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The Jeffrey L. Brown Institute of Archaeology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was engaged by RiverPort Inn and Marina, Inc., of Chattanooga, to conduct a Phase I level archaeological reconnaissance on portions of a nine-acre parcel on the Tennessee River occupied by the grain elevator and storage plant of Cargill, Inc. As required by the Tennessee Historical Commission, the reconnaissance specifically included deep subsurface testing of the tract. A 25m (82') grid was superimposed on the site and every accessible or otherwise undisturbed grid intersection was cored using a power soil auger. The fill was screened for uniform artifact retrieval, and observations were made concerning soil characteristics and approximate depths of soil layers. A total of 40 auger tests were completed to depths varying from 40cm (1.5') to 1.4m (5'). The frequency distribution of artifacts, both prehistoric and historic, suggested several areas of activity on the site. Five backhoe trenches were excavated at various locations on the site to access deeplyburied cultural components and to examine site stratigraphy. None of the trenches intercepted well-developed prehistoric middens, but cultural remains were noted in deep stratigraphic contexts along the river. Surface collections and augering results confirmed the presence of a concentration of prehistoric artifacts along the crest of the riverbank in the vicinity of the conveyor belt to the barge loading facility. Surface collection of the artifacts indicated a site attributable to the Late Woodland or Hamilton Phase, a cultural period now designated the Woodland III period and dated approximately from A.D. 350 to A.D. 900. To assess whether these remains represented an intact, buried component or represented a disturbed, displaced archaeological site, a profile cut or small trench was excavated by hand near the surface artifact concentration. This profile cut revealed that a distinct and undisturbed prehistoric midden was present, and that substantial quantities of cultural material were in evidence. Portions of the soil strata were excavated by hand and the fill screened. The associated artifacts confirm that a small remnant of a Woodland III site is present, evidently the remains of a housesite situated on the crest of the river levee. The profile cut was not carried to sterile soil, and minor sherd frequencies of fabric-marked pottery also suggest possible occupation of the site in the Woodland II period dated 200 B.C. to A.D. 350. The presence of a multi-component archaeological site is possible. Human remains, specifically two phalanges or finger bones, were recovered from the Woodland III midden. The finds were identified by Craig Lahren, Assistant Medical Examiner, Hamilton County. It is not clear whether these disarticulated finds are associated with an interment otherwise preserved on the site. Limited documentary evidence suggested historic land uses in the project area were principally agricultural but included the landing of a ferry operated in the antebellum and postbellum periods, until the late 1880s. Clusters of historic artifacts were noted along the creek margins of the property, but construction of the plant evidently destroyed any organized physical remains of historic structures on the site. Secondary testing is recommended to determine if the prehistoric components present along the riverbank are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. While the Phase I auger testing has indicated the approximate horizontal limits of the surviving Woodland III component on the site, further testing is required to determine the vertical limits of habitation along the riverbank. The secondary testing will also assist in determining if a prehistoric cemetery is present on site.


Dept. of Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)




Archaeology -- Tennessee -- Hamilton County; Antiquities; Archaeology; Hamilton County (Tenn.) -- Antiquities


Hamilton County (Tenn.)

Document Type



iii, 35 leaves



Call Number

F444.C46 C688 1993


An archaeological survey of the Cargill grain elevator tract, Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee