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The Archaeology of Ocmulgee Old Fields, Macon, Georgia

Written Carol I. Mason, with foreword by Marvin T. Smith

Publication Year: 2005

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

A 17th-century trading post and Indian town in central Georgia reveal evidence of culture contact and change.

Ocmulgee Old Fields near Macon, Georgia, is the site of a Lower Creek village and associated English trading house dating from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It was excavated in the early 1930s as part of a WPA project directed by A. R. Kelly, which focused primarily on the major Mississippian temple mounds of Macon Plateau. The specific data for the Old Fields was not analyzed until nearly 30 years after the excavation.

Part of the significance of this site lies in its secure identification with a known group of people and the linkage of those people with recognizable archaeological remains. The Old Fields site was among the very first for which this kind of identification was possible and stands at the head of a continuing tradition of historic sites archaeology in the Southeast.

Carol I. Mason's classic study of the Ocmulgee Old Fields site has been a model for contact-period Indian archaeology since the 1960s. The report includes a discussion of the historic setting and an analysis of the archaeological materials with an identification of the Lower Creek town and possibly of the English trader who lived there. Now, for the first time, the original report is widely available in book form. With a new foreword by the author and a new introduction from Southeastern archaeology expert Marvin T. Smith, readers have the benefit of a contemporary view of this very fine piece of careful scholarship.

Carol I. Mason is Adjunct Professor of Archaeology at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and author of Wisconsin Indians: Prehistory to Statehood. Marvin T. Smith is Professor of Anthropology at Valdosta State University and author of Coosa: The Rise and Fall of a Southeastern Mississippian Chiefdom.

Additional reviews:

"This volume is valuable as a landmark in Southeastern research. It is somewhat outdated in its archaeological comparisons, but it is an excellent source for site findings and historical documentation. . . . The book provides greater insight into more current documents on the topic of these early relationships between the Old and New Worlds in the Southeast. It is a starting point from which to move forward and is valuable as a catalyst for future research."—Southeastern Archaeology

" Mason's work presents the analysis and interpretation of a large body of material excavated by Works Progress Administration archaeologists during the 1930s and, in this case, continued into the 1940s. Large-scale projects, undertaken by field crews numbering in the hundreds of workers, amassed quantities of artifactual material and supporting documentation. In many instances, substantial amounts of material remain unanalyzed and unreported to this day. . . . The Ocmulgee Old Fields site with its mix of indigenous and European people, local material culture and trade goods, and varied functions represents an opportunity to study the Lower Creeks between 1670 and 1717. . . .I recommend (this volume) to all colleagues laboring to understand the early historic peiod in the Southeast."—The Florida Anthropologist

"A masterful blend of meticulous archaeological analysis and wide-ranging historical research . . . with extraordinary style and wisdom."—Journal of Field Archaeology

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. v

List of Plates, Tables, and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword by Marvin T. Smith

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pp. ix-xvii

When I was asked to write the introduction to Carol Mason’s “The Archaeology of Ocmulgee Old Fields, Macon, Georgia,” I jumped at the chance. In my opinion, this volume is one of the most outstanding works to come out of the 1960s. In many ways, it was way ahead of contemporary archaeological studies of contact period archaeological sites, and it still provides...

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pp. ixx-xx

Ocmulgee Old Fields near Macon, Georgia, is part of the multi-component, major Mississippian site of Macon Plateau. This great temple mound siteearly attracted archaeological attention, and the Lower Creek village and associated English trading house were but small parts of the large-scale excavations that took place there as part of public works following the Great...

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Original 1963 Preface

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pp. xxi-xxii

During the years immediately following the depression of 1929, a numberof large archaeological sites were excavated with labor provided by government agencies. Some of these sites have yet to be written up and their datamade generally available; others have provided much of the backbone for archaeological interpretation in the Southeastern United States. The present...

