Alabama is filled with great history, but in order to learn some of this state’s history, a little extra “digging” is required. This is when archaeologists come into play. Archaeologists help us understand how and why things have changed. Artifacts are our main clues when it comes to finding out Alabama’s early history. Many excavations have taken place over the years, and listed below are 7 archaeological sites and/or museums where many interesting artifacts have either been discovered or are on display.
1. Moundville Archaeological Park - Moundville, Alabama
This archaeological site was occupied by Native Americans of the Mississippian culture from around 1000 AD to 1450 AD. The archaeological park section of the site surrounds approximately 185 acres, consisting of 29 platform mounds around a rectangular plaza. Of the two largest mounds in the group, Mound A occupies a central position in the great plaza, and Mound B lies just to the north. In addition to discovering both of these mounds, archaeologists have also discovered evidence of borrow pits and a dozen small houses constructed of pole and thatch. Many luxury goods, including copper, galena, mica and marine shell have also been excavated from this archaeological site. Pictured: Mound A / The Willoughby Disk - A Ceremonial Stone Palette
2. Indian Shell Mound Park - Dauphin Island, Alabama
This archaeological site is historically significant because of the many prehistoric Indian shell middens it has. Indian Shell Mound Park contains six oyster shell middens of varying sizes. If you visit this park, you'll notice oyster shells scattered all over the ground.
3. Fort Payne Cabin Historic Site - Fort Payne, Alabama
Around 1946, this historic log cabin was demolished and all that remains standing is the 5-meter-high stone chimney and a rock outline of the foundation. During the excavation process, more than 5,000 artifacts were recovered. These artifacts include the following: more than 1,000 glass fragments, around 15 intact bottles and jars, more than 1,000 ceramic fragments with no intact vessels, and more than 700 metal artifacts. Many unidentified animal bones and more than 30 fragments of chipped stone tools have also been excavated.
4. Old Cahawba Archaeological Site - Cahaba, Alabama
The Old Cahawba Archaeological Site preserves one of the most famous ghost towns in the South. This historic town was Alabama's first state capital, and it's now a collection of picturesque ruins with only a few surviving buildings. Cahawba was inhabited by mound building Indians who built a mound at the site against the Alabama River with a fortification fence around the village (pictured). The Crocheron Columns (also pictured) are all that remain of the Chrocheron mansion, which was built around 1843. Many different artifacts have been discovered here, including a conquistador helmet and a chain mail suit.
5. Alabama Iron and Steel Museum at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park - McCalla, Alabama
This Civil War era mining car was discovered in an abandoned mine shaft during the excavation of US Steel's Gurnee Junction coal mine near Alabaster, Alabama in 1978. This historic mining car is on display inside the Alabama Iron & Steel Museum at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park.
6. Florence Indian Mound - Florence, Alabama
The Florence Indian Mound, which is 43 feet high, is the Tennessee Valley's largest domiciliary mound. It strongly shows the workmanship of the Indians who inhabited this area prior to the Cherokees, Chickasaws and Creeks. The onsite museum contains many Native American artifacts that date back more than 10,000 years. These artifacts include, but certainly not limited to, animal effigy pipes, woven textiles, soapstone carvings and pottery (pictured).
7. Russell Cave National Monument - Bridgeport, Alabama
The entrance of Russell Cave was once used as a shelter for prehistoric Indians during the earliest known human settlement in the southeastern United States. Archaeologists have uncovered records of the cave's earliest occupants, and approximately two tons of artifacts have been recovered. These artifacts include charcoal from fires, animal bones, spear and arrow points, pottery and the remains of several adults and children, ranging from infant to 50 years old, who were buried in shallow pits in the cave floor. Pictured is a stone that was found in the cave shelter. It's part of a game called "Chunky Stone" that was enjoyed by kids of the prehistoric era.
What other archaeological sites are located in Alabama? Maybe perhaps there’s one in (or near) the town where you live.