Continuing the Research: Archaeogeophysical Investigations at the Battle Mound Site (3la1) in Lafayette County, Arkansas

By McKinnon, Duncan P. | Southeastern Archaeology, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Continuing the Research: Archaeogeophysical Investigations at the Battle Mound Site (3la1) in Lafayette County, Arkansas


McKinnon, Duncan P., Southeastern Archaeology


The continuing use of archaeogeophysical methods at the Battle Mound site (3LA1) exemplifies the power of geophysics as a non-invasive, preservation-oriented, and economically feasible way to pursue the exploration of settlement patterning at the Middle and Late Caddo (ca. A.D. 1200-1680) mound site. Using these methods, a 1-ha (2.47 acres) area directly east of the large mound was surveyed using magnetic gradiometry and concatenated to the existing survey area. Results from the 1-ha survey provide further elucidation of the spatial structure and internal organization of the Caddo Indian occupation at the Battle Mound site.

Introduction

The Battle Mound site (3LA1) is a Middle and Late Caddo (ca. A.D. 1200-1680) mound site located in the Great Bend region of the Red River basin in Lafayette County, Arkansas. The site is on the broad alluvial floodplain of the river, with the current channel located about 1.5 km to the west. The Great Bend region of the Red River is ecologically diverse, with agriculturally productive alluvial soil deposits, a diverse ecology, and navigable waterways. This is a region that has also changed dramatically throughout time owing to various dynamic and destructive river processes (see Guccione 1984, 2008), along with a history of intensive agricultural use. High river activity and sediment deposition are characteristic of this part of the Red River Valley, which is composed of numerous channel scars, oxbow lakes, and back swamps.

The Red River Great Bend region has a rich cultural heritage. This includes the many sites left by the ancestors of the Caddo Indian peoples that lived in this area from at least as early as ca. A.D. 900 and as late as the early nineteenth century (Schambach 1982).

The Battle Mound site (and the surrounding area) is a place that is significant to the Caddo people, removed from this area in the nineteenth century, and to archaeologists, both of whom are interested in documenting and developing a broader understanding of the occupational history of the Caddo Indians in the Great Bend region. To the Caddo people, the Battle Mound site represents a tangible piece of the landscape that serves to reconnect them with their past (Perttula et al. 2008:99-101). To archaeologists, the site represents the largest extant mound in the entire Caddo area and one of the largest in the southeast United States (Perttula 1992:118; Schambach 1982:7).

What follows is a discussion of continuing research at the site using ground-based remote sensing, or archaeogeophysics. The results discussed here represent the interpretation of data that were collected during two days in September 2009 in an area (1.0 ha or 2.47 acres) directly east of the large mound. The archaeogeophyical data collected in this small (and particularly informative) area have provided additional information on the spatial structure and internal organization of the Caddo Indian occupation at the Battle Mound site.

Previous Archaeological Investigations

The most prominent feature at the Battle Mound site is a multilevel platform mound that looms over the current landscape. Directly east of the mound, two very low rises (0.5-1 m in height) are subtly discernible. The large mound is composed of at least three platform levels and a large slope on the eastern side of the mound, a construction that is considered unique among Caddo mound sites. Investigations by Dr. Alex D. Krieger in 1948 measured and recorded the mound at 672 feet (205 m) in length by 320 feet (98 m) in width, with a maximum height of 34 ft (10.4 m) (Krieger 1949:3) (Figure 1). Recent elevation data collected on the surface of the mound and surrounding area indicate that its current dimensions are fairly similar to those measured by Krieger, and any differences are likely associated with variables inherent in recording technologies, mound erosion during the past 60 years, and how the mound basal height and limits are defined (much of it is buried below alluvium deposits). …

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