30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 20
Christian D. Allen
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Between 1967 and 1979 nine Overhill Cherokee archaeological sites were excavated by the University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology. One of those archaeological sites was the Mialoquo site (40MR3) which is situated on the Little Tennessee River in Monroe County, TN (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Google maps image and overlain shape file of the Mialoquo site and adjacent Rose Island. Mialoquo is located north of the modern city of Vonore, TN in Monroe County.
The site was first recorded in 1762 by Lt. Henry Timberlake (King 2007; Williams 1927), see Aaron Deter-Wolf’s 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology post Ethnohistory, Archaeology, and Lt. Henry Timberlake for more information on the importance of Timberlake to east Tennessee archaeology. Between 1761 and its’ eventual abandonment ca. 1776-77 the Overhill Cherokee town grew in population size, evident from the construction of a townhouse not documented on Timberlake’s 1761 Map (figure 2).
Figure 2: Timberlake’s Map of Cherokee Towns in the Little Tennessee River valley. Image courtesy of McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.
The first archaeological investigation near the site of Mialoquo occurred sometime between 1885 and 1889 by J.W. Emmert and James D. Middleton, under the direction of Cyrus Thomas (Thomas 1894). These excavations focused on nearby mounds, but Emmert “observed indications of a former village partly on the land about the mound and partly on an island [Rose Island]” (Thomas 1894:389). In 1971 and 1973-1974 excavations on Rose Island (40MR44), adjacent to Mialoquo, were conducted as part of the Tellico Archaeological Project. Directed first by Paul Gleeson (1971:5-6) then by Dr. Jefferson Chapman (1975) the excavations demonstrated an Archaic and Woodland occupation at the northern end of the island, but no Cherokee artifacts were recovered.
Since Timberlake’s first witness in 1761, the Cherokee town of Mialoquo had not been documented. In the Fall of 1976, Dr. Gerald Schroedl and field team conducted test excavations at the suspected location of Mialoquo (figure 3). The resulting excavation yielded multiple features and physical evidence of historic Cherokee settlement. Finally, in 1977, an extension on the inundation of the reservoir allowed for additional testing at the Mialoquo site (Russ and Chapman 1983). Between January and April of 1977 eight Cherokee structures, including an octagonal townhouse, were excavated (figures 4-6). The Tellico Reservoir project was completed in December of 1979 inundating the site.
Figure 3: Southern view of the Mialoquo site prior to field excavations. Image courtesy of McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.
Mialoquo has received relatively little attention academically compared to other nearby Cherokee towns excavated nearly concurrently, like Chota (40MR2), Tanasee (40MR62), Citico (40MR7) and Toqua (40MR6). Due to this, I was interested in developing a better understanding of Mialoquo’s spatial layout and social composition. I employ both ethnohistoric and archaeological lines of evidence to achieve this. Archaeologically, I am focusing on the ceramic assemblage from Mialoquo, I utilize portable X-ray Florescence (pXRF), an analytical technique described by Erika Lyle in her 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology post Hiwassee Island: Absorbed Residue Analysis and pXRF with Legacy Collection Ceramics. In short, this instrument allows for the near-instantaneous viewing of the elemental composition of material objects. In ceramics, this technique is useful in determining if the clay source, from which pottery vessels are manufactured, are similar or dissimilar between pottery sherds. This can be useful for both intra- and inter-site variation analysis.
Figure 4: Contour Map of Mialoquo Locale. Image source Russ and Chapman (1983:3).
The trajectory of ceramic development in various independent Cherokee communities and town clusters was not static. In fact, it appears that at least two discernable areas of development within the Cherokee homelands occurred, producing two very diverse ceramics styles referred to as the Qualla ceramic series (Egloff 1967; Riggs and Rodning 2002; Rodning 2004:312) and the Overhill ceramic series (Bates 1985; Egloff 1967; Lewis et al. 1995; Schroedl 1986). The development of these ceramic series can be envisioned geographically as bounded by either side of the Appalachian mountain range, whereby the Qualla ceramic series developed to the east in the modern states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and the Overhill ceramic series developed west of the Appalachians in the east Tennessee area. It is important to note that this approach to ceramic studies acknowledges that ceramics and ceramic design sequences do not necessarily represent social groups. Instead, it is understood that the surface treatments, tempering agents, and sources of clay are all material expressions that help interpret the relationship between communities and the interactions with different community groups.
