Leake Site update, 2009

Submitted by Scot Keith (asymmie@yahoo.com)

Between 2004 and 2006, Southern Research conducted two separate data recovery investigations at the Leake site, located in the Etowah River floodplain just southwest of Cartersville in Bartow County. Conducted for the Georgia Department of Transportation, Bartow County Water Department, and Georgia Power, both of these data recovery projects were limited to the newly expanded right-of-way in advance of the widening of Highways 61/113. Through mechanical stripping and test unit excavation, the data recovery excavations uncovered approximately 4,650 square meters of the site.


The Leake site is comprised of state sites 9BR2, 663, 664, 665, 666, 667, and 668 and covers at least 115 acres; three sites (9BR17, 24, and 194) on Ladds Mountain across the river appear to have been important components of the Leake cultural landscape as well. The primary occupation dates to the Middle Woodland period circa 300 B.C. – 650 A.D, while a significant Late Mississippian village component, investigated by David Hally, Jim Rudolph, and Jim Langford during the 1988-1990 University of Georgia field schools, is present in the area of Mound A. Investigations at Leake have documented significant archaeological deposits, including the remains of three mounds, extensive midden deposits, structural remains, craft production and ceremonial feasting deposits, and a probable circular ditch/moat enclosure. With each end appearing to connect to the river, the ditch enclosure situates Mounds A and B on an island and separates the Cartersville and Swift Creek components. Non-local and ideologically-valuable artifacts indicative of Hopewellian interregional interaction, such as Ohio Flint Ridge blades, human and animal figurines, cut mica, copper, galena, and quartz crystals are present at the site, particularly within the Swift Creek area of the site. The cultural and geographical positioning were important factors for the development of Leake into a major Hopewellian ceremonial center that linked the Southeast and the Midwest during the Middle Woodland period. In short, the data indicate that the Leake site served as a gateway city between these two regions, a place where peoples from both areas congregated for rituals and ceremonies.

The Leake site complex is an archaeological resource of state (and national) significance. With this in mind, it was at the Fort Daniel Faire in Gwinnett County that the idea for attempting to place the site on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2010 Places in Peril listing was born (Fort Daniel was on the 2009 Places in Peril list). The Places in Peril list includes historic resources in Georgia that are in danger of being destroyed, whether from neglect, development, or otherwise. In conversation with Larissa Thomas at the Faire, The Profile editor, revealed that the Trust was looking for an archaeological site for inclusion on the Places in Peril list, which predominantly lists above-ground historic resources. Larissa introduced me to Jordan Poole, Georgia Trust Field Services Manager and director of the Places in Peril, who encouraged me to submit the Leake site for consideration. Dean Wood and I completed and submitted the application, and a few months later we learned that the site was chosen.

While the site boundary has never been systematically defined, the known area of the Leake site extends across several different ownership parcels. Significant portions of the site are owned by the City of Cartersville and Bartow County, both of whom have done an outstanding job of protecting their parcels. However, the preservation of several privately-owned parcels is in doubt, as the Leake site area is being rapidly developed. Although the known extent of the site does not extend to the north much beyond the railroad tracks, the area north of the railroad is an industrial park. Given the nature of the Leake site, it is not unlikely that related deposits are present north of the tracks, and there is some evidence of a fourth mound north of the railroad adjacent the river.


Less than 30 years ago, there were no modern buildings within the known boundaries of the site (see 1981 aerial photograph). By the time of the first UGA field school in 1988, one had been erected east of Mound A, while two were constructed in the area of Mound C, one of which sits atop the northern half of Mound C. By the late 1990’s when Southeastern Archaeological Services tested the site, two modern buildings had been erected in the area of Mounds A and B.

During the course of the data recovery excavations, the City was looking into purchasing a two-acre parcel on which a portion of Mound A is located. However, the landowner of the adjacent parcel, who operates a business on the site, purchased the two-acre parcel, an immediate threat to Mound A due to his plans to expand the parking lot. Already having graveled over the northern portion of Mound A on the existing parcel, the future of the southern portion of Mound A was in serious doubt. Thus, a group of concerned persons worked to get the City to swap an adjoining non-mound parcel they own with the business owner. While the southern portion of Mound A was protected in this manner, a large area immediately southwest of this mound (including a portion of the ditch) is now under the expanded parking lot.

Further, piecemeal attrition of the site has continued. The northeastern corner of the site, an approximately 6 acre area contained by the ditch feature and bounded by the highway and River Court has recently been developed despite the documented presence of a midden in this area.

During the coming year, we plan to use the exposure and support from the Places in Peril listing to raise awareness of the site in hopes that the remaining portions can be protected. We plan to conduct educational meetings in the community and with county and city officials to raise support for protection of the site. We plan to have an event at the site for the 2010 Archaeology Month. We will be doing interviews, we are forming a “Friends of the Leake Site” group (we have an informal one on Facebook), we will be regularly updating the website about Leake, and we will be giving talks and lectures. Perhaps most importantly, our goal is to raise money to purchase the privately-owned parcels for preservation. So spread the word, get involved, help us out, so that we can protect the remaining portions of the Leake site from being lost. Please do not hesitate to contact Scot Keith (home email, work email) or Dean Wood (work email) for more information.

Where to find it