Williams Site (22-HA-585)

National Register ID: 88001137

Area Of Significance: Prehistoric

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

Date Listed: 7/28/1988

Location: Pearlington, MS (address restricted)

Statement of Significance

The Williams site (22-Ha-585) is a small oyster and clam shell midden located ate the end of a peninsule of land [---redacted-by-USDOI---]. A single/meter test pit reveals that the deposit extends! to a depth of three feet below the present ground surface. Dating sometime in the Woodland Period (100 B.C.-1000 A.D.) the midden is black and greasy with abundant faunal remains and is likely to produce valuable information in the area of prehistoric archaeolgy. The Williams Site is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria D. Approximately 10% of the midden has been hauled away in order to utilize the shell as fill and to build roads. Several small relic hunters' holes are present but amount to less than .53. total damage to the site. Approximately 90% of the midden is intact and apparently in a good state of preservation (as evidence in the test pit and the shovel tests). The amounts of faunal remains are impressive, and it is this class of data that is essential in understanding subsistence strategies operative during the Woodland Period in Coastal Mississippi. Excavations should be geared to obtaining this class of data, and it is recommended that water screening through graduated mesh screen be utilized in an attempt to recover small skeletal elements that might fall through the normal 1/4" screen. The faunal remains should be analyzed by a zooarchaeo- iogist and a test compiled of the numbers and varieties of this class of information. Besides giving insights into the diet of Woodland peoples, information regarding seasonality of occupation and/or utilization of the site should come into focus.

The excavations should also produce a larger sample of artifactual materials such as ceramics and/or lithics. This is important, as to date, only several plain sand tempered sherds have been recovered and we are in a difficult position to assign anything other than a period cultural affiliation (sometime in the Woodland Period). Hopefully through additional testing the site can be placed in a more secure, more accurate cultural/chronological position. At the Three Sisters Shell Midden, [---redacted-by-USDOI---] charred acorn hulls were recovered in a black earth and shell midden with abundant faunal remains, much the same situation as the Williams Site. It is reasonable to assume that this type of resource, or similar floral remains, will be recovered at the Williams Site further shedding light on Woodland subsistence/settlement patterns.

Present and Historical Appearance

The Williams Site (22-Ha-585) is a small shell (oyster and clam) black earth midden [---redacted-by-USDOI---]. The site was recorded in 1985 by Karl Lorenz of the University of Illinois Department of Anthropology Graduate Program and reported to the Department of Archives and History. The Williams Site is similar in size, configuration, and apparently cultural affiliation with the Up the Tree Shell Midden and the Three Sisters Shell Midden, two sites within 1/4-1/2 mile of the Williams Site, [---redacted-by-USDOI---]. Several 50 cm. test pits and approximately fifteen shovel tests (10" across x 12-20" deep) were dug throughout the site (see sketch map) revealing numerous fragment of faunal remains. Included in the faunal remains are deer bones, fish vertebra, and other unidentified mammalian skeletal elements. The deposit at the Williams Site extends from the present ground surface to a depth of 2-3'. The site appears to date sometime in the Woodland Period (100 B.C.- 1000 A.D.) on the basis of several sherds of plain sand tempered pottery located on the surface and in one of the test pits. A heavy growth of mixed hardwoods along with a thick underbrush of palmetto, saw grass, etc.. cover and orotect the site from erosion.

Some evidence of relic collecting activities are present at the site. Three small potholes (2' across x approximately 1-2' in depth) were noted in different portions of the site. Towards the center of the site evidence of the mining of shell (probably for the building of roads). In Coastal Mississippi it has been common practice to haul shell from aboriginal shell middens in order to accomplish this purpose. An area approximately 25' across x 5.8' deep has been removed by this activity, and an old road from which the haulers operated is visible going into the site. This apparently was done some time ago as the road ruts are barely visible and the damage to the midden does not appear to De recent, However, both the potholes and the hauling away of shell have destroyed only a small portion of this very rich midden.

The piece of land more than likely has never been in cultivation however, it is likely that timber may have been harvested here in the past. It should be noted that the density and compactness of the shell in the midden make excavation difficult but probably help discourage erosion. The heavy growth of vegetation also helps discourage relic collectors while at the same time helps protect the site from the many coastal storms and hurricanes which are not uncommon in this area. In many Mississippi coastal shell middens preservation of faunal materials is excellent; floral remains are sometimes preserved (acorn hulls from the Three Sisters Shell Midden) and the presence of human burials at the base of the midden (Richard Site in Hancock County) cannot be ruled out at the Williams Site.

Additional Notes

BOUNDARY JUSTIFICATION: The boundary is restricted to an area of approximately 300' [---redacted-by-USDOI---] by 75' [---redacted-by-USDOI---] where thick deposits of shell and black earth midden are continuously exposed on the surface with no apparent non-site areas.

(Details and text copied from National Register nomination form)

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