Eaker Site

Eaker SiteRestricted - Mississippi
Location Restricted
Listed in National Register of Historic Places on 11/25/92
Listed as a National Historic Landmark on 6/19/1996
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SUMMARY

The Eaker site (3MS105) is considered significant under National Register Criterion D. It is one of the largest sites of its kind in the Central Mississippi Valley, and one of the best preserved large sites in a region where pothunting is common. Stratified deposits at the site are capable of addressing research questions relating to cultural succession, social structure, and subsistence in ways that may no longer be possible at other known Nodena phase sites. Also, the purported relationship between the Nodena phase and the historic Quapaw, and the presence of human remains, have ethnic heritage implications for the modern Quapaw tribe.

ELABORATION

The historic context within which the Eaker site has research potential is the development of prehistoric cultural complexity through time as detailed in the Arkansas State Plan. Although site size is not necessarily an indication of significance, large sites generally have greater research potential than small ones because a wider range of research issues can be addressed. The large size of the Eaker site is the result of reoccupation over a period of at least 1,000 years, from Late Woodland to Late Mississippian times. The time depth represented by materials in this site provides the opportunity to refine the regional chronology and address a variety of other topics, including three of the highest priority issues identified in the State Plan for the Central Mississippi Valley: a) the relationship between the Barnes and Baytown traditions; b) the appearance of the Mississippian; and c) site distribution as it relates to Late Mississippian population nucleation.

Additionally, the size and structural complexity of the Mississippian component alone is similar to other large Mississippian villages of regional and national importance, such as Etowah, Georgia; Lilboum, Missouri; and Angel, Indiana. The deposits at the Eaker site have the potential to address virtually all aspects of cultural development during the period of significance, including technology, subsistence, settlement systems, social organization, ideology, human biology, and geochronology.

In northeast Arkansas, improving chronological control and phase/assemblage definition remain high priority research activities. The Eaker site contains materials that will provide numerous samples for radiometric dating (e.g., charcoal, bone, shell, and burned clay floors), as well as large assemblages of diagnostic ceramic and lithic artifacts. The juxtaposition of Woodland and Mississippian materials will permit the evaluation of regional cultural systematics. Because both Barnes arid Baytown materials are represented, it should be possible to address the question of whether the latter expanded at the expense of the former. It will also be possible to determine what sort of settlement (villages versus households) is represented by each. Similarly, a detailed examination of the relationship between the Middle and Late Mississippian occupations would bear on the issue of whether the latter was intrusive to the region.

Several basic issues related to settlement patterns could be studied at the Eaker site. The preservation of many buried features over a wide area provides the potential for studying internal site structure through extensive horizontal excavation. The resulting data on activity patterning and household organization would bear directly on the question of whether Middle Mississippian villages represent large communities of contemporaneous houses, repeated occupations of several house clusters, or ceremonial sites with small resident populations.

Certain portions of the Central Mississippi Valley appear to have been abandoned during the Late Mississippian period. It has been suggested that much of the regional population shifted into nucleated settlements of the Nodena phase in the meander belt areas of the St. Francis, Little River - Pemiscot Bayou, and White River drainages. As one of the largest and well preserved of the sites in these areas, 3MS105 contains much subsistence, skeletal, and internal spatial data relevant to the issue of nucleation. The Eaker site appears to be the focal site within one of three distinct clusters of Nodena phase villages. As such, it will be important for the definition of subgroups within the phase.

Sites in the Blytheville cluster are characterized by a relative paucity of mounds and the presence of large numbers of end scrapers and Nodena points. An analysis of the artifact assemblage and subsistence remains would address the issue of whether Nodena points were designed for warfare and whether there was a local emphasis on hunting and hide processing. It has also been suggested that Nodena phase sites controlled the use of basalt in northeast Arkansas. The Eaker site contains relatively large numbers of basalt celts, chisels, and hammerstones, and the site could be expected to provide clues to the nature of any such regional control network.

The size and complexity of the Eaker site suggests it is near the top of the apparent hierarchy among Mississippian villages in the region. It is likely that funerary remains at the site will contain evidence of differential social status. The spatial arrangement of residential clusters, religious structures, and burials within the site would provide information on community organization. Both types of data would contribute to an analysis of whether chiefdoms are reflected in the Mississippian villages of the region.

The Eaker site is expected to contain a large number of human burials. The analysis of human skeletal remains would be relevant to a variety of issues, such as estimating population numbers for each component, defining physical characteristics and phyletic relationships of the population(s), determining the percentage of maize in the diet, and identifying dietary stress in the region. The phyletic relationship of the populations also has ethnic heritage implications for the modern Quapaw tribe. One working hypothesis in the region identifies the historic Quapaw as the descendants of Nodena populations. This view is already widely accepted among the Quapaw, and they have identified 3MS105 as a site of sacred and heritage concern to the tribe, precisely because of the large number of burials likely to remain there. Even though protohistoric materials have not been reported from the site, any additional support for the Nodena-Quapaw connection would reinforce the ethnic importance already attributed to the site by the tribe.

The Eaker site is in an area containing deposits of sandy Crevasse soils which occur locally as circular patches of sand known as ���sand blows.�۝ These features were formed by the extrusion of sand from fissures caused by seismic activity along the New Madrid fault. Sand blows occur within the site, and they are likely to have been formed during the New Madrid earthquake of 181l and at various times throughout the occupational history of the site. The ability to detect and date earlier episodes of extrusion within the cultural deposits at the site would help geologists generate a more precise model of earthquake cycles in the region.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davis, Hester A. (Editor) 1982 A State Plan for the Conservation of Archeological Resources in Arkansas. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Research Series No. 21. Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Lafferty, Robert H., III and Robert F. Cande. 1989 Cultural Resources Investigations, Peacekeeper Rail Garrison Program, Eaker Air Force Base, Mississippi County, Arkansas. Report prepared for Tetra Tech, Inc. and AFRCE-BMS, Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino, California.

McNeil, Jimmy D. 1982 A Cultural Resources Survey of the Ditch 75, Blytheville Air Force Base, Mississippi County, Arkansas. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District.

Morse, Dan F. and Phyllis A. Morse. 1983 Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley. Academic Press, New York.

Wadleigh, Linda and Kevin W. Thompson. 1989 Proton Magnetometer Survey of Site 3MS105, Eaker Air Force Base, Arkansas. Proton Magnetometer Report No. 1, Western Wyoming College. Report prepared for Tetra Tech, Inc. and AFRCE-BMS, Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino, California.


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