Thursday, August 11, 2005

4,000 Year Old Archaeological Site In Danger

The above is a picture of a squirrel pipe found at the Davis site in Eureka, MO (a town not all that far from St. Louis). The site dates to the Archaic and also has Woodland and Mississippian occupations as well.

The above is a picture of a cookpot of the Mississippi Plain variety.

The problem is threefold. First, the site has not been carefully explored - only a preliminary survey was carried out. Second, developers want the land to build a subdivision:

Owned now by Buccaneer Properties, the knoll was included in a recent development proposal before the St. Louis County Council for a zoning change to build 80 homes on 55 acres on Eureka Road, just east of Eureka.

That proposal got bad reviews from the county planning and zoning commission. But the fate of the knoll, where two civilizations appear to be on a collision course, still is in limbo.

Third, Missouri law regardin archaeological sites:

"Missouri has no laws requiring investigation of important artifact sites before they are built over, and only the flimsiest requirements for notification to authorities if a developer uncovers bodies..."

A complete excavation of the Davis site could add critical missing pieces to the puzzle. Harl said that would cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

Illinois law requires the developers of such a site to bear this cost, but Missouri has no such obligation, although a seller of the property could make the sale contingent upon the developer paying for the dig.

A preliminary study was done of the site several years back:

Jack Davis took his squirrel pipe and other pieces to be examined by archaeologists from the Missouri Archaeological Society in 1987. Two society members, professors Michael and Neathery Fuller of St. Louis Community College, returned to the Davis home, documented the collection and later set up a Web site to display the squirrel pipe, at Davis Site.

That site exploration was a preliminary survey, not a major field effort.