Friday, June 11, 2010

The Mace - and the Duck River Cache

Kevin Sampson from the Dickson Mound Museum whom I contacted about the mace that a private collector has brought into SRAC (read about it here) - has referred me to a cache of maces and other blades that was found in Humphreys County, Tennessee which was said at that time to be the greatest single archaeological find ever made in the United States. "This discovery,----was later to become known as the "Duck River Cache----."---1981, H. C. Brehm, "The History Of The Duck River Cache," Miscellaneous Paper No. 6, Tennessee Anthropological Association, p. 1.

Interestingly, I do have a witness report from the same site where the mace was found in our area of someone finding one of the crescent blades with the handles as well a few years ago... (it was promptly sold....) - Truthfully, I didn't know what the blade he described to me really looked like until I looked at the following image...

It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that like other caches found in our area of Flint Ridge Ohio flint, rhyolite, cherts, , etc that we might also find the mace to be evidence of trade of these types of items as well.

The next logical step I think is the lithic material that our mace was made from. This will identify the quarry and location of the source, helping us to understand if the mace that was found in our area came from NY or as far away as Tennessee...

The Duck River Temple Mounds Cache
More than eight centuries ago a Native American town flourished atop the steep bluff overlooking the confluence of Sycamore Creek, Buffalo River, and Duck River in Humphreys County. By A.D. 1150 this prosperous town was the political, economic, and religious center for villagers and farmers throughout the Lower Tennessee River valley. This ancient settlement, prominent throughout eastern North America as a center of prehistoric trade, declined and disappeared by A.D. 1500.

In 1894 digging at this town produced the Duck River Cache, perhaps the most spectacular single collection of prehistoric Native American art ever discovered in the eastern United States. The cache included two human statues representing the community's ancestral founding couple along with nearly four dozen ceremonial stone knives, daggers, swords, maces, and other striking examples of prehistoric stonework. As sacred symbols of leadership, these objects were similar, in many ways, to the crowns of European monarchs.

Eastern Native American chiefs valued the ceremonial weapons manufactured by Duck River artisans. Items created by these master stoneworkers have been excavated at Toqua in East Tennessee, Etowah in Georgia, Moundville in Alabama, Kincaid in Illinois, and Spiro in Oklahoma. Today, the products of those artisans are the centerpieces of major museums throughout the eastern United States. The Duck River Cache is on permanent display at the McClung Museum in Knoxville. In 1974 the State of Tennessee purchased the ninety-acre core of this remarkable Native American town to preserve what remains of one of the most significant and impressive Native American civilizations of prehistoric Tennessee.

Kevin E. Smith, Middle Tennessee State University

Suggested Reading(s): H. C. Brehm, ed., The Duck River Cache: Tennessee's Great Archaeological Find (1984) and The History of the Duck River Cache (Miscellaneous Paper No. 6, Tennessee Anthropological Association, Knoxville).


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