Archaeologists begin beanfield survey

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2001

With the sun blazing overhead, archaeologists began a survey of the proposed St. Catherine Creek Recreational Complex site in Natchez this week.

While joking about Natchez’s typically hot August weather, Jill Halchin, an archaeologist with the Southeast Archaeological Center of the National Park Service, said her team began studying soil samples Wednesday.

The team will take the samples by digging holes about 20 meters apart to look for such things as prehistoric tools, bricks or pottery.

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&uot;Basically anything that might have come here because of humans,&uot; Halchin said.

A section of the beanfield is already believed to have been the site of an early French settlement, but the entire beanfield needs to be surveyed, Halchin said.

&uot;We don’t have any good record that any archeologist has ever surveyed the whole field,&uot; Halchin said.

Thus far, the team has studied the southwest corner of the beanfield and has not found anything of historical value.

The City of Natchez agreed to pay nearly $40,000 for the archaeological study to see if it is possible to proceed with construction of the St. Catherine Creek Recreational Complex adjacent to Natchez High School.

The archaeologists should finish the first stage of the survey by next week, and return in the fall for further study.

Halchin said she would like to finish the job in September.

At that time, archaeologists will have looked at the about 10 or 15 acres of the more than 100 believed to have been affected by the historic site.

By breaking up the topsoil, the archaeologists will be able to study artifacts found at the site and map their location.

&uot;This will hopefully … let us see by the concentrations where the building(s) sat,&uot; Halchin said.

Archaeologists will also conduct other tests, such as looking for soil disturbances, with remote sensing.