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Exploring the Prehistoric Past of the Gulf Coast

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 27 Nov 2010 09:50am | comments

Mississippi’s Delta has received much of archaeological focus in the state, but as MPB’s Phoebe Judge reports the Gulf Coast is turning out to have its own rich past.

On a bright sunny Saturday earlier this month a dozen archaeologists, some professional some just moonlighting for the weekend came together on a large open field in Desisle to dig. The site which sits on the Desisle bayou has been in the Necaise family for over 200 years, Anne and Itsy Necaise lived here until Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in 2005. Anne Necaise says she never knew that the site held such a rich prehistoric past,

“I wasn’t aware until I started trying to dig and plant flowers, and I would dig down just a short distance and I was constantly hitting shells.”

That got the attention of Barbara Hester a graduate student at USM, and organizer of the Gulf Coast chapter of the Mississippi Archeological Association. Hester says the shells Anne Necaise was hitting were part of a shell miden, essentially a large mound of shells left over by prehistoric Indians.

“As the Indians were exploiting and harvesting the clam from the water out here, they were smoking them, and they would open up and they would save the meat of the clam and they would throw the shell away.”

The dig takes place in three units, small squares which are dug out of the earth in 10 cm section. The dirt is then sifted leaving shells, pieces of pottery and bone. Hester says these artifacts likely date to the mid-woodland period 1500-2000 years ago. Kelsey Low, an archaeologist with coastal environments incorporated says this area was very popular with at that time,

“A lot of groups are settling near this area because it is rich in aquatic resources and terrestrial resources, the other social implications that’s something we are not quite sure about.”

Again Barbara Hester,

“What were they down here for? Is it a seasonal occupation, and were they down here for the fall because they were harvesting something or were they living here year round?”

The dig proved successful, giving further claim to the belief that the Gulf Coast was a busy place even 1500 years ago.




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