Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Antiquarians' Perspectives on Pinson Mounds Revisited: A Response to Mcnutt

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Antiquarians' Perspectives on Pinson Mounds Revisited: A Response to Mcnutt

Article excerpt

McNutt (2005) misrepresents our treatment of various historical accounts of the Pinson Mounds site. We take issue with McNutt's uncritical use of these same accounts. We also comment on some specific issues raised by McNutt regarding the "Inner Citadel" and the "Eastern Citadel."

The Historical Accounts

In what he characterizes as an "exploratory paper," McNutt (2005) proposes rather novel interpretations of Pinson Mounds and other Middle Woodland sites in the mid-South. Two major thrusts of his paper are to reassess various historical accounts of Pinson Mounds and to report heretofore unrecognized (or, at least, unreported in print) astronomical alignments at this and other sites (McNutt 2005:142). We restrict our comments here specifically to Pinson Mounds and especially to matters regarding historical accounts of the site. McNutt's proposed astronomical alignments will be addressed in a subsequent paper.

McNutt's (2005) article begins with a misleading review of Kwas's (1996) article, "Antiquarians' Perspectives on Pinson Mounds," and Mainfort's (1996) appendix to the article, "Summary of Investigations of Mounds and Embankments Identified at the Pinson Mounds Site by William Myer." Our reasons for writing the article were to (1) cite all known references to Pinson Mounds in early publications and provide brief biographical information on the authors; (2) publish early archival references to Pinson Mounds, such as the primary documents by William E. Myer and civil engineer E. G. Buck; (3) untangle and correct garbled information in later published sources; and (4) compare early descriptions of the mounds and embankments with archaeological observations made during the mid-1970s and 1980s (e.g., Mainfort 1980, 1986, 1988). The purpose of the 1996 article was not to denigrate the reports of early observers, nor to dismiss all historical accounts of the embankments, but to read McNutt (2005:143, 146), one would think otherwise. Despite acknowledging that Kwas's "citations are complete, accurate, and germane to the subject at hand" (McNutt 2005:142), it is unfortunate that McNutt did not extend the same professional courtesy when citing our material.

If anything, Kwas's interpretation of the accounts from early sources may have been handled with too light a touch, largely allowing the citations to speak for themselves rather than providing a historiographie critique. For example, her first paragraph discussing earthen embankments at Pinson Mounds appears only after presenting and citing four early accounts. She then states:

The existence of walls or "circumvallations" mentioned in this and earlier accounts is also worth noting. As stated earlier, the remnant of a circular embankment is confirmed in the Eastern Citadel section of the site, but no other embankments are visible or have been verified. A map published by W. E. Myer (1922) shows extensive earthworks surrounding the site. Based on these early accounts, there may have been additional embankments surrounding Sauls Mound, but the remaining ones shown on Myer's map were probably natural landforms or agricultural field boundaries (Kwas 1996:89).

Although earlier researchers questioned the existence of some embankments portrayed by Myer (Kwas 1997:60; Morse and Polhemus 1963), Mainfort did not completely rule out their existence. In his appendix to the article, Mainfort (1996) briefly discussed each of Myer's (1922) 34 mounds and three embankments based on testing by professional archaeologists from the 1960s to the 1980s. He discussed the embankments as follows:

Eastern Citadel. For approximately 141° of its diameter, the wall of this enclosure forms a virtually perfect circle with a diameter of 181.4 m (Mainfort 1986, 1988; Thunen 1990). Most of the southwest section of the embankment was destroyed between 1917 (when it was mapped by E. G. Buck) and 1937 (the date of the earliest known aerial photograph of the site). …

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