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Archaeological Investigations at the Fork Creek Mountain Quarry Site (9Da18), Dekalb County

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During the summer of 1981, an archaeological field school was conducted by the Laboratory of Archaeology, Georgia State University at the Fork Creek Mountain site (9Da18), a prehistoric soapstone quarry in Dekalb County, Georgia. The purpose of the investigation was to assess the archaeological integrity of this aboriginal quarry site and to evaluate its potential for development as a county park. Funds were provided by the Preserve Soapstone Ridge Task Force, and several private foundations for a six-week field project. The research was focused on determining the quarrying and bowl-making techniques and associated tool manufacturing, examining the seasonality and territoriality of the groups involved, and investigating movement and exchange patterns in areas surrounding the ridge. For many years, archaeologists have recognized the importance of the archaeological resources on Soapstone Ridge. In 1950, A. R. Kelly reported on the numerous and well-preserved aboriginal soapstone quarries in DeKalb and Clayton counties (Kelly 1950: 156). Robert Wauchape (1966: 394), in his archaeological surveys of 1939-1941, had already described a few of these quarries and commented on their archaeological integrity. In 1975, Dickens and Carnes provided a preliminary statement on a reconnaissance and assessment of 84 prehistoric and historic sites located on Soapstone Ridge and in the surrounding area (Figure 1). In addition to the work of archaeologists, efforts by scientists from other disciplines have documented a variety of unique natural resources on Soapstone ridge, e.g., geological (Higgins and Atkins 1981, Hopkins 1914, King 1957, and Pickering 1975), and biological (Nelson 1957, Wagner 1982, and Wharton 1978). In conjunction with the scientific interest in Soapstone Ridge, there has also developed a major public interest in acquiring and preserving some of the most important archaeological sites. These efforts recently brought about the purchase of a 35-acre tract containing the Fork Creek Mountain site, one of the best preserved quarry-workshop sites on the Ridge. Plans were then drawn up for this site to be developed as a cultural park and archaeological preserve, the first of its kind in the Atlanta area (Cox 1980). An initial phase of the park plan included research to determine the archaeological integrity of the site through mapping and controlled excavations. The results of this systematic archaeological investigation would be used in developing an interpretive park design. Since no previous archaeological excavations had been conducted on Soapstone Ridge, a review was conducted of research on other quarry sites in the southeastern United States in order to formulate excavation strategies. This literature search revealed that archaeological investigations on soapstone quarries dated back to the late 1800s. Among these early researchers were Holmes (1890, 1897), who excavated quarries in the District of Columbia and Virginia, and Putnam (1878), who studied soapstone quarries in the New England area. Site reports of more recent work on soapstone quarries were also consulted. These included Elliott's (1981) work on the soapstone quarries in the Wallace Reservoir Project area, Ferguson's (1979) work on several South Carolina quarries, Mathis' (1981) research on the Blue Rock quarry in North Carolina, Sheldon's (n.d.) description of the Burns Road Quarry in Carroll County, Georgia, and Wright's (1971) investigation of a quarry in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. After similarities and differences among the. various quarries and excavation procedures were noted, a research design for the investigations at the Fork Creek Mountain Quarry site was formulated. The details of this research design, results of excavation and analysis of recovered artifacts, and recommendations for future research are presented in the remainder of this report.