Figure 5: Area Map of Mialoquo townhouse (structure 7). Image source Russ and Chapman (1983:14).
Figure 6: Area Map of domestic structures 1, 2, 3, and 8 excavated at Mialoquo. Image source Russ and Chapman (1983:12).
An important part of this work has been the recognition that in the early seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD, Cherokee settlements in western North and South Carolina and northern Georgia coalesced with Overhill Cherokee communities in east Tennessee, coming together into a number of towns along the lower Little Tennessee River valley (Baden 1983; Corkran 1962; Ethridge 2006; Marcoux 2008, 2010; Rodning 2002, 2008). Mialoquo, established ca. 1760, intersects this period of Cherokee community coalescence. To understand the social composition and spatial layout of the town as a community of coalesced individuals and family groups I attempt to address the following questions: Were households homogenous in one ceramic type (Qualla series or Overhill series)? Were households utilizing the same clay source(s) for manufacturing pots? What is the spatial relationship between households and corresponding ceramic data? Is there any evidence of blending communities of practice at Mialoquo?
The primary analysis of ceramics from Mialoquo included a total of 6,677 sherds and their typological identification by Russ and Chapman (1983) suggests that there were at least two communities of practice present at Mialoquo. At present pXRF data collection on the ceramic assemblage from the site is ongoing.
Baden, William W., Chapman, Jefferson, Carnes-Mcnaughton, Linda F, Glassman, David M.
1983 Tomotley: An Eighteenth Century Cherokee Village. Tennessee Valley Authority. University of Tennessee.
Bates, James F.
1985 Aboriginal Ceramic Artifacts. In Overhill Cherokee Archaeology at Chota-Tanasee. Chapter 6. Edited by Gerald F. Schroedl. Tennessee Valley Authority. University of Tennessee. Report of Investigation 38.
1975 The Rose Island site and the bifurcate point tradition. Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Report of Investigations 14.
Corkran, David H.
1962 The Cherokee frontier: conflict and survival, 1740-62. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
1967 An Analysis of Ceramics from Historic Cherokee Towns. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
2006 Creating the Shatterzone: Indian Slave Traders and the Collapse of the Southeastern Chiefdoms. In Light on the Path: The Anthropology and History of the Southeastern Indians, edited by Thomas J. Pluckhahn and Robbie Ethridge, pp. 207-218. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Gleeson, Paul F. (edito)
1971 Archaeological Investigations in the Tellico Reservoir: Interim report 1970. Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Report of Investigation 9.
King, Duane H. (editor)
2007 The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake: The Story of a Soldier, Adventurer and Emissary to the Cherokees, 1756-1765. Museum of the Cherokee Indian Press, Cherokee, NC
Lewis, Thomas M. N., Madeline D. Kneburg, and Lynne P. Sullivan
1995 The Prehistory of the Chickamauga Basin. University of Tennessee, Press.
Marcoux, Jon C.
2008 Cherokee Households and Communities in the English Contact Period, A.D. 1670-1740. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
2010 Pox, Empire, Shackles, and Hides: The Townsend Site 1670-1715. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Riggs, Brett H. and Christopher B. Rodning
2002 Cherokee ceramic traditions of southwestern North Carolina, ca. A.D. 1400-2002: a preface to “the last of the Iroquois potters”. North Carolina Archaeology. Vol. 51.
Rodning, Christopher C.
2002 Reconstructing the Coalescence of Cherokee Communities in Southern Appalachia. In The Transformation of the Southeastern Indians 1540-1760. Edited by Robbie Ethridge and Charles Hudson. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, MS.
2004 The Cherokee Town at Coweeta Creek. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
2008 Temporal Variation in Qualla Pottery at Coweeta Creek. North Carolina Archaeology 57:1-41.
Russ, Kurt C. and Jefferson Chapman
1983 Archaeological Investigations at the Eighteenth-Century Overhill Cherokee Town of Mialoquo (40MR3). Report of Investigation No. 37, The University of Tennessee, Department of Anthropology. The Tennessee Valley Authority Publication in Anthropology No. 36.
Schroedl, Gerald F.
1986 Overhill Cherokee Archaeology at Chota-Tanasee, Report of Investigations 38. Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
1894 Report on the mound explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology. Bureau of American Ethnology 12:3-730.
Williams, Samuel Cole
1927 Lieut. Henry Timberlake’s Memoirs, 1756-1765. Johnson City, TN.