Ancient Indians once lived in what's now a Ga. city park

BRUNSWICK, Ga.  - The history of Selden Park is well known locally.

In 1903, the Selden Normal & Industrial Institute was established as a school where African-Americans received teacher training and learned industrial arts.

After a group of archaeologists excavated several points at the park Saturday, more is known about who may have used the site before any U.S. history was written.

Attracted by mounds of discarded oyster and mussel shells, the archaeological team dug to see if it could find any signs of Native American dwellings on the site, said Fred Cook, a Brunswick archaeologist.

"We have located, exposed from the surface, 27 middens," Cook said of mounds of shells, which is evidence that someone probably lived there.

Cook hoped to find some post holes that would have indicated a Native American house had stood on the site.

After hours of digging, the archaeologists found only one possible post hole in what Cook thought may have been a wall judging from an arc of shells.

The post holes are distinguishable because the decayed wood in them leaves a circle usually darker than the surrounding soil.

But they found about 35 pieces of pottery that changed Cook's thinking in at least one area.

He had thought the site could date back to the Savannah II culture, around 1250 A.D. After examining the pottery, Cook said it came from the earlier Kelvin culture, dating it around 800-900 A.D.

Florida archaeologist Ryan Sipe dug out a big square with the help of Cook's younger brother, Arthur. That was where they found the post hole.

Sipe is working on a dig at another Georgia location he's not ready to divulge. He has recorded 1,079 post holes and fire pits there, an obvious indication of prehistoric dwellings.

About 100 yards away, Jack Caldwell, Douglas archaeologist Dwight Kirkland and Rosanne Moore of Waycross were separating mussel and oyster shells.

Kirkland said they had found an abundance of small bones and some catfish spines. Cook also took home 15 gallons of soil and shells, the first shovelfuls removed from the site.

"It will be water-washed with a window screen. The tiniest thing will be examined," he said.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405

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