Pinson Mounds Archaeological Project

Pinson MoundsJackson, Madison County, Tennessee

A Cooperative Project of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee State Parks, University of the South, and Middle Tennessee State University

Project Directors: Kevin E. Smith, Middle Tennessee State University and Mark Norton, Tennessee Division of Archaeology

In 1999, the MTSU Archaeological Field School was held at Pinson Mounds -- the largest Middle Woodland ceremonial center in North America. While a large portion of the Pinson Mounds site is managed as Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, other portions of the site are managed by the Tennessee Division of Forestry as a tree nursery (an operation which preceded the creation of the state park unit).

Investigations by staff of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology suggested that a pine tree seed orchard (i.e. a field of evenly spaced pine trees used to generate pine cones harvested for seedling nurseries) in the Ozier Tract was located on a series of previously unrecorded large mounds . The trees in the orchard were aging, and no longer producing at the optimal rate, and the Division of Forestry proposed to cut the existing trees and replant. Given the potentially significant archaeological remains in the orchard, further investigations were deemed necessary before Forestry proceed with these plans.

As a result, a cooperative project was developed to use the MTSU Archaeological Field School as a cost-effective means of acquiring the needed information while providing an opportunity for students to learn how to do archaeology. With the cooperation and support of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, Tennessee State Parks, and Tennessee Division of Forestry, eighteen students from MTSU and three from the University of The South investigated the pine orchard in June and July of 1999.