Of pipelines and rock pile excavations

Submitted by TRC (770-270-1192)

In 2008, TRC’s Atlanta office has been working on a stream of large pipeline projects across the Southeast and into the Great Plains, continuing with the kind of projects that kept us busy in 2007. In addition to survey and testing for the various pipelines, TRC has carried out a number of other out-of-state projects with interesting findings to be published when client confidentiality restrictions are lifted. Locally in Georgia, smaller survey projects have taken crews to various parts of the state from Gwinnett County in the northeast to Taylor County in the south.

One notable project in Georgia in February was a Phase I archaeological survey of 375 acres proposed for a gypsum disposal area for Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer in Monroe County, Georgia, followed by test excavations at two sites. The study area included a rock pile site (9MO485) on Berry Creek originally recorded by Dean Wood. The site was revisited in 1992 and tested within a narrow area of impacts by Christopher Espenshade with negative results. However, in view of recent discussions about the possible significance of rock piles in the Georgia Piedmont, the site was again recommended potentially eligible for the NRHP. TRC was authorized to test the site once more in March.

Under the direction of Jim D’Angelo, the site was tested and remapped using a Trimble Geo XT GPS unit in order to show any obvious patterns from which a hypothesis of design could be inferred as Dick Jefferies and Paul Fish had done with Plant Scherer sites 9MO152 and 9MO153. The piles are located along a 10-20 degree slope between a logging road and the level floodplain of Berry Creek. Although not all the piles were measured, they range from as small as about 1 √ó 1 m to about 3 √ó 1.5 m and stand from 0.5 to 1 m high as measured from the downslope ground level.

9mo487_rockpile_excavation

Sterling Howard and Elizabeth Stipek excavating a rock pile at 9MO487, with other piles visible in the background.

Three rock piles were selected for partial excavation, and two 50-cm diameter shovel tests were excavated on a boulder outcrop associated with the site. No artifacts or associated features were found, and the boulder outcrop was determined to be natural. TRC concluded that there was no apparent pattern to the distribution of the rock piles that would suggest a ceremonial purpose as had been suggested for 9MO152 and 9MO153. Rather, the size and location of the piles suggests that they represent wagonloads of rock that were dumped in connection with the clearing of fields, most probably from the upper part of the ridge just east of the site.