomalies appear to represent several rectangular structures arranged around a courtyard. The courtyard is open to the east and the structures are oriented to the cardinal directions. The largest structure may be over 72 square meters (777 square feet) size. These are likely to have been public buildings.

Team 1 has already punched through the plowzone and have recovered a few lovely sherds (pieces of pottery) from the 14th and 15th century. The plowzone layer is nearly ubiquitous at Moundville, since the site was divided among different farmers before the 1930s. Artifacts recovered from the plowzone have been displaced from their original locations by historic period plowing, whereas those recovered from lower layers are relatively undisturbed since Pre-Columbian times.

Erik Porth mapping the soils that can be seen at the base of the plowzone.

Team 2 (Dan S., Aaron, and Traci) is excavating in the south-central plaza at the location of an apparent domestic house group composed of multiple structures also arranged around courtyards. Dan S., Aaron, and Traci are through the plowzone and going strong.

The magnetic anomalies being investigated by Team 2. These are similar to those being excavated by Team 1, except smaller and more numerous. There may be two “courtyard groups” here, with individual structures oriented to the cardinal directions and courtyards open to the north. These were probably typical houses of extended families.

Team 3 (Jeremy, Kimberly, and Clay) is excavating about 150 feet south of Mound A, which lies at the direct center of the plaza. Jeremy, Kimberly, and Clay have been investigating a broad arc of what appear to be large posts.

An arc of anomalies near the center of the southern half of the plaza appears to represent several large posts.

Finally, we’ve made some new friends that live in a tree behind the shed at the Office of Archaeological Research. Traci named them Skippy, Dippy, and Zippy and I believe they’ve agreed to be project mascots – one for each team! For the record, Team 3 claims Zippy for its own.

Skippy, Dippy, and Zippy, the baby raccoons claimed as project mascots.


Our raccoon mascots as the Mississippians would have seen them. An engraving from a conch shell cup (Phillips and Brown 1978, Plate 237).

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