Tom Jones (3He40): Geophysical Survey and Spatial Organization at a Caddo Mound Site in Southwest Arkansas

Article excerpt

This article outlines a process that has facilitated discoveries of intrasite pattern, architecture, and diagnostic artifacts at the prehistoric Caddo mound site Tom Jones (3HE40) in southwestern Arkansas. A methodology of multisensor geophysical survey using electrical resistance, electromagnetic conductivity, gradiometry, magnetic susceptibility, high accuracy survey and mapping, and data georeferencing enabled by geographic information system technology has proven to be an efficient, effective, and essential component of an overall research plan. In addition to providing insights regarding the intrasite organization of an upland Caddo ceremonial mound center, this technologically integrated approach has established that Saratoga chalk geology and Blackland Prairie clays combine to form an advantageous medium for geophysical discovery.

Introduction

Tom Jones (3HE40) is a ca. A.D. 1400 Caddo civicceremonial mound site located within the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's 1,977-ha Grandview Wildlife Management Area in Hempstead County, southwestern Arkansas (Schambach 2003). The site has apparently been well protected during more than 150 years of private ownership and is well-preserved today. It was formally recorded in 1973 by Dr. Frank F. Schambach.

The site consists of one large temple mound and at least five small house mounds. This article highlights the methods and results of geophysical surveys conducted in advance of excavations during the Arkansas Archeological Society's 2001-3 annual archeological training programs.

Background

Contemporaneous with the beginning of the Mississippi period and associated cultures, people living within the West Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic region and adjacent areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas developed into complex societies linked by similarities in settlement pattern, adaptation, cultural expression, and economic, religious, and political organization (Sabo 1998; Perttula 2009:27). These people are known to us historically and collectively as the Caddo. As an approximate temporal framework for archeological remains, prehistoric Caddo culture can be identified between ca. A.D. 800 and 1600 within the westernmost spatial bounds of the trans-Mississippi South (Schambach 1998), which encompasses lands west of the Mississippi River between the southern Plains and lower Mississippi River Valley, and can be broadly characterized as a southeastern woodland environment. According to ethnographic and archeological evidence, the Caddo were mound builders, sedentary horticulturalists, and accomplished artisans and traders who were governed by complex sociopolitical and religious hierarchies (Swanton 1942; Griffith 1954; Wyckoff and Baugh 1980; Sabo 1998).

As a mound-building culture, the extant and most immediately visible expressions of prehistoric Caddo cultural coalescence on the modern landscape are mounds. Research comprising a statewide archeological database (Hilliard and Riggs 2000), geographic information system, and statistical analysis has located environments similar to those that typify the majority of the 186 Caddo/Caddo phase mound sites in Arkansas (Lockhart 2007). That study empirically confirms a majority spatial distribution for that site type in the northern and western portions of the West Gulf Coastal Plain within the Ouachita, Little Missouri, Red, and Little River drainages. Most Caddo mound sites in Arkansas are located in the lowest one-third of the elevation range in the West Gulf Coastal Plain, below 85 m amsl. Additionally, Caddo mound sites in Arkansas are most commonly found within 2 km of a higher-order stream on alluvial sediments and soils, as opposed to upper terraces and uplands.

Within that majority characterization of Caddo mound sites in Arkansas is a small minority of mound sites located on the highest ground of the West Gulf Coastal Plain, far removed from higher-order streams and composed of the distinctly different soils, geologies, and potential natural vegetation of the Blackland Prairie. …