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Bottle Creek Reflections: The Personal Side of Archaeology in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta
Softcover, medium format, single-
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This handsome, introspective work is a narrative of the 1991, 1993 and 1994 fieldwork at Bottle Creek — a major Mississippian center within the lower reaches of the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers, north of Mobile. Even today this mound center is seldom visited because of the thickets and swamps that surround it. For archaeologists under the direction of Professor Ian W. Brown (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa) the investigation of Bottle Creek presented many logistical difficulties; however, for the site's ancient inhabitants such challenges were surely outweighed by the bounty of the delta environment, which may have supplied basic wants and even surplus to trade.
For Alabamans and students of the later prehistory of the Southeast, the discoveries at Bottle Creek are a reminder that civilization did not thrive just in the drier uplands — as at Moundville on the Black Warrior River or within the Tennessee River Lowland. It also flourished among steamy, low-lying lands bordering the Gulf Coast where learning to cope with tropical storms, high heat and oppressive humidity was a necessity. Clearly, adapting to such conditions must have occurred over hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. One wonders if there are any "pre-Mississippian" sites within the immediate vicinity of Bottle Creek?
Ian Brown lays out the anatomy of an archaeological expedition for all of us to see. We are able to witness the unfolding of his research strategy, the compromises he was forced to accept, the rare discoveries of show-worthy artifacts, and the accomplishments of his dedicated field crew members. The unflagging spirit and high-level performances of the latter are testimony to their respect for Professor Brown. Such respect does not come as a right, rather it is earned "the hard way."
The reader will bond with the principal characters of this archaeological chronicle and even with the Mobile-Tensaw Delta itself (!); a feeling is generated that you were a participant in the expedition, or is it just your regret for having missed the opportunity of a lifetime?
Reviewed by R. M. Gramly, PhD, ASAA Organizer (8/2013).