Multicomponent site on Big Tucsawhatchee Creek investigated

Submitted by Edwards-Pitman Environmental (770-333-9484)

Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc. (EPEI) recently completed Phase III fieldwork at 9PU20 near Hawkinsville, GA. The excavations were conducted on behalf of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) as part of a proposed bridge replacement over Big Tucsawatchee Creek (also known as Big Creek) on State Route 230. The site is located on a fluvial terrace overlooking the creek and consists of a large, high-density scatter of lithics produced mainly from Coastal Plain chert.

Previous Phase I and II investigations by GDOT archaeologists in 1997 yielded two cultural features and a large collection of artifacts associated with Middle Paleoindian to Late Mississippian occupations. Lithic tools and debitage manufactured from locally available chert comprised the bulk of the assemblage. Most notable was the recovery of two Middle Paleoindian projectile points (Simpson and Suwannee), as well as those associated with Early Archaic, Late Archaic, and Mississippian occupations. The ceramic collection, while small, included fiber-tempered, Refuge, Deptford, Swift Creek, possible Etowah, and Lamar components.

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Figure 1. Edwards-Pitman archaeologists and field mascot, Hunter, at Big Tucsawhatchee Creek Site (9PU20).

Recent data recovery investigations at 9PU20 were conducted under the supervision of Alvin J. Banguilan and included the excavation of nine small blocks totaling 39 m2 (see Figure 1). Despite the fact that only a narrow strip of right-of-way on both sides of SR 230 was examined, a large and diverse collection of artifacts was recovered and features were identified. Based on our initial impressions of the overall assemblage (we are only now beginning labwork), the site appears to have been extensively utilized during the Late Paleo/Early Archaic transition, Early Archaic, Late Archaic, Early to Middle Woodland, and Middle to Late Mississippian sub-periods. The collection consists of a large quantity of lithic debitage, projectile points, early and late stage bifaces, blade and bifacial core/ tools, scrapers, prismatic blades, and numerous retouched and utilized flake tools (see Figure 2). Lithic diagnostics that appear to have been recovered from undisturbed deposits include Taylor Side Notched, Kirk Corner Notched, and various Late Archaic and terminal Late Archaic Stemmed varieties. Woodland and Mississippian components, while numerous, appear mixed and largely limited to between 0–45 cm below surface. Further analysis should reveal if any additional spatial patterning exists in the upper strata.

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Figure 2. Selected Projectile Points recovered from 9PU20.

A total of five features were identified during EPEI’s excavation; four, including two hearth-like features, one rock cluster, and one possible hearth maintenance/cleanout feature were found between 70–90 cm below surface and appear to be associated with the site’s Kirk/Palmer phase component. The remaining feature was encountered at 113 cm below surface and consisted of a faint soil lens associated with a Taylor Side Notched point and a small cluster of debitage and tools. It should be noted that the Simpson and Suwannee points mentioned earlier were found during GDOT’s Phase II investigation in shallow deposits mixed with later Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian components. At present, it remains unclear whether an intact Middle Paleoindian deposit is present at the site, although lithic material clearly extended below the identified Kirk/Palmer and Taylor horizons.

What became increasingly clear during the course of our field investigation was that site occupation was wide-ranging, extensive, and heavily oriented towards the local abundance of high quality Coastal Plain chert. Chert nodules could readily be seen in the shallow portions of Big Tucsawhatchee Creek and along its banks. Moreover, large chert outcroppings and dense of the site. Evidence of quarrying activity was also apparent in this area along with moderate scattering of debitage and tools. concentrations of boulder-size chert fragments were identified along an adjacent landform approximately 1 km northeast of the site. Evidence of quarrying activity was also apparent in this area along with moderate scattering of debitage and tools.