Hovey Lake Archaeological District
Hovey Lake Archaeological District
A field in the district
|Location||Between Hovey Lake and the Ohio River in the Hovey Lake Fish and Wildlife Area:2|
|Nearest city||Mount Vernon, Indiana|
|Area||343 acres (139 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||85002130|
|Added to NRHP||September 12, 1985|
The Hovey Lake Archaeological District is a historic district composed of multiple archaeological sites in the extreme southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Indiana. Comprising a small village site and a group of yet smaller campsites in a major river floodplain, the district has been designated because it is likely to give researchers important information about life in the area shortly before the area first experienced contact between Indians and Europeans.
The district lies within the boundaries of the Hovey Lake Fish and Wildlife Area,:2 a wildlife refuge in the southeastern portion of Point Township in Posey County, the southwesternmost township in Indiana's southwesternmost county. The district and surrounding countryside are located in a low-lying floodplain area near the Ohio River,:2 very close to its confluence with the Wabash River. Land in the district comprises a mixture of sand and silt, formed into successive swales and swells. Vegetation and animals known in states to the south but otherwise unseen in Indiana are known in southern Point Township: large trees such as the bald cypress, the pecan, and the water hickory reach their northernmost point in the vicinity of Hovey Lake,:2 as do many species of smaller plants and some types of mammals.:298 Hovey Lake itself is a backwater representing the remnant of an oxbow lake that was cut off from the Ohio River no later than AD 1570 and likely more than a century earlier. It is surrounded by low-lying sand ridges with just enough elevation to avoid submersion in all but the worst spring floods.:2
During the summer of 1980, a consortium of archaeologists from Indiana University and the historic preservation office in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources conducted a field survey of the Hovey Lake Fish and Wildlife Area. Twenty-one different sites located east of the lake and west of the riverbank were found; all sat on the low sand ridges. The sizes of the sites and the nature of the various features at each one led the surveyors to conclude that the sites were inhabited by peoples of the Caborn-Welborn culture.:2 A later manifestation of the Mississippian culture, Caborn-Welborn is centered near Hovey Lake at the mouth of the Wabash.:294 Its sites are divided into five types by size::310
- Large villages — population in the hundreds
- Small villages — population in the dozens
- Hamlets — population one or two dozen
- Farmsteads — population a single family
- Camps — temporary-use locations without permanent population
Within the Hovey Lake district, most sites were farmsteads, with the exception of a single site that appears to have been a hamlet or a small village. The locations of the sites in the district led the surveyors to conclude that most farmsteads were only used during the late spring and summer as the spring floods disappeared and the agricultural year reached its peak.:2
One of the most important sites revealed by the survey was given the name "Big Baltzman Site". Located about 0.4 kilometres (0.25 mi) west of the Ohio River bank, Big Baltzman produced a wide range of stone tools, including scrapers, knives, projectile points, and celts. Moreover, the same excavations yielded evidence of typical Mississippian houses and of the inhabitants' diets, particularly numerous mussel shells and deer bones. Because Big Baltzman and some other sites are located on or near the Ohio River shoreline, erosion by the river is a danger::3 unlike the Wabash, the Ohio naturally moves and erodes rather slowly,:297 but the construction of dams on the river has radically changed its patterns: the increased elevation of the river behind its dams makes flooding at the site more likely,:3 as has been seen in the riverine-caused destruction of such Ohio River sites as Yankeetown upstream from Evansville, Indiana.:297 Further damage to the district — both Big Baltzman and other sites — comes from two large and at least two small sources. Because the district comprises primarily farmland, agricultural activities may unintentionally damage sites, and the placement of oil derricks also risks compromising the sites; meanwhile, direct human contact is also feared as a source of danger: bird hunters' construction of hunting blinds and vandals' intentional theft of artifacts are known to risk the district's integrity.:4
In late 1985, the area east of Hovey Lake and west of the Ohio River was designated a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its archaeological importance. It is one of many substantial archaeological locations in Point Township: a very cursory survey of the county in the 1940s found fifteen different villages in the township, most of them within 2 miles (3.2 km) of one or both rivers. Today, it is one of three National Register-listed archaeological locations in Point Township, along with the Ashworth Archaeological Site and the Murphy Site; as well, the township includes the Hovey Lake-Klein and Welborn Village sites, which were deemed eligible for the National Register but were not added purely because of objections by property owners.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Smith, Edward E. National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Hovey Lake Archaeological District. National Park Service, 1983-03-28.
- DeLorme. Indiana Atlas & Gazetteer. 3rd ed. Yarmouth: DeLorme, 2004, 60. ISBN 0-89933-319-2.
- Green, Thomas J., and Cheryl Ann Munson. "Mississippian Settlement Patterns in Southwestern Indiana". Mississippian Settlement Patterns. Ed. Bruce D. Smith. New York: Academic, 1978. 293-330.
- Adams, William R. Archaeological Notes on Posey County Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1949, 19.