The Southern and Central Alabama Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore

Article excerpt

The Southern and Central Alabama Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore. CRAIG T. SHELDON, JR. (ed.) University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2000. x + 315 pp., 10 maps, 134 figs., biblio., index, appendix. $39.95 (paper), ISBN 0-8173-1019-3.

Reviewed by Amanda Regnier

When picking up the University of Alabama Press' 2001 reissue of The Southern and Central Alabama Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore, the reader is in for a double treat. Along with the reports from the Alabama portions of seven of Moore's expeditions and three related articles, the volume contains an additional pleasant surprise delivered in the form of Craig Sheldon's introduction. The utility of Sheldon's introduction is twofold: he places the sites Moore visited into perspective by evaluating their status in the prehistory of the region and reviewing subsequent excavations at those sites, and he undertakes the painstaking process of correlating Moore's finds with currently recorded archaeological sites. For anyone interested in the archaeology of southern and central Alabama, this volume is a necessity, especially given the fact that, as Sheldon (p. 2) notes, Moore's research is the only published information for much of the region.

Grouped together in this volume are the complete reports of Moore's expeditions along three rivers, the Alabama, Tombigee, and Choctawhatchee, and three coastal bays, Perdido Bay, Mobile Bay, and Mississippi Sound, and part of his report from the lower Chattahoochee River. Chronologically, the first of these expeditions was Moore's 1899 journey up the Alabama River from Mobile Bay to the Coosa-Tallapoosa junction. Along the Alabama, Moore, with his overarching interest in burial customs across the Southeast, was not disappointed, discovering a new form of urn burial in which major skeletal elements from multiple individuals were interred in a single urn. Moore's discovery of another form of urn burial was likely the impetus for the 1904 article included with this volume, "Aboriginal Urn-Burial in the United States," which is a less than successful synthesis, given Moore's attempt to trace this practice across the entire southern portion of the United States, from California to coastal South Carolina.

On a more regional level, the importance of Moore's reports from the 19 sites that he investigated in the Alabama River Valley cannot be understated. While some of the Late Mississippian/contact period sites from which Moore recovered urn burials, such as the cemetery at Durant's Bend (IDsI) and the mounds at Matthew's Landing (1Wx169), have been subsequently revisited by archaeologists, other sites were destroyed before any further excavations could be conducted. Moore's reports from the Charlotte Thompson site, Big Eddy (1Mt5), and 30 Acre Field (1Mt7) are still the most detailed data from the Moundville-related sites in the upper Alabama River Valley that have been published to date. The most intriguing of these, the mound on the Charlotte Thompson place, which no longer exists, yielded a rich assortment of Mississippian ceramics, copper, and shell objects recovered alongside sixteenth-century Spanish artifacts, including the decorated brass plate illustrated in Sheldon's (p. 25) introduction. Moore was clearly impressed by the artifacts recovered at Charlotte Thompson, going so far as to have the copper analyzed by a chemist who had studied native copper of the Great Lakes region. The recovery of Mississippian prestige goods and objects of European manufacture within this single mound has intrigued researchers studying the routes of Spanish expeditions and their aftermath within the region for decades. …