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pp. 1-4

[1]In recent years, research in the early colonial history of the eastern United States has been receiving information from purely archaeological sources. Excavations at Jamestown (Cotter 1958), Williamsburg (Hume1958), Hopewell Iron Furnace (Mason 1958), and other early white settlements are contributing significantly to a more realistic and detailed picture...

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1. The Historical Setting

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pp. 5-22

[7]The brief thirty-year interval during which the Creek Indians and the Carolinian trading house shared the site at Macon is but one short scene in a long and complex series of events that moved inevitably toward the eventual displacement of the Indians. The principal actors in this scene were the Carolinian settlers and traders, whose dreams for commercial empire and...

Part I. Archaeological Evidence

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2. Excavations at Ocmulgee

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pp. 25-30

[40]The trading house and the Creek town site at Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia, are geographically part of the Macon Plateau, one of the most familiar and most excavated Mississippian sites in the southeastern United States (Kelly 1938; Fairbanks 1956a). Directly on the fall line, this large site overlooks the Ocmulgee River and the low plain that...

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3. The Trading House

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pp. 31-46

[47]It has been common knowledge in the Macon area for many years that the Ocmulgee National Monument mound group was once an Indian town during the earliest days of white penetration into the Southeast. For many years, it has been customarily called the “Old Fields,” a designation used by many white settlers as well as by the Indians to refer to a once-occupied...

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4. The Lower Creek Town Site

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pp. 47-81

[76]The Lower Creek town that supplied the trading house with skins was one of eleven Indian towns settled on or near Ochese Creek after 1690. The land that was chosen for this particular village after its removal from the Chattahoochee River was already an “old fields” when the Lower Creeksarrived there; and in their legends, at least, they believed it to be the site of...

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5. Artifacts

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pp. 82-124

[140]Because the Macon Plateau is a multi-component site with no really air-tight stratigraphic separation of cultures, it is often totally impossible to determine whether a given artifact belongs to the Lower Creek occupationor not. Only in the cases of pottery, a few other aboriginal tools and ornaments, and, of course, the articles brought into the town by trade can...


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pp. 125-148

Part II. Archaeological and Historical Implications

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6. Identification of the Creek Town

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pp. 151-159

[224]There are two lines of evidence bearing on the identification of the specific Lower Creek town that occupied the Macon site during the tenure of the Lower Creeks on the Ocmulgee River. The first of these indicates that the town was Hitchiti Town, the head (and probably mother) town o fa number of Hitchiti-speaking settlements. In later years, at least, this group...

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7. The Lower Creeks and Their Neighbors

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pp. 160-177

[240]For a number of years, attempts have been made to reconcile the succession of archaeological cultures in Georgia and Alabama, particularly as it is expressed in ceramic traditions, with the various modern Indian groups that lived in those two states at the time of European contact. The two main, and also conflicting, points of view on this matter involve the...

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8. The Origins of Lower Creek Ceramics

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pp. 178-193

[273]Combining historic information on the Lower Creeks with data from the areas of their supposed prehistoric residence is anything but a simple exercise in archaeological correlation. Tracing the roots of Lower Creek ceramics into the prehistoric past has always foundered on the total lack of demonstrably precontact sites bearing pottery recognizable as Lower Creek...

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9. Conclusions

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pp. 194-196

[303]The Lower Creek town and Carolinian trading house at Ocmulgee National Monument are together representative of an important juncture both in English colonial history and in Creek archaeology. The establishment of Charles Town and the first attempts at English colonization in Carolina stood for a while on a precarious footing. The spread of the Indian...

Appendix I. Catalogue Numbers of Illustrated Artifacts

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pp. 197-198

Appendix II. Pottery Types

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pp. 199-201

References Cited

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pp. 203-211


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pp. 213-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384128
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817351670

Page Count: 241
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 650060105
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Archaeology of Ocmulgee Old Fields, Macon, Georgia

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Georgia -- Ocmulgee National Monument -- Antiquities.
  • Creek Indians -- Georgia -- Ocmulgee National Monument -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Georgia -- Ocmulgee National Monument.
  • Ocmulgee National Monument (Ga.) -- Antiquities.
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