Team looks at burial mound site

By Taylor Kuyendall
Greenwood, Mississippi April 2010

Be careful where you dig; there may be priceless artifacts below the surface.

A team from the Natural Resources Conservation Services recently examined a site where an irrigation system would be placed on a farm near the intersection of U.S. Highway 49 and U.S. Highway 82 west of Greenwood.

A raised piece of land in the center is a Native American burial mound, archaeologist Cliff Jenkins said. The mound also had a cemetery plot on top of it.

“We are trying to minimize disturbances to the area,” Jenkins said. “Nearly all the sites like this are on privately owned land. Farmland is often one of our best sources of archaeological research.”

He said the Native American cultures discovered in the Delta likely came to the area for the rich soil. The property they examined last week is owned by Hal Fiore.

The evidence indicating the property was once the home of the a culture known to exist around 300 to 700 A.D. is an arrangement of shells on the soil surface.

“You have an outer shell ring, which is sort of a prehistoric trash deposit,” Jenkins said. “The center was a kind of plaza area and was more likely to be kept clear of anything.”

He said archaeologists named the people who have left such sites the “Baytown culture.” They typically arranged their living quarters in a circular pattern, the reason shells appear in a ring pattern.

Jenkins said a lot of potential archaeological sites in Mississippi have gone untapped because few archaeologists live in the state.

“We are starting to see a little bit more work in the Delta,” he said.

The site being tested was done as a mandatory requirement of the Natural Historic Preservation Act. The irrigation project was to be cost-shared by the Natural Resources Conservation Services, which means that the site must be inspected to ensure that an excavation would not be required before the project continued.

He said farmers shouldn’t worry about losing productive land if they allow an archaeological dig. Unless there has been very deep plowing, most farmland could still contain valuable artifacts below the plow zone, he said.

“We’d like people to know that we are willing to work with farmers,” Jenkins said. “We want to ensure farmers still maintain their rich, productive land, while preserving the archaeological value as well.”


Information from:
Greenwood Commonwealth