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Bottle Creek

A Pensacola Culture Site in South Alabama

Edited by Ian W. Brown, with foreword by David S. Brose, with contributions from

Publication Year: 2003

This is the first comprehensive study and analysis of the most important Mississippian mound site on the north-central Gulf coast. Consisting of 18 earthen mounds and numerous additional habitation areas dating to A.D. 1250-1550, the Bottle Creek site was first professionally investigated in 1932 when David L. DeJarnette of the Alabama Museum of Natural History began work there to determine if the site had a cultural relationship with Moundville, connected to the north by a river system. Although partially mapped in the 1880s, Bottle Creek's location in the vast Mobile-Tensaw Delta of Baldwin County completely surrounded by swamp made it inaccessible and protected it from most of the plunder experienced by similar sites in the Southeast. This volume builds on earlier investigations to present extensive recent data from major excavations conducted from 1991 to 1994 and supported in part by an NEH grant. Ten anthropologists examine various aspects of the site, including mound architecture, prehistoric diet, pottery classification, vessel forms, textiles used to make pottery impressions, a microlithic stone tool industry, water travel, the persistence of mound use into historic times, and the position of Bottle Creek in the protohistoric world. The site is concluded to be the best remaining example of Pensacola culture, an archaeological variant of the widespread Mississippian tradition identified by a shell-tempered pottery complex and by its geographic association with the north-central coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Occupied for three centuries by a thriving native culture, Bottle Creek is an important remnant of North American peoples and as such is designated a National Historic Landmark. This published compilation of the research data should establish a base for future scholarly investigation and interpretation. Ian W. Brown is Professor of Anthropology at The University of Alabama and Curator of Gulf Coast Archaeology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History. He has numerous publications, including Decorated Pottery of the Lower Mississippi Valley: A Sorting Manual. David S. Brose is Director of the Schiele Museum of Natural History in North Carolina and coeditor of The Northwest Florida Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore and Societies in Eclipse.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

List of Figures

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pp. iv-xiv

List of Tables

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. xvii-xxiv

I found it difficult to resist the editor’s invitation to write a foreword to this volume. It was not merely because I was one of the two discussants to the SEAC symposium at which the original field reports were presented, and it was certainly not because, with uncharacteristic exaggeration, the editor opined I might be the oldest archaeologist yet alive to have visited the Bottle Creek site (“see Bottle Creek and die”). It is because over the ...

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pp. xxv-xxvi

This volume grew out of a symposium that was presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1995. The seeds for this symposium were sown in 1932 when David L. DeJarnette of the Alabama Museum of Natural History began a project at the Bottle Creek site (1Ba2), deep in the heart of the Mobile-...

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pp. xxvii-xxix

In the Preface of Brown and Fuller (1993a) I described my first visit to the Bottle Creek site. Having spent most of the day lost in the swamp, it might seem somewhat curious why I would have ever considered returning to the site to lead a project. The logistics of running a dig at Bottle Creek is something just shy of a nightmare, and yet it has been worth it. The site con-...

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1. Introduction to the Bottle Creek Site

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pp. 1-26

The Bottle Creek site (1Ba2) is located in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Baldwin County, Alabama. This multi-mound Pensacola culture site was erected on the northern end of Mound Island, sandwiched between Middle River and Bottle Creek. David L. DeJarnette of the Alabama Museum of Natural History conducted preliminary investigations in 1932 and this museum has ...

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2. Out of the Moundville Shadow: The Origin and Evolution of Pensacola Culture

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pp. 27-62

Since being severed from Fort Walton, Pensacola culture has gained some independence as a coastal Mississippian variant. From the beginning, geographical continuities and general similarities in ceramic styles suggested a relationship to Moundville culture. But just how “Moundvillian” is Pensacola? Recent research at the Bottle Creek site indicates a rather sudden ...

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3. A Proposed Construction Sequence of the Mound B Terrace at Bottle Creek

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pp. 63-83

Mound B is the second tallest and second largest earthwork at the Bottle Creek site (Figure 1.3). Several general observations have led to the hypothesis that Mound B served a special role in the religious and social lives of people in Pensacola society. First, the builders of the mound positioned it strategically to form the western border of a large plaza (Brown 1994:1–4; ...

