The Coats-Hines site is an archaeological site located in Williamson County, Tennessee in the Southeastern United States. The site is significant in that it is one of only a very few sites in Eastern North America that contains direct evidence of Paleoindian hunting of late Pleistocene proboscideans. Excavations at the site have yielded portions of four mastodon skeletons, including one in direct association with Paleoindian stone tools. The results of excavations have been published in Tennessee Conservationist, and the scholarly journals Current Research in the Pleistocene and Tennessee Archaeology. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 2011.
The Coats-Hines site is located east of I-65 near CoolSprings Galleria in Williamson County, Tennessee. The site was initially recorded in 1977 when several large bones were identified during landscaping at the Crockett Springs Golf Course (now the Nashville Golf and Athletic Club). Salvage work by staff from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology recovered the partial skeleton of a single mature female mastodon (“mastodon A”) from along a small stream drainage. No description of this excavation or the skeletal material was ever published, and the area that contained the remains was subsequently destroyed by earthmoving along the 13th hole of the golf course.
In 1994, construction of a subdivision just west of the golf course by Hines Interest LP resulted in identification of a well-preserved bone bed of Pleistocene-aged faunal material. The bone bed was situated 20 metres (65 feet 7 1⁄2 inches) west of the original mastodon find along a deeply incised portion of the same stream channel, approximately 2 metres (6 feet 6 1⁄2 inches) below ground surface. Salvage excavations resulted in the identification of several late ice age species, including horse, deer, muskrat, and the partial, disarticulated remains of a young male mastodon (“mastodon B”)  The remains of a third mastodon (“mastodon C”) were identified eroding from the bank line approximately 50 m west of mastodon B, but were not excavated.
The site was assigned state number 40WM31, and named “Coats-Hines” in honor of Tennessee Division of Archaeology staff member Patricia Coats, who participated in the excavation of mastodon A, and the Hines corporation, which facilitated the 1994 salvage work. Following excavations, the area that contained mastodon B was backfilled and incorporated into the backyard of a single-family home.
Although Tennessee Division of Archaeology staff continued to conduct occasional inspections of the stream drainage, no additional excavations took place at the Coats-Hines site until 2008. That year, limited excavations were performed to recover several heavily fragmented bones eroding from the bank line at the location of mastodon C. Poor preservation of the material prevented conclusive identification of the animal’s species, sex, or age. Additional site inspections of the stream channel that same year resulted in the recovery of a bifacial stone tool and a highly mineralized fragment of deer antler. Both artifacts had been eroded from their original context and could not conclusively be associated with the Pleistocene bone bed. However, staff from the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum concluded the antler fragment exhibited an extreme level of mineralization, suggesting at least a late Pleistocene origin. This find is noteworthy in that Pleistocene deer have only been recorded at 12 other sites in Tennessee.
In 2010, archaeologists from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology were awarded a Historic Preservation Grant through the Tennessee Historical Commission and National Park Service to conduct additional archaeological testing at the Coats-Hines site in order to assess its archaeological integrity and eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. A total of 1,582 faunal remains, including both whole and fragmentary elements from turtle, rodent, deer, large Pleistocene vertebrate, small amounts of ivory, and a possible fragment of Mastodon tooth were recovered during the 2010 investigations. Additionally, the test excavations recovered 12 lithic artifacts, including two broken prismatic blades and 10 flakes resulting from stone tool manufacture. A radiocarbon sample of charred material from the top of the artifact-bearing deposit returned a date of 12,104 ± 231 BC. Based on the presence and significance of intact archaeological deposits, the site was nominated eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion D of 36 CFR 60.4. This site was listed on the National Register on July 12, 2011.
The site was once again examined during the summer of 2012 by a team from the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University. The results of those excavations have not been formally published to date.
During the 1994 excavations of mastodon B, archaeologists identified 34 stone tools in association with the disarticulated faunal remains. These tools included prismatic blades, scrapers, gravers, and resharpening flakes. Subsequent examination of the bones from mastodon B revealed the presence of cut marks on a thoracic vertebra, which was recovered in direct contact with several flakes. The distinctive, linear, v-shaped profile of the cuts and their location along the thoracic spinous process indicated they were the result of butchering, and specifically, efforts to remove dorsal muscles along the backbone.
Geoarchaeological analysis of soils from the 1994 excavations indicate at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the area which includes mastodons A, B, and C was situated along the margins of a shallow pond. In the initial site analysis, Breitburg et al. suggest this pond formed as a result of a beaver dam or other natural blockage along the stream channel. Numerous animals, including mastodons, would have congregated at this pond, thereby drawing the attention of Paleoindian hunters.
- List of archaeological sites in Tennessee
- History of Tennessee
- Tennessee Division of Archaeology
- Breitburg, Emanuel; Broster, John B.; Reesman, Arthur L.; Stearns (1996), "The Coats-Hines Site: Tennessee’s First Paleoindian-Mastodon Association", Current Research in the Pleistocene, 13: 6–8
|last5=in Authors list (help)
- Breitburg, Emanuel; Broster, John B. (1995), "A Hunt for Big Game: Does Coats-Hines Site Confirm Human/Mastodon Contact?", The Tennessee Conservationist, 61 (4): 18–26
- Deter-Wolf, Aaron; Tune, Jesse W.; Broster, John B. (2011), "Excavations and Dating of Late Pleistocene and Paleoindian Deposits at the Coats-Hines Site, Williamson County, Tennessee", Tennessee Archaeology, 5 (2): 142–156
- Deter-Wolf, Aaron; Tune, Jesse W. (2010). "National Register of Historic Places Nomination: the Coats-Hines Archaeological Site (40WM31), Williamson County Tennessee".
- Corgan, James X. and Emanuel Breitburg (1996): "Tennessee’s Prehistoric Vertebrates." State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Division of Geology Bulletin 84, Nashville.
- Tune, Jesse W. (2013). Once Again, the Coats-Hines Site: Preliminary Result from the Texas A&M 2012 Excavation. Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology. Nashville.
- Tennessee Archaeology: An Electronic Format Print Journal
- Frank H. McClung Museum
- The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
- Tennessee Archaeology Network
- Southeastern Archaeological Center Outline of Prehistory and History