Cavanaugh Mound Restoration

The Archaeological Conservancy has acquired the Cavanaugh Mound in Arkansas with plans to restore the mound and add interpretative signs explaining its history. Cavanaugh Mound is a largely intact late prehistoric platform mound on the Arkansas River just east of the Oklahoma border, about 14 km from the Spiro Mounds complex. The site is situated on a high terrace above the Arkansas River. At about 60 m across and 9 m high, Cavanaugh Mound is one of the largest, if not the largest, prehistoric mound in the region. Very little has been published concerning this site, however, and very little formal archaeological work has been done there. An excerpt from the news story on this restoration project notes:

Jessica Crawford traveled from Marks, Miss., to Fort Smith to look at a BIG pile of dirt.

It’s an historic piece of ground, in fact, located behind the New Liberty Baptist Church in south Fort Smith and believed to be constructed by Native Americans (possibly Caddo Indian ancestors) between AD 1100 and 1300.

Crawford is the southeast regional director for The Archaeological Conservancy, the private, non-profit organization that purchased the “Cavanaugh Mound” in 2006 to prevent its further destruction. The Archaeological Conservancy was formed in 1980 for the purpose of acquiring and preserving important archaeological sites.

Read the full story: Archaeologists seek to research, restore the ‘Cavanaugh Mound’

Spiro started upward spiral in 700 A.D.

This engraved conch shell was unearthed in Craig Mound at Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma.

LeFlore County, often referred to as “Little Dixie,” was once home to a thriving national center of commerce. This lively metropolis enjoyed its heyday not in recent memory, but between 700 and 1400 A.D.

According to Dennis Peterson, archaeologist and site manager of the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center in Spiro, the Mississippian culture of the time had contact with over 60 tribes from coast to coast, involving 30 languages and over three million people.

Peterson presented “The Mississippian Culture from the East to the West: Spiro Mounds and Its National Connections” as part of the Cherokee Nation’s history presentation. The lecture focused on how leaders at Spiro Mounds overcame language barriers to forge alliances with tribes, including the Cherokee, to create a vast trade alliance.

The Mississippian culture at Spiro built its community on the south bank of the Arkansas River and its initial interest was to control trade along the river. But eventually, this trade expanded nationwide, said Peterson. The people at Spiro are credited with building boats as large as 60 feet in length and could transport up to 80 people.

The 12-mound site is the largest recorded west of the Mississippi, and is one of 20,000 such sites documented.

“Spiro has the largest number of fancy items – or burial items – found anywhere in the U.S.,” said Peterson. “Because of its location along the Arkansas River, the people at Spiro Mounds were able to develop trade routes via waterways all the way to the Gulf of California through natural systems.”

Peterson explained the vast majority of smaller mound sites across the country served as county seats, with larger sites, such as Spiro; Moundville, Ala.; Etowah, Ga.; and Cahokia, Ill., serving as state capitols. Read the rest of the story here.

Shields & Mount Royal Mounds (1200 AD)

The Mississippian Period that started with the building of Lake Jackson Mounds continued with the Shields and Mount Royal Mounds. During this period the Indians created the most sophisticated civilizations outside of Mexico and constructed some of the most complex Indian mound centers in the state of Florida as well as in the entire southeastern United States.

The Shields & Mount Royal Indian Mounds are situated on the eastern side of the St. Johns River in Putnam county,approximately 40 miles south of St. Augustine, Florida. The Shields and Mount Royal mound centers featured a single mound connected to a manmade pond via a long straight highway making them unlike any other Indian mound complex in North America. The following is a description of the site from the early 1800s when the site was still relatively in-tact:

…a noble Indian highway, which led from the great mount, on a straight line, three quarters of a mile…it was terminated by palms and laurel magnolias, on the verge of an oblong artificial lake, which was on the edge of an extensive green level savanna. The grand highway was about fifty yards wide, such a little below the common level, and the earth thrown up on each side, making a bank about two feet high.

These mounds date back to 1200 AD. The site has been incessantly inhabited by different civilizations from AD 1200 through present-day. The region was traditionally treated as a trail crossing point for the British, Spanish and succeeding groups and it also served as a landing site for vessels. B. Calvin Jones guided volunteers in the course of excavations funded by the Bureau of Archaeological Exploration in 1983, 1994 and 1995.

The relic collection from the collective 1983, 1994 and 1995 quarry seasons comprises over 38,186 acknowledged artifacts and plentiful new plant and animal remnants. Over 90% of the objects were of Native American origin, 3% were of British origin, 3% were of Spanish origin and the left behind artifacts were related with 19th and 20th century Anglo-American invasion of the site. The relics are Spanish majolica earthenware, mottled-silver and glass beads, bottle and window glass wreckage, lead sprue and shot, metal fasteners, Jesuit religious pendants, crude earthenware pieces and Indigenous American pottery bits. Features include cooking fireplace, and postholes symptomatic of dwellings.

One of the most important artifacts was a copper breastplate embossed with a design identical to one unearthed in a tomb from Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma. This shows that Florida’s Native Americans had wide ranging trade contacts with people at least as far west as Oklahoma.