Two Historic Cemeteries in Crawford County, Arkansas

Article excerpt

Two Historic Cemeteries in Crawford County, Arkansas. ROBERT C. MAINFORT, JR. and JAMES M. DAVIDSON (eds.). Arkansas Archeological Survey, Research Series No. 62, Fayetteville, 2006. viii + 261 pp., figs., tables, appendices, biblio. $30.00 (cloth), ISBN 1-56349-101-X.

Reviewed by Kristina Killgrove

In 2001, two small historic cemeteries in Crawford County, Arkansas, were threatened by expansion of Lake Fort Smith. The Becky Wright and Eddy Cemeteries were located less than a mile apart and were used in the latter half of the nineteenth century by the community of Frog Bayou. Excavation of these cemeteries was undertaken to remove the human remains and personal effects for reinterment elsewhere. The authors' research goal was to integrate all the archaeological information recovered from these two cemeteries as well as to tackle questions about typology, chronology, and socioeconomics that have not been fully addressed in previous literature. In the seven chapters of this monograph, the authors exhaustively catalogue and interpret the artifacts, human remains, and stratigraphie clues from 26 burials. The result of this work is a window into the social context of burial in a rural community at the end of the nineteenth century.

Following a short introduction (chapter 1 by Robert Mainfort and James Davidson) and a brief report on archaeo-geophysical prospection and mapping (chapter 2 by Jami Lockhart), chapter 3 by James Davidson, Maria Tavaszi, and Robert Mainfort presents descriptions of each burial in the two cemeteries. Data such as the age and sex of the deceased, artifacts associated with the burial, and the form of the grave shaft itself are presented in list form. Each burial also includes a "coffin summary" that describes the probable form of the coffin as well as an overall "burial interpretation." This method of presenting data and interpretation together is unique in reports on historic cemeteries, and the authors encourage other researchers to follow their lead. The authors' use of photographs of tombstones, excavation plans, summary, and interpretation in this chapter serves both to document two cemeteries that have now disappeared and to allow the reader to visualize and understand the graves.

Chapter 4 by Peggy Lloyd and Robert Mainfort deals with the history of the Becky Wright and Eddy Cemeteries. Based on censuses, land patents, and other historical information, the people buried in these cemeteries are tracked through the years. The ways in which land ownership and life histories of the individuals in this small community intertwine are interesting and add personal details to the skeletal remains.

Information collected on the poorly preserved human remains is presented in chapter 5 by Diana Wilks. For each individual, age, sex, and biological affinity were estimated, an inventory was taken, and pathologies were observed, all based on standard bioarchaeological techniques. A verbal summary of each individual is also included. At both cemeteries, the adult sex ratio was more or less equal, although the Eddy cemetery had more subadult burials than the Becky Wright cemetery. There are some striking typographical errors in the biological and pathological terms used, as well as questionable interpretations about nonmetric traits. This chapter, however, is exhaustive, with all possible information gleaned from the fragmentary human remains.

Chapter 6 constitutes the bulk of the monograph, comprising 125 pages on material culture, chronology, and socioeconomics. Davidson begins with a discussion of the physical grave shafts, specifically the fact that the majority of the graves at Becky Wright were vaulted. …

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