Join us for archaeology presentation

Published 11:32 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians will present an illustrated talk by Sara Hahn titled “Recent Excavations at Windsor Ruins and Other Interesting Things” in the museum auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free, and seating is limited.

Hahn is an archaeologist and historian with the Baton Rouge consulting firm Coastal Environments, Inc. Most of her work focuses on the excavation of historic archaeological sites and recording and evaluating historic structures in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Over the years, she has participated in several projects in the Natchez area, including the Natchez Bluffs Stabilization Project.

At the request of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Hahn and her crew spent several days this past January digging at Windsor Ruins in Claiborne County. Entergy Mississippi funded the project, which investigated the below-ground footings that support Windsor’s iconic 40-foot columns. This information is needed as part of an effort by the Department of Archives and History to preserve the popular Mississippi landmark.

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Smith Coffee Daniell II, a Mississippi planter, built the mansion he called “Windsor” during the years 1858-1861. Daniell, who owned approximately 21,000 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana, died in 1861, just weeks after taking possession of his new home. The mansion comprised a main three-story block (ground floor and two raised stories) topped with a cupola or belvedere, with an attached three-story service ell that extended from the east side of the main block. Following Daniell’s death, his family remained in the mansion, witnessing General Ulysses S. Grant’s invasion across the Mississippi River at the nearby town of Bruinsburg on April 30, 1863. Windsor survived the Civil War but was destroyed by accidental fire in 1890.

Twenty-three of the mansion’s 29 columns remained standing after the fire and have withstood the ravages of nature, including tropical storm winds, for more than 150 years. Each column weighs an estimated 49,200 pounds (24.6 tons). Although archaeologists have worked at Windsor before, no one had examined the below-ground structure that gives the columns their remarkable stability. Hahn’s work exposed for the first time the massive buried chain wall made of brick, measuring seven feet wide at its base and six brick courses deep. The foundation wall, with its sides stepped out in pyramid fashion, runs continuously beneath the columns.

Hahn has also been conducting research on the antebellum ceramic importers of New Orleans, and she will provide a brief update on this work following her Windsor discussion. The program is part of an ongoing evening lecture series at the Grand Village. Other upcoming programs include an illustrated talk on Thursday, June 20, by Brad Lieb, archaeologist with the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. Lieb will discuss recent Chickasaw archaeology in Tupelo. Also scheduled is a talk by Erin Greenwald of the Historic New Orleans Collection on Thursday, Aug. 8. Greenwald will talk about her new book “A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies,” a memoir by Marc-Antoine Caillot. Caillot lived in New Orleans during the early 18th century and spent some time at the French colony here in Natchez.

The Grand Village Archaeology Program Series began in 2003, and we are grateful for the community support these programs have received. We are also grateful to the archaeologists and historians who present the programs on a volunteer basis. The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Call 601-446-6502 for more information about these programs and ask about signing up to receive notices about future lectures.

Jim Barnett is the director of the division of historic properties with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.