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Prehistoric Human Ecology along the Upper Savannah River Excavations at EH Ruckers Bottom, Abbeville, and Bullard Site Groups

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This report presents a detailed summary of archeological excavations undertaken at seven locations along the Savannah River in the central Piedmont of Georgia and South Carolina. The fieldwork and analyses reported here were conducted from 1980 to 1984 as part of the environmental research and mitigation effort associated with the construction of the Richard B. Russell Reservoir. Funds for the excavations, analyses, and publication of this report were provided by the Savannah District Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who were in charge of the reservoir construction effort. Archeologists from both the Corps of Engineers and the Atlanta Southeastern Regional Office of the National Park Service helped in the preparation of this report, providing overall direction and review. The actual fieldwork, and the subsequent write-up, were conducted by an interdisciplinary team of over 20 scholars -archeologists, physical anthropologists, geologists, soil scientists, ethnobotanists, and other specialists - under the direction of staff archeologists from Commonwealth Associates, Inc., a private contract archeology /environ mental services company located in Jackson, Michigan. The seven archeological sites that were examined had been occupied by prehistoric Indian groups over a long span of prehistory. The earliest materials found dated to the end of the last Ice Age, almost 11,000 years ago, and consisted of the remains of what was probably a small hunting campsite. Increasingly larger numbers of campsites and activity areas were found on the project sites dating to the ensuing periods, as the native groups themselves increased in size and complexity. Evidence for possible structures reflecting extended seasonal or year round settlement in the area was found beginning about 4000 years ago, and by roughly 1000 years ago evidence for small villages or hamlets appeared. The transition to intensive agriculture - the deliberate cultivation of corn, beans, and other domesticates - occurred about this time, and a major farming community dating from about 800 to 500 years ago was found at one site and was extensively excavated. This Indian village, at the Rucker's Bottom site, was inhabited by approximately 100 to 200 people, who built houses, over a roughly two acre area, dug pits to store their food and bury their dead, and farmed, fished, and hunted throughout the river bottoms and adjoining uplands. Warfare may have become a problem for these people, since fortifications - ditch and stockade lines - appear late in the occupation, and shortly thereafter the site (and this whole portion of the Savannah River) appears to have been abandoned. A deliberate attempt has been made in this report to link archeological and environmental data, to better understand why these sites were occupied, and what happened on them. In addition, this report makes use of extensive figures, photographs, maps, and tables, in an effort to give the reader a feel for what (and how much) was found. Chapters in the text summarize the field program, the general environmental setting, and the archeological remains that were found on each site. The analyses of specialists are reported separately, with chapters or parts of chapters devoted to the plant, animal, shell, soils, and human skeletal remains that were found. The results of these analyses have been incorporated into the discussions for each site, to provide a general overview of what was found in each location. The final chapter provides a summary of what was found, and details, in a general way, the nature of the human occupation of this portion of the central Piedmont over the past 11,000 years. This report attempts to present a synthesis of information collected from the seven project sites as it relates to the history of human settlement in this part of the southeast. Beyond this, however, the excavations in the Russell Reservoir reported here and elsewhere collected a vast amount of archeological and scientific data that will continue to be examined by archeologists and other environmental scientists for years to come. Ultimately, the value of work such as this can be best seen as a way of understanding how our ancestors were able to live successfully over a wide range of environments, and how their economic, social, and political life changed, leading up to today's world.