New archaeological site discovered on Chattahoochee National Forest at least 200 years older (A.D.1355) than previous finds, indicating human presence during a time period the entire region was thought to have been unoccupied.
Continued Investigations at American Indian Farmstead
Archaeologists from the U.S. Forest Service, the consulting firm Southern Research, Historic Preservation Consultants, Inc. , and the University of Georgia have been conducting archaeological research at a site in Stephens County since 2014 (www.fs.usda.gov/detail/conf/home/?cid=FSEPRD489956). Each year the archaeologists return to this site with volunteers to slowly uncover what has been thought to be a small farmstead occupied by ancestors of the Cherokee. This year they continued their efforts to expose the main house at the site and learn more about its construction and time of occupation.
Previous excavations (www.fs.usda.gov/detail/conf/news-events/…) determined a house burned at the location around A.D. 1600. Evidence for this house consists of a prepared clay hearth, the remains of posts, and a large mass of fired clay that would have been a mud plastered wall that baked in a fire. Large amounts of charcoal from burned wall supports and roof timbers were also present.
In 2017, investigators uncovered more of the house and discovered the remains of additional wall posts and a second hearth, or fire pit. This seemed strange, as having hearths in two different parts of the house would have been quite unusual. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the hearth revealed that the answer to this unusual appearance was that the hearth dated at least 200 years earlier (A.D.1355) than the burned wall. This discovery reveals that this site was occupied twice by Late Mississippian people, with two different houses superimposed on top of one another.
An occupation dating to A.D. 1355 is significant because this entire region was thought to have been unoccupied during the Late Mississippian period with the exception of a brief influx of refugees around A.D. 1600. An occupation at the beginning of the Late Mississippian is unexpected and changes our understanding of the pre-Contact American Indian occupation of Northeast Georgia. Future research at this site will now be focused on trying to untangle the different pieces of evidence left behind by these two different occupations. One benefit of this discovery is that investigators will be able to look at changes over time experienced by the sites’ inhabitants.
This site is one of more than 4,000 archaeological sites recorded to date on the U.S. Forest Service - Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. It is an excellent example of why we manage and protect significant archaeological sites on public lands. These archaeological sites reflect the heritage of all American people and are protected from disturbance by federal law.