Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2010 Illinois State University Field School in Historical Archaeology - Cherokee Towns in the Time of Spanish Contact

This blog will be chronicling some of the activities of the 2010 Illinois State University Field School in Historical Archaeology. Working in and around Greene County in Eastern Tennessee, our work will be on Cherokee towns during the time of Spanish contact in the sixteenth century.

2010 ISU Field School in Historical Archaeology
Cherokee Towns in the Time of Spanish Contact

May 31– June 25, 2010

Explore the early history of East Tennessee. Learn techniques of survey, excavation, and artifact analysis in this six credit archaeological field school.

Eastern Tennessee may have been visited by Hernando DeSoto in 1540 and Juan Pardo in 1567 as part of the Spanish colonization of the New World. Even though this colonial encounter was brief, it had profound effects for the indigenous inhabitants of this region, the ancestors of some of today's Cherokee. This project will explore the natural and cultural landscape of East Tennessee in the early historic period to better understand what the Spanish referred to as the “Chiscas.” The 2010 season will be devoted to survey, mapping, excavation, and artifact analysis of contact‐period (Qualla phase) sites in the Nolichuckey valley in the vicinity of the modern settlements of Greeneville, Telford, and Jonesboro, Tennessee. Lectures will include discussion and analysis of the Spanish chronicles related to DeSoto's and Pardo's explorations, other sources concerning Cherokee history, and examples of Cherokee archaeology. This project is carried out in close collaboration with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and is funded in part by the ECBI Tribal Historic Preservation Office

This course earns six undergraduate or graduate credits from Illinois State University. Students can usually transfer these hours toward a graduate or undergraduate degree program. Students should inquire about credit transferability with their degree‐granting institution. All students are required to keep a journal documenting field and lab work. Students will also contribute to the field school blog. The course will culminate in a public presentation of student research to the community of Cherokee, North Carolina.

COSTS (subject to change)
Room and Board: $1300.00
Includes lodging, local transportation, excursions, and weekday lunches.
Students are responsible for all other meals.
Tuition & Fees (6 Credit hours)
ISU students: see tuition schedule
NON‐ISU students: $2041.00
Incidental Fee (supplies, field trips)

Please send a letter or email to Dr. Sampeck at the address below. In your letter, indicate why you would like to take the course and include the names and phone numbers of two references.

April 1, 2010

Please direct all inquiries to :
DR. KATHRYN SAMPECK (Project Director)
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Campus Box 4660
Schroeder Hall 335
Normal, IL 61790
Phone: 309‐438‐8668
Fax: 309‐438‐5378
E‐mail: ksampec@ilstu.edu


  1. The Chiscas were Yuchi people and not cherokee. There are no contact period sites in Tennessee. The cherokee entranda into Tennessee was early eighteenth century, there is no such documentation to they were. Western North Carloina archaeology same as east Tennessee, only sources in North Carolina support the idea of early relationship the those cultural phases largely based pottery, but when you look at cultural aspects, it don't pan out. The cherokee never had the same ceremonial practices as the Mvskoke or yuchi people found in the mound cultures.

  2. Your excellent program is badly flawed by attempting to interpret Muskogee and Yuchi sites from the Spanish contact period in east Tennessee as “Cherokee.” Please see:
    Charles Hudson, Chester DePratter, and Marvin T. Smith
    “Hernando de Soto’s Expedition through the Southern United States,” In First Encounters, edited by Jerald T. Milanich and Susan Milbrath, Ripley P. Bullen Monographs in Anthropology and History, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 1989: 77-98.

    The authors state: “In at least one instance our route has already cleared up a stubborn problem in prehistory. One of the controversies in the Tennessee Valley is whether the people of the Dallas archaeological phase were direct ancestors to the Overhill Cherokees who lived on the Little Tennessee River in the eighteenth century. We know that they were not because the Indians who lived in Dallas towns when de Soto and Pardo came through spoke Muskogean languages, and the Cherokees occupied these towns after the original inhabitants had moved away.” (Page 94)

    Jefferson Chapman has also stated:
    Tellico Archaeology, Occasional Paper No. 5, Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Revised edition, 1994.

    “If there is, in fact, some discontinuity in Dallas/Cherokee culture, the situation may have been as follows: The expedition of DeSoto and the later ones by Pardo were extremely disruptive to Dallas society. Disease probably caused a population decline and the general social order was disrupted. With the collapse of Dallas territoriality, Cherokee populations to the east began to intrude further into the drainages of the Little Tennessee River and Hiwassee Rivers and remnant Dallas peoples may have been absorbed or joined Creek populations to the south.

    “In 1799, the Moravian missionaries Abraham Steiner and Frederick C. DeSchweinitz visited the lower Little Tennessee River Valley. Their observations of the Toqua mound suggests that, if not a separate people, the past glories of Dallas culture had been forgotten by the Cherokee: ‘This is a rather high, round hill, of the most fertile earth, which this year had been planted all about with corn. It seems as though thrown up by human hands, but from ancient times, as there are some large trees on it. No one could tell us anything about it.’ (Williams 1928:472)

    “The chronological sequence of the establishment of Cherokee towns as shown on early maps lends support to the movement of the Cherokee down the valley. On the 1730 map of George Hunter, only Tenassee, Citico, Talassee, and Coosaw are present. By the drafting of Timberlake’s map in 1762, the towns of Chota, Toqua, Tomotley, Tuskegee, and Mialoquo have been founded.”

    More recent work by John Worth in Florida had documented numerous sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish documents describing Chicsca sites in Florida, including one near Pensacola that a stream with the modern name “Yuchi Creek.” Would you try to say that these Yuchi sites are also “Cherokee?”
    Raymond Evans

  3. I appreciate these interesting comments. I base my interpretations on the preponderance of archaeological and historical evidence, such as the close similarity of the material culture to materials from the Asheville Basin, Cherokee place names throughout the region, and multiple early historical accounts that identify the residents as Cherokee. A reply to a post is an inadequate space to present all of these different lines of evidence in great detail. I do, however, plan to present these data in feature articles for journals and magazines. The early contact period was most likely a time of tremendous cultural change and it is also likely that territorial and cultural boundaries were fluid. Certainly, we have more questions than we have answers, so that is the reason to do historical archaeological research. A basic tenet of anthropological investigation is that any idea benefits from careful consideration and re-evaluation from many perspectives.