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Missouri Department of Transportation

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In October of 2004, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) contracted with the Illinois State Museum Society (ISMS) to conduct Phase III archaeological data recovery excavations at portions of archaeological sites 23FR521, 23FR522, and 23FR523 in Franklin County, Missouri. All three of these sites had been determined from Phase II testing by MoDOT archaeologists to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion D (scientific significance) based on their potential to contribute to local and regional prehistoric research questions. Because these sites could not be avoided and would be adversely affected, MoDOT elected to mitigate these adverse effects by conducting data recovery excavations. These data recovery excavations were designed to mitigate the adverse effects that would be inflicted on these sites by the planned relocation of Franklin County Highway T.


The Phase III investigations conducted at 23FR521 investigated a number of cultural features (50 pits, 3 house basins, and 41 postholes). Analysis of temporally diagnostic ceramics and lithics from radiometrically dated features provided a means of assigning undated features to components based on the artifact assemblage. This process left few undated features. Cultural components present at 23FR521 include a small early Late Woodland Mund Phase occupation (1590 Radiocarbon Years Before the Present), a Late Woodland Patrick Phase occupation (1215-1285 RCYBP), a slightly later Late Woodland occupation also attributed to the Patrick Phase (1045-1145 RCYBP), and a terminal Woodland/Emergent Mississippian occupation episode (890-1000 RCYBP).


Comparisons of lithic, botanical, and ceramic assemblages to contemporary sites and components in the region confirm that material assemblage of the Mund and Patrick phase components at 23FR521 are similar to those typical of Mund and Patrick phases identified in the American Bottom. However, the terminal Woodland/Emergent Mississippian age component at 23FR521 showed little similarity in artifact assemblage with contemporary sites in the American Bottom. This finding suggests that social and cultural connections within the region shifted over time. The American Bottom area was at this time developing into the expansionist Cahokian chiefdom, but these dynamic and dominant polities apparently had little influence on the material culture of contemporary occupants at 23FR521, even though they are less than 65 kilometers apart.


The Phase III investigations at 23FR522 exposed an intact E soil horizon, but no prehistoric features. Phase II test unit excavations had encountered cultural artifacts in the E-horizon and a shallow pit feature containing limestone- and shell-tempered ceramics, indicating possible Late Woodland and Mississippian components at the site. Artifacts were relatively abundant in the upper soil horizons during the Phase III excavations, but no temporally diagnostic materials were recovered.


The Phase III investigations at 23FR523 exposed a single house basin and cluster of 10 associated pit features. Ceramic and lithic artifacts recovered indicate occupation of the site in the Early Archaic, Middle Archaic, and Late Woodland to Mississippian period, with all features and the house basin associated with the later component. A single radiocarbon assay from the house basin dated between 770 and 910 RCYBP. This component post-dates all components identified at 23FR521, and would be contemporary with late Stirling to Moorehead phases at Cahokia and the American Bottom. However, the artifacts recovered from this cluster of features indicate little social/political/cultural interaction with the Cahokian world, though Cahokia was likely at its zenith of regional influence at this time. Instead, the artifacts show stronger relationships with contemporary Boone phase sites located farther west in Missouri and with the contemporary Jersey Bluff phase of the lower Illinois River valley. These observations also support our interpretation that the late prehistoric period was a time of highly dynamic and shifting social and cultural relationships, in spite of the social or political domination of Cahokia in the region and southeast of the American Bottom.


A technical report was produced by ISMS on the results of their investigation, Archaeological Mitigation Excavations at 23FR521, 23FR522, and 23FR523, along Highway T, Franklin County, Missouri (2013). The report is on file at the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office and the MoDOT Historic Preservation section.


23FR521 Features


23FR521 Pottery


23FR521 Points





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