Archaeologists discover human bone fragment at new Westville site

A human bone fragment has been discovered on the South Lumpkin Road site of the new Westville museum.
A human bone fragment has been discovered on the South Lumpkin Road site of the new Westville museum. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

Archaeologists digging on the new site for Historic Westville have found what is believed to be a human bone fragment in an area thought be have been inhabited by Creek Indians, according to Darby Britto, Westville’s marketing director.

Archaeological digging was halted immediately and the Muscogee County coroner’s office was called to the site off South Lumpkin Road. The coroner determined the bone fragment was not contemporary and that the site did not constitute a crime scene.

The next step is to contact the state archaeologist and have the fragment analyzed to determine its origins and age. Westville will also contact the Creek Indian nation to notify them of the discovery.

“We don’t know if we’ll find a complete skeleton or just bone fragments,” Britto said. “The sensitive issue is now this getting out, and the Native Americans have not been notified. We also have to proect the integrity of the archaeological site.”

Britto said security would be placed on the site until archaeologists can return to work there. In the meantime, they may be able to carry on their work at another area of the land.

Britto said while the archaeological work has been temporarily halted, the disco very should not do anything to delay the overall project of moving the museum to the site.

“We are under no legal obligation to have done this work in the first place,” Britto said. “But we really want to be good stewards of the land and good stewards of the past. So we went ahead and did this on our own.”

The new Westville site is known by archaeologists as the Averett site, first studied by archaeologist David Chase in the early 1950s.

Westville recently hired a local firm, Southern Research, Historic Preservation Consultants, to conduct the archaeological surveys of the site. They have dug 94 shovel test pits to determine areas most likely to be in need of further exploration. Their next step is to proceed with Archaeological Data Recovery from those areas left undisturbed by earlier development of the site and most likely to be impacted by the site development our project requires.

Studies previously conducted by Fort Benning on the east side of the South Lumpkin Road have found artifacts relating to the Creek Indians, while those recovered by previous archaeology on the west side of the road are attributed to the Creek’s early ancestors of the late Woodland period, Britto said in a release.

“We do not expect to find significant artifacts due to the fact this land has been previously disturbed by construction of roads, waterlines, septic systems and the like,” Britto said. “Our endeavor here is to recover data and features that will help scholars learn more about the Creek Indians’ early ancestors.”

One of Westville’s new interpretive areas will focus on the history of the Creek people of this region, with an emphasis on those who stayed behind during the removal period of the 19th century. Westville has reached out to the Muscogee Creek Nation for consultation.

Westville is a museum of southern history and culture that is moving to Columbus from Lumpkin Georgia, expecting to open in late 2018. Its buildings and artifacts date to the 19th century and have for years served to outline the historical time frame.