Yankeetown Archeological Site
Eastern portion of the site
|Location||Along the Ohio River bank in Section 21 of Anderson Township, south of Yankeetown, Indiana:13|
|Area||140 acres (57 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||79000026|
|Added to NRHP||February 28, 1979|
The Yankeetown Site (12W1:12) is a substantial archaeological site along the Ohio River in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Indiana. Inhabited during the prehistoric Woodland period, the site has yielded important information about Woodland-era peoples in the region, but it has been damaged by substantial erosion. Despite the damage, it has been a historic site for more than thirty years.
Yankeetown lies primarily in Section 21 of Anderson Township in Warrick County. Because of the presence of the Ohio River, this section is a tiny riverside triangle, unlike the mile-square sections to the east and north. The present-day unincorporated community of Yankeetown lies approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of the site;:13 a road runs from the town to the riverside, and the road/river junction marks one end of the site's core section. This section extends along the riverbank for about 0.75 miles (1.21 km) downstream from the road,:12 although the entire site extends 2,000 feet (610 m) back from the river and stretches for approximately 2.25 miles (3.62 km).:4 The riverbank core of the site has experienced extensive damage from erosion by the river: in 1950, landowners along the river stated that approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) of the bank were cut away annually,:13 and the replacement of older river dams by the Newburgh Locks and Dam in the 1970s caused the river to rise 13 feet (4.0 m), flooding substantial amounts of the site.:2
Glenn Albert Black visited Yankeetown in April 1950 with three companions; the four surveyed the site carefully and began cataloging artifacts found there. Heavy erosion permitted them to identify features such as pits and hearths, and artifacts such as clay pellets and bits of charcoal and burned clay were numerous.:12 Four months later, a second survey investigated the site. Among its premier findings was the identification of a layer of daub about 8 inches (200 mm) below the surface at the site's low end; although it was only 10 feet (3.0 m) long, the layer was significant for its composition of burned debris, grass, and weeds, as well as for its place as the location of a depression that could have been the site of a house.:13 Further excavations and surface collections were conducted between 1964 and 1967 by archaeologists working under contract with the National Park Service. Among their findings were numerous features of the types identified by Black, numerous types of plain and decorated pottery — including some shell-tempered pottery — and various projectile points. Moreover, they were able to establish the site's stratigraphy; using coring, they identified multiple horizons as deep as 21 feet (6.4 m) below the surface.:3
Many artifacts found at Yankeetown are curated in the museum at Angel Mounds State Memorial in nearby Evansville,:13 although the second 1950 survey kept its findings separate from those at Angel, and the landowner maintained a substantial collection.:15 More than six thousand sherds from Yankeetown are curated at Angel; the majority of those known in 1950 were tempered with clay and/or grit, although six hundred bore evidence of shell tempering, and only about five hundred lacked evidence of a tempering agent. Meanwhile, large numbers of the sherds are plain; hundreds have been found marked with cords or incisions, but approximately 64% of the pottery known in 1950 was completely undecorated.:14 Rarer items found at Yankeetown include flint knives, hammerstones, trowels, lithic flakes, bones, objects of cannel coal, and two damaged pottery effigies of women with everything below the shoulders broken off.:15
The second 1950 survey named Yankeetown the type site for a variety of pottery that had been subjected both to appliqué and to incision; when found elsewhere, it was called "Yankeetown fillet" or "Yankeetown incised".:14
The 1960s excavations employed radiocarbon dating at the site, yielding results as early as 900 BC and as late as AD 1000 for the site's various horizons.:3 The site was clearly occupied during the Early Woodland period, as artifacts seemingly associated with a Crab Orchard occupation were prominent at this time and into the Middle Woodland period. During the Late Woodland period, Yankeetown was the center of a culture known as the Yankeetown Phase, whose members generally inhabited waterside villages that were larger than the villages of their ancestors. Some of the Yankeetown Phase artifacts, such as the cannel coal objects, the pottery effigies, and the triangular projectile points, are highly suggestive of artifacts from Mississippian sites; similar artifacts are known from a small number of sites, most of which are located east of the Wabash River along the Ohio.:3 Significant diagnostic artifacts from these sites include triangular projectile points and effigy pottery, which together with other Mississippian influences have caused archaeologists to suggest that the Yankeetown Phase represents local Woodland peoples experiencing the influence of more advanced Mississippian peoples from the southwest during the tenth century AD.:3 Finally, artifacts clearly from Angel-affiliated Mississippian peoples are present in significant numbers in the fields away from the riverside.:2
Yankeetown Phase objects have been found far from any of the culture's sites; they are known at north of Vincennes, Indiana on the Wabash, at the Great Salt Spring in Gallatin County, Illinois,:165 and in the Illinois side of the St. Louis metropolitan area. It appears to be related to another Late Woodland manifestation known as the Duffy Complex,:162 which is known from a small group of sites near the mouth of the Wabash; both Yankeetown and Duffy have been found at the Great Salt Spring,:165 but the precise relationship between the two is unclear.:162
Preservation of the Yankeetown Site has been difficult, due to erosion by the river,:2 although the curation of artifacts at the Angel museum has assisted in saving information about the site.:13 In order to facilitate further preservation work, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is one of eight National Register-listed locations in Warrick County; other county sites with this designation include a portion of the Angel Mounds State Memorial and a nearby Caborn-Welborn Mississippian site, the Ellerbusch Site.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Curry, Hilda J. Archaeological Notes on Warrick County Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1954.
- Kellar, James H. National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Yankeetown Archeological Site. National Park Service, 1975-02-20.
- Moffatt, C. David. "An Archaeological Records Check and Field Reconnaissance: For a Proposed Sale of Excess Parcels on SR 237 Near Cannelton Perry County, Indiana". Indiana Department of Transportation, 2009-09-28, 38. Accessed 2013-05-01.
- Redmond, Brian G. "A Survey of Yankeetown Phase Sites in Southwestern Indiana". Bloomington: Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 1986.
- Muller, Jon. Archaeology of the Lower Ohio River Valley. Walnut Creek: Left Coast, 2009.
- Alt, Susan M. "Identities, Traditions, and Diversity in Cahokia's Uplands". Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 27.2 (2002): 217-235: 223.
- Winters, Howard D. An Archaeological Survey of the Wabash Valley in Illinois. Springfield: Illinois State Museum Society, 1963, 82-83.