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4. Historic Aboriginal Reuse of a Mississippian Mound, Mound L at Bottle Creek

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pp. 84-102

In 1991 the Gulf Coast Survey conducted test excavations on the summit of Mound L at the Bottle Creek site (Figure 1.3). Brown and Fuller (1993b) excavated two 1 × 2 m units that contained numerous overlapping features, to a depth of more than 2 m. This work indicated the presence of several superimposed structures and details on mound construction (Figures 4.1–...

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5. Food Plant Remains from Excavations in Mounds A, B, C, D, and L at Bottle Creek

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pp. 103-113

The archaeobotanical analyses of the Bottle Creek materials were designed to investigate how the people who lived at the site procured and produced plant foods. Specifically, our goal was to collect data that could be used to determine what plant resources the inhabitants chose to use, to assess the relative importance of cultivated and wild plants in their diets, and to ...

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6. The Use of Plants in Mound-Related Activities at Bottle Creek and Moundville

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pp. 114-129

Bottle Creek, located in the Mobile Delta, and Moundville, located in the Black Warrior Valley of Alabama, are the two largest Mississippian sites in Alabama (Figure 6.1). As discussed by Fuller (Chapter 2), ceramics recovered from the two sites suggest interaction and exchange between the polities, although neither community seems to have been under the direct ...

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7. Zooarchaeological Remains from Bottle Creek

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pp. 130-155

Archaeologists have known of the Bottle Creek site for more than a century, but until the current project there has been very little information on the diet of its people. In addition to its abundance of artifacts and plant food resources, Bottle Creek contains a dense concentration of zooarchaeological remains from subsistence activities. These animal remains present ...

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8. A Functional Comparison of Pottery Vessel Shapes from Bottle Creek

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pp. 156-167

In this chapter I explore the relationship between the central group of mounds and the peripheral mounds at Bottle Creek by examining primary pottery vessel shapes recovered in the Mound A (central) and Mound C (peripheral) excavations. In essence, this work complements Fuller’s study of pottery sets (Chapter 2). The shapes that I present and discuss encom-...

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9. The Bottle Creek Microlithic Industry

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pp. 168-179

In 1991 the Alabama Museum of Natural History conducted limited test excavations in Mound L at the Bottle Creek site (Chapter 4; Brown and Fuller 1993b). During the spring of 1992 I analyzed the microlithic collection from these excavations. My primary goal in this chapter is to present the raw data and to compare the Bottle Creek microliths to other related ...

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10. Matting and Pliable Fabrics from Bottle Creek

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pp. 180-193

Surface collections and excavations at Bottle Creek have produced 259 analyzable impressions of matting, pliable fabrics, yarns, and fibers on sherds from “saltpans”—large, shallow vessels often found at saline springs, where they would have been used to produce salt by evaporation (Drooker 1992:12–20). When I was asked to examine them, I anticipated learning ...

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11. Water Travel and Mississippian Settlement at Bottle Creek

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pp. 194-204

Water travel would have been a major component of the lifeways of native peoples in deltaic environments such as the wet landscape surrounding the Mississippian town at Bottle Creek. For this reason archaeologists have taken an interest in reports of an aboriginal canal at Bottle Creek. In this chapter I review ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence from the lower ...

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12. Concluding Thoughts on Bottle Creek and Its Position in the Mississippian World

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pp. 205-226

As is evident from the preceding chapters, much knowledge has been derived from the recent work at the Bottle Creek site and in the surrounding Mound Island region. Perhaps of most importance to posterity was the contribution that the Gulf Coast Survey made in elevating this site to National Historic Landmark status. Its importance has been recognized na-...

Appendix A. Archaeological Phases Represented at the Bottle Creek Site

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pp. 227-230

Appendix B. Radiocarbon Dates Secured at the Bottle Creek Site

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pp. 231-232

References Cited

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pp. 233-260


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pp. 261-264


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pp. 265-277

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381721
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817312206

Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mound Island (Ala.) -- Antiquities.
  • Mississippian pottery -- Alabama -- Mound Island.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Alabama -- Mound Island.
  • Mississippian culture -- Alabama -- Mound Island.
  • Bottle Creek Site (Ala.).
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