Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

The Biltmore Mound and Hopewellian Mound Use in the Southern Appalachians

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

The Biltmore Mound and Hopewellian Mound Use in the Southern Appalachians

Article excerpt

The local manifestation of the Hopewellian cultural phenomenon in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina is the Connestee phase, defined by Keel's investigations (1972,1976) at Garden Creek Mound 2 (31Hw2). He demonstrated a direct connection with Hopewellian peoples from southern Ohio, eastern Tennessee, and northern Georgia. His excavations produced Chillicothe series, Candy Creek, and Swift Creek ceramics, Flint Ridge and Knox flint bladelets, cut mica, terra cotta figurines, copper objects, shaped mammal jaws, and classic Hopewellian square structures with rounded corners. Although structural patterns on the mound were not defined, Keel (1976:78, 86) deduced that one or more buildings must have been constructed during its use, given the number and size of postholes in both mound stages.

The first mound stage at Garden Creek was constructed by depositing a layer of sterile yellow subsoil clay that was "striated" with darker soils and then a layer of yellow clay placed over an area of ~12 X 18 m and to a height of 0.5 m. Keel (1976:78) considered this order of mound building the result of an inversion of soil horizons. Proposed structures on the mound were evidenced by dozens of postholes (three of which represented very large "ritual posts"), a fired clay floor (Feature 41), and six other features. The second mound stage was constructed of basket-loaded dark brown/ gray clayey loam over an area of 18 X 24 m to a height of at least 1 m above the premound midden. Several dozen postholes, including an arc of seven smaller ones and a very large one, again show that this mound phase supported structures. No Middle Woodland human burials were encountered.

Shortly thereafter, Chapman (1973) documented Hopewellian artifacts along with Connestee ceramics within the Candy Creek phase component at Icehouse Bottom (40Mr23) in eastern Tennessee. Hopewellian exotics were similar to those recovered at Garden Creek, and Connestee ceramics composed 20 percent of the Middle Woodland ceramic assemblage. But Icehouse Bottom evidently did not possess a platform mound. In addition, Chapman's research (Chapman 1973; Chapman and Crites 1987; Chapman and Shea 1981; Cridlebaugh 1981) contributed a rich archaeobotanical database that revealed Middle Woodland use of domesticated plants (including maize) in the southern Appalachians. In their collaborative piece, Chapman and Keel (1979) argued that the participation of both Garden Creek and Icehouse Bottom in the Hopewell Interaction Sphere was through the exchange of Appalachian mica for exotic Hopewellian goods, facilitated by the locations of both sites at important nodes along the Great Indian Warpath, Rutherford Trace, and the Southeastern Trail.

Biltmore Mound

The Biltmore Mound site (31Bnl74) is a Connestee phase platform mound and associated 10 ha habitation area situated on the south floodplain of the Swannanoa River just above its confluence with the French Broad River on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina (Figures 1-2). The mound comprises a low (~2 m originally) but large (>30 m in diameter) multistage platform on the north edge of a habitation area (Figure 2). Exploratory excavations over an area of 252 m2 between 2000 and 2008 reveal a complex history of mound construction. Intrusive into this mound stage were 18 pits and 62 medium to large postholes, including those of pulled posts and one very large post with a post-insertion trench. AU of these postholes are larger than those discerned in the habitation area. The mound (Figures 3-4) was built above a 50-cm thick midden, which overlies a yellowish brown B-horizon (Table 1). The lowest portion of this midden was dated to A.D. 390 ± 60 (Table 2). Test excavations in all cardinal directions away from the mound indicate that this habitation midden has been incorporated into the plowzone beyond the mound perimeter. A 100 m^sup 2^ excavation just south of the mound in the habitation area exposed a large storage pit, two large rock ovens, five other features, and approximately 50 postholes of indiscernible structural patterns. …

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