Metro Parks wants input on Aaittafama’ Archeological Park’s master plan

 

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Two public meetings have been scheduled to inform area residents of plans for Aaittafama’ Archeological Park, the site of one of the largest late-prehistoric village remaining in Davidson County.

Metro Parks acquired the property that borders Forest Hills in 2014 to ensure its permanent preservation and enhancement.

The ruins of a Native American village dating from the mid-1400s lie just across Old Hickory Boulevard from Forest Hills City Hall. It is the largest late-prehistoric town remaining in Davidson County, and one of the few intact  towns of its era in the region. Aaittafama’ is pronounced ah-IT-tah-fah-mah.

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) archaeologist Gary Baker discovered the remains of the Mississippian village in 1999 when TDOT proposed to build a turn lane onto Old Hickory Boulevard for northbound traffic on on Hillsboro Pike.

State archeologists reported that historic graves from the Mississippian period (A.D. 900-1500) “might be present and required more extensive investigation before construction could begin.”

In just 30 feet of the right-of-way along Hillsboro Pike, TDOT’s exploration found evidence of 12 structures, seven human graves, two palisade lines with bastions, wattle and daub walls, remnants of food, including corn and nuts, and domestic artifacts, such as frog-shaped bowls and other vessels.

“The presence and distribution of the palisades, structures, and other items provide explicit proof that intact archaeological features were present underground,” Tennessee state archeologist Michael Moore said at the time of these findings.

This part of Middle Tennessee was heavily populated in villages during the Mississippian Period, centuries before Europeans began exploring the region, making it potentially rich in archeological resources, but evidence of almost all these villages has been lost to commercial and housing development.

It was determined that the site needed a Native American name. Moore contacted the Chickasaw Nation in search of a Muskogean language name for the site. Experts suggested aaittafama’ which translates to “a place  for meeting together” in the Chickasaw/ Muskogean language.

Metro Parks approved this name change. The new name is now officially Aaittafama’ Archaeological Park, and the Friends group is the Friends of Aaittafama’ Park.

Research indicates that the town was well established, with probably 60 or so families who had been there for decades. They hunted, fished, and farmed the land, living in homes built of wattle-and-daub. They created community buildings for storing food and supplies, and constructed palisade fortifications to keep their livestock in and intruders or wild animals out.

No one may ever know definitively what happened, but something traumatic occurred around 1450 that caused the villagers to leave suddenly. Maybe a fire burned out of control, or hostile invaders attacked. For whatever reason, the townspeople quickly evacuated, leaving behind their homes, cooking utensils, possessions, all they had.

Phase One of the Aattafama’ Master Plan for the green space calls for walking trails, historical interpretation, landscaping and parking.  The Master Plan has as a visual focal point a large art feature of the palisade wall and  a video/3D presentation that would enable the visitor to see the site as it might have looked at the time the Mississippian people lived there. There will also be a pavilion for school groups and other visitors to learn about the Mississippian culture. Another feature will be an agricultural display garden where specimens of crops grown in the Mississippian era will be on display.

The master plan was funded by the Friends of Aaittafama’ group.

Metro Parks is applying for a 2018 Local Parks and Recre- ation (LPRF) grant through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to begin the park development.

The first meeting was held Tuesday at Metro Parks Small Board Room. The second meeting is scheduled for January 17   at Forest Hills City Hall, 6300 Hillsboro Pike. Residents are also invited to share ideas and opinions for the park by emailing metroparks@nashville.gov.

The Discovery of the Site
The discovery of Aaittafama’ came about as a result of a proposal by Tennessee Department of Transportation to build a turn lane onto Old Hickory Boulevard for northbound traffic on Hillsboro Pike. State archeologists reported that historic graves from the Mississippian Period (about A.D. 900 to 1500) might be present, and required more extensive investigation before construction could begin.
The results were astounding. In just 30 feet of right-of-way along Hillsboro Pike, TDOT’s exploration in 1999 found evidence of the following:
• Twelve structures.
• Seven human graves.
• Two palisade lines with bastions.
• Wattle and daub walls.
• Remnants of food including corn and nuts.
• Domestic artifacts such as frog-shaped bowls and other vessels.
The presence and distribution of the palisades, structures, and other items provide explicit proof that intact archaeological features are present underground, state archeologist Michael Moore said. This part of Middle Tennessee was heavily populated in villages during the Mississippian Period, centuries before Europeans began exploring the region, making it potentially rich in archeological resources, but evidence of almost all these villages has been lost to commercial and housing development.

Wanda Southerland
Contributor to The News

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