JSU Archaeology Dept. "Find"
Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- June 7, 2001 -- Jacksonville State University's archaeology department is salvaging the past.
For over 20 years, Dr. Harry Holstein, professor of anthropology at JSU, has been surveying the land around Choccolocco Creek. Recently, he and his team unearthed a complete prehistoric Indian dwelling.
Under normal circumstances, Holstein and his team would spend weeks, if not months, excavating such a site. But the landowner was ready to bulldoze the land for farming. The team went into overdrive to preserve all they could of the structure. This is called salvage archaeology.
In just three days, they had recovered most of the artifacts and the house. But what they found was an amazing discovery for this area. It was a ceremonial mound surrounded by individual dwellings.
"The closest likenesses to this site exist in Georgia or Moundville, Alabama," says Holstein. "This find is unique for this part of Alabama."
For this reason, Holstein is calling the site a "mini-Moundville." And Holstein has also dated the site. It is what archaeologists call Late-Mississipian, which dates to 1400-1600 AD.
The structure itself was an oval shaped building that faced East.
"The people who lived in this area were geared around the sun," comments Holstein. "This would explain the positioning of the house so they could see the sun rise."
It included two long walls attached to two curved walls on each end. The walls themselves were covered in wood, clay and thatch. They were applied in a method known as wattle-and-dob. The Indians would take saplings or other bendable material and weave it through the posts that held up the walls. Once woven, they were covered with wet clay from Choccolocco Creek.
"This type of housing was perfect for this area, because it was cool in the summer and kept in the heat in the winter."
Because the house was so close to the larger mound, Holstein and his team agree that this village may be an important one.
"These people were most likely in touch with the leader who lived on the mound," says Holstein. "And because of their location in the Choccolocco Valley and the time it was abandoned, we speculate this could be the historic Indian town of Ulibahali."
Ulibahali is an Indian village where DeSoto is said to have stopped.
Though it only took three days to recover the artifacts, it will take months to decipher all of the information that is to be gained. The Alabama Highway Department has granted JSU's archaeology department funds to perform carbon dating and other tests.
Holstein hopes to publish his findings by late fall or early winter.
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