Excavations at the Pharr Mounds and the Bear Creek Site
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Bear Creek


The Bear Creek Site is located approximately 5 miles east of the town of Tishomingo, Mississippi. It lies between Bear and Cedar Creeks, which flow past the site only a few hundred feet apart and come together about one-quarter of a mile to the north. The conjoined stream proceeds tortuously northward some 28 miles to its confluence with the Tennessee River (fig. 1).

FIGURE 1.—Location Map. (click on image for a PDF version)

This corner of Mississippi lies in the physiographic region known as the Tennessee River Hills. The topography is rugged, with steep hills and deep ravines carved by the numerous creeks and branches. Some of the larger streams, however, have produced broad terrances. The site is located on such a terrance and there is an abundance of gently rolling, well-drained land in its immediate vicinity. The soil is a brown, sandy loam.

Today the countryside is largely clothed, as perhaps it was prehistorically, in a forest dominated by oak and hickory. In addition to numerous species of these genera, there are also sweetgum, black tupelo, sourwood, dogwood, tuliptree, and American chestunut. Frequently found along the streams are bald cypress, water oak, sycamore, beech, American elm, winged elm, slippery elm, red maple, and black walnut.

The climate of northeast Mississippi is characterized by hot summers, generally mild winters, and abundant rainfall. Monthly mean temperatures range from 44° F., in January, to 81° F., in July. The growing season is long, with an average of seven months between killing frosts. Precipitation averages 51 inches a year but is unevenly distributed, and dry spells are common in the summer and fall.

When first recorded in 1950 by the archeological survey of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Bear Creek mound was described as being 12 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. In the meantime, it had been badly damaged by cultivation, and when excavation began the mound was a low rise, a mere 4 feet high. Roughly oval in outline, it measured about 140 by 180 feet (fig. 2). South and east of the mound scattered flint chips, sherds, and bits of burned daub indicative of village remains were strewn over the surface of an area measuring some 350 by 450 feet.

FIGURE 2.—Plan of excavations in mound and village

In sum, the builders of the mound and village found an excellent location for their settlement. The rich soil and an amenable climate would have made agriculture a productive enterprise and the surrounding forests offered many potential food sources, both wild plants and game.

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Last Updated: 15-May-2008