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5  3 Community Development, Then and Now STEVE FULLEN HAS CLEARED a tabletop amid the jumble and clutter of the expansive archaeology lab in a basement room on the LSU campus. Fullen, collections manager for the anthropology section of the LSU Museum of Natural Science, has pulled a plain corrugated cardboard box from storage, from which he extracts several Ziploc bags. He scatters their contents into a composed design of smooth, dusty, jagged fragments in muted tones of ochre, gray, and rust. Some are smaller than a pencil eraser, others as large as the heel of my hand. One item resembles a short, slightly curved white stick; another is a plain mustard-colored rock; still another is a rough, dark-brown pyramid-shaped clod. It looks like rubble. It is rubble, but with an impressive provenance. These undistinguished -looking pieces are artifacts excavated from the Kleinpeter site, located near the junction of Bayou Manchac and Bayou Fountain , considered one of the most significant prehistoric archaeological finds in the region. Archaeologists believe that successive native cultures inhabited the site for almost two millennia, from approximately 250 B.C. until just prior to Iberville’s passage. The location would have been almost ideal for native settlement, offering streams for transportation, level ground raised above the WINDING THROUGH TIME 6 floodplain, rich soils for farming, and bountiful hunting. The tract sloped down to both Bayou Fountain and Bayou Manchac and was probably surrounded by an expanse of rolling green land studded with magnificent stands of trees and dense overgrowth. Alligator Bayou entered Manchac from the south nearby, forming a confluence of three waterways that became known as the Convergence. Iberville had remarked on this place in his journal:“Here two small streams unite with this one [Manchac], one from the northnorthwest and the other from the southeast, making it half again bigger and twice as wide. . . . [It is] One of the prettiest spots I have seen,fine level ground,beautiful woods,clear and bare of canes....”* He also wrote of seeing six pirogues (dugout canoes) there, but he failed to mention seeing people, a settlement, or mounds. This omission has suggested to historians that the last of the native communities had already moved away by 699, since Iberville described in extraordinary detail a visit he had made just ten days before to a large Bayou Goula village along the Mississippi River. Archaeological evidence indicates that the last occupants of the Kleinpeter site may have been similar to the natives Iberville encountered at the Bayou Goula village and to those encountered by French explorers who followed Iberville. They wrote about the sophistication of the natives’ lifestyles, surprised that although the Indians lacked writing and domesticated animals, they had their own spoken language, ritual celebrations, and forms of games and recreation. They used a variety of tools and weapons and fashioned pottery and basketry decorated far beyond mere utility. The Kleinpeter artifacts revealed that the prehistoric people who lived at the Convergence hunted the nearby forests and swamps and fished the streams. They made tools and ornaments * References to Iberville’s journals throughout this book are from Iberville’s Gulf Journals, translated and edited by Gaillard McWilliams (University of Alabama Press, 98). 7 from bones, antlers, and animal teeth and created clothing and blankets from deer and bear hides. They hunted for food—deer, bear, buffalo, raccoons, opossums, squirrel, muskrat, rabbits, foxes, turkey, geese, duck, and egret—and fished for gar, catfish, buffalo fish, bowfin, freshwater drum, alligator, and turtles with nets and spears. Iberville had noted the area’s prolific wildlife, particularly the fish and “crocodiles” in the bayous.* The Convergence was so rich, in fact, that later natives called it Anamatah,“the fish place,” a reputation it sustained until the 950s. Edible wild plants were bountiful—varieties of berries and nuts, grapes, persimmons, wild onions, freshwater lotus seeds, wild potato and other tubers. Later native cultures cultivated maize and perhaps beans, melons, sunflowers, tobacco, and squash. They used the thick cane growing along stream banks to make poles for construction and sharp tools and created pirogues by hollowing fallen cypress trees with fire. For their era, the prehistoric occupants of the Kleinpeter site led a remarkably rich life. The exact date when natives decamped from the peninsula at Bayous Fountain and Manchac is unknown. They had certainly moved away by the time of Iberville’s passage; however, when British mapmaker Elias Durnford noted...


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