Peat Midden Stratum


     A peat midden stratum that was 5.5 feet thick lay below the shell midden. This lower layer had a lot of wet, organic debris, called peat, and very little shell. The shell stratum was right on top of the peat stratum, but there was a gap of time between these two layers. During the gap, people rarely used the site, and a massive tree grew on the surface. Archaeologists found its roots in the lower, peat stratum. No trace of the tree was in the shell midden stratum above. This shows that the tree was gone by the time people began creating the shell midden.


     The peat stratum dated between 800 B.C. and 600 B.C., during the Early Woodland period. At that time, the site was on high ground next to the bayou, and people used it as a fishing camp. Archaeologists unearthed many artifacts and animal bones in the peat stratum. They found layers of ash, fire pits and postholes. Within the ash layers, they discovered dark circular stains, pieces of burnt split cane and pottery. These likely were the cooking areas. The cane could have been from mats that people used to wrap food for cooking, similar to the way people in Latin America wrap tamales in corn husks or banana leaves today.


     Archaeologists also found human coprolites and a flat, clay floor with at least 12 postholes in it. This probably was a living area, where people cleaned and smoked the fish they caught. They may have cut off the heads and some other parts to make a fish soup to eat while they dried the fillets over fires. The large number of fire pits and artifacts show that people used this location many times over a long period.


Detail of the peat stratum at the site. The signboard at the top identifies the site, excavation unit number, depth, and other details. Credit: LSU Museum of Natural Science.

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