Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Mapping Never-Never Land: An Examination of Pinson Mounds Cartography

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Mapping Never-Never Land: An Examination of Pinson Mounds Cartography

Article excerpt

In a 1922 issue of Art and Archaeology, William E. Myer published a brief description of the Pinson Mounds site. Accompanying this article (and the present one as Figure 1 [Myer 1922:140]) was a beautifully drafted map titled "City of Cisco near Pinson, Madison County, Tennessee." This was the first published map of the Pinson Mounds site. The most visually striking features appearing on the City of Cisco map are extensive embankments, which include two roughly circular sections designated the "Inner Citadel" and the "Eastern Citadel," and expansive outer embankments encompassing the entire site. The Eastern Citadel embankment still exists, but neither the lengthy "old exterior breastworks" nor the shorter Inner Citadel embankment is visible today. Moreover, the City of Cisco map shows 34 mounds as opposed to the 13 or so known today. Determining which of the landscape features mapped as mounds and inferred embankment remnants has long been of interest to researchers at Pinson Mounds (Kwas 1996; Kwas and Mainfort 2007; McNutt 2005, 2007; Mainfort 1996; Morse 1986; Morse and Polhemus 1963).

Here we offer new insight into the City of Cisco map and what it represents through a comparison with a 1917 field survey map made by E. Gail Buck upon which the City of Cisco map was based. We also have compared the two maps with a ca. 1915 photograph, a 1941 aerial photo, and 1947 and 1981 topographic maps. Our assessment of Buck's map leads us to conclude that, contrary to what is depicted on the City of Cisco map, neither the Inner Citadel nor outer embankments were visible in 1917.

Mapping of Pinson Mounds

The Pinson Mounds vicinity was opened to Euroamerican settlement following an 1818 treaty with the Chickasaw Indians, and within a few years settlers were flooding into the new land, clearing tracts for timber and cultivation. By 1850, 115,872 acres (about 35 percent of Madison County) were under cultivation or otherwise improved (DeBow 1854:310). Corn and cotton were the major crops (Lyman et al. 1907:693; Safford 1884:6), and both were grown using ridge cultivation (Lyman et al. 1907:690). In the 1870s, about 10 percent of the cotton produced in Madison County was shipped from the depot in Pinson (Killebrew 1874:1135-1137). William Myer did not arrive on the scene until the early twentieth century (Kwas 1996; Kwas and Mainfort 2007).

Myer first learned of the mounds at Pinson from J. G. Cisco, for whom Myer named the site the "City of Cisco." Cisco lived in Madison County on and off for about 20 years, where he published a newspaper, among other things, and delved into antiquarianism. During the years of his most active interest in the prehistoric sites of Madison County, from 1877 to about 1888, he visited many sites, excavated in a few mounds, and amassed a collection of artifacts numbering in the thousands (Kwas 1996:92-97). Myer conducted two interviews with Cisco, the first in late 1916 or early 1917 before visiting the site, and the second in January 1919.1

After receiving Cisco's information, Myer spent two weeks in Madison County with a survey crew of three men, headed by civil engineer E. Gail Buck, who worked for the Patton Engineering Company in Jackson, Tennessee (Kwas 1996:98-99). Myer hired and paid Buck2 to conduct a field survey and produce a map of landscape features that Myer interpreted as mounds and embankments, and Myer remained with the crew to supervise the mapping3 (Kwas and Mainfort 2007:146; Myer n.d.:630 [also numbered as 717]; see also Myer n.d.:615 [702] and Myer 1922:141). Several years later, as Myer was preparing his article for Art and Archaeology, he commissioned draftsman Paul J. Leverone of Hyattesville, Missouri, to produce the City of Cisco map that accompanied the article.4

Leverone's map is based on a heretofore unpublished field map, measuring about 29 X 15 inches, made by civil engineer E. Gail Buck. Buck's original map, which he mailed to Myer on September 7, 1917, includes extensive emendations in dark blue-colored pencil and others in plain pencil that we believe were added by William Myer prior to turning the map over to Leverone to finish for publication. …

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