The Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park covers over 800 acres within Manchester, Tennessee, and is owned and managed by the Tennessee Division of State Parks. The central archaeological site within the park boundary is The Old Stone Fort mounds that enclose about 50 acres on a plateau above the convergence of the Big Duck and the Little Duck Rivers. The hilltop enclosure dates to the Middle Woodland Period, and radiocarbon dates obtained at the site range from the first to the fifth century A. D. Because of its size and apparent complexity, previous investigations of the site have been quite limited in areal exposure. Many questions remain as to the overall structure of the site, including the relationship of built and natural features, the presence of any structures or other anthropogenic features, and the occurrence of presence of any domestic remains.
This research project utilizes detailed digital topographic survey, geographical information system (GIS) analysis, geophysical survey, limited re-excavation of previously investigated portions of the site, and manual coring to locate and characterize archaeological deposits within the enclosure and mounds. Magnetometer, resistance, electromagnetic susceptibility, conductivity, and ground penetrating radar techniques were used during the investigations. Geophysical data, using these instruments, were collected over the same area in many cases. All together 20,000 m2 were examined during the project.
Results indicate potential archaeological features and deposits within the plateau interior. Analysis suggests the presence of several geophysical anomalies potentially associated with prehistoric use of the site, especially within the Eastern Gateway complex. One such anomaly, or complex of anomalies, represents a possible structure. Historic archaeological deposits are also indicated by the geophysical data. Excavations at the site were limited to minimize impact. In a re-excavated trench, a lens of black shale within the stone mound construction may indicate a building stage not previously observed at Old Stone Fort. A second excavation confirmed a ditch feature detected in the geophysical survey. Archaeological deposits located during the survey are interpreted as evidence of sustained use of the ceremonial site during the Middle Woodland Period by local corporate groups to maintain and intensify membership for individuals who were settled in nucleated villages throughout most of the year.
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