Up the Tree Shell Midden (22-HA-595)

National Register ID: 88000306

Area Of Significance: Prehistoric

Period Of Significance: 1000-500 AD, 499-0 AD

Date Listed: 4/13/1988

Location: Pearlington, MS (address restricted)

Statement of Significance

The Up the Tree Shell Midden (22-Ha-594) is a small, apparently undisturbed Woodland Period shell midden, occupying an area of less than 1/2 acre at the tip of a point of land jutting out into the marshland [---redacted-by-USDOI---]. The site is covered in a heavy growth of mixed hardwoods and underbrush, surrounded by marsh on three sides, and appears to be in a fine state of preservation considering the absence of disturbances due to relic collecting. Shell middens [---redacted-by-USDOI---] are becoming scarce; many have been destroyed by construction,relic collecting, tidal activities, and hurricanes. This makes the value of the site even more important and the Up the Tree Shell Midden is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion D. The site is likely to produce valuable information important in the area of prehistoric archaeology. Excavations at the site should be geared to gathering as much information as possible regarding coastal subsistance strategies. Faunal remains have been collected on the surface (deer bones) and are most likely to be present in considerable quantities in the midden. Excavations should utilize screening through graduated mesh in an effort to recover small skeletal elements that might fall through a 1/4" screen. The data should be analyzed and attempts made to ascertain the relative importance of the individual elements within the total diet. Little is known about coastal subsistence strategies in Mississippi and questions relative to this area are likely to be answered by scientific excavations at this site. At the Richard Site (22-Hr-636) in Harrison County on Biloxi's Back Bay a single female burial with grave goods was found at the base of a shell and black earth midden in an apparently Mississipian Period Context.

Although Up the Tree appears to date earlier (Woodland Period), the possibility that burial(s) may be found in or beneath the shell midden must not be ruled out. If recovered, this would provide data on Woodland Period burials in a coastal situation. Further, floral remains may be present, and in good preservation due to the conditions at this site. If water screening techniques were utilized, additional subsistence data would come to light. This information in conjunction with any faunal remains data could be utilized to ask questions about settlement patterns regarding seasonality. We would be in a good position to understand what time(s) of the year the site was utilized.

Present and Historical Appearance

The Up the Tree Shell Midden (22-Ha-595) is a small shell midden (rangia cuneata) [---redacted-by-USDOI---]. Located on the last piece of high dry ground in the southerly portion of the State of Mississippi, this shell midden is approximately 70 feet x 45 feet in size and extends from the present ground surface to a depth of over 1-1/2 feet. The site appears to date sometime in the Woodland Period (100 B.C.-1000 A.D.) on the basis of two sand tempered plain sherds located on the surface. The site, covered on three sides by marshland and a small bayou, [---redacted-by-USDOI---]. Cedar, myrtle and several other hardwood varieties of trees along with a thick underbush of palmetto and saw grass cover and protect the site from erosion. No pot holes or other evidence of relic collecting activites were found, quite an unusual situation as many of Mississippi's coast shell middens have had their integrity compromised significantly by this type of activity. On [---redacted-by-USDOI---] the site was exposed approximately 1-1/2 feet of shell and black earth midden, however, it could not be profiled or photographed without going out into the marsh swamp. The shell is thickly packed and several pieces of deer bone were recovered in the midden. The piece of land more than likely has never been cultivated, however, it is likely that timber may have been harvested here in the past. Conditions for surface collecting were extremely poor due to the vegetation and it is virtually impossible to auger any type of solid core, manually operated, due to the dense and compact nature of the shell deposit. It would not be unreasonable to expect that preservation of faunal remains will be favorable, as is the case at other coastal shell middens (Claiborne Site, Deer Island Site, Raymond Bass Site) and the possible presence of human burials should also be considered.

Additional Notes

VERBAL BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION: [---redacted-by-USDOI---]
BOUNDARY JUSTIFICATION: The boundary is restricted to an area of approximately 70 feet [---redacted-by-USDOI---] by 40 feet [---redacted-by-USDOI---] where thick deposits of shell and black earth midden are continuously exposed on the surface of the site with no apparent non-site areas.

(Details and text copied from National Register nomination form)

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