Russell Cave National Monument is an important archaeological
site of pre Columbian Native American cultures that once lived
here. Russell Cave National Monument is located in Jackson County in Alabama and cover a
total area of 310 acres (130 hectares). Archaeological digs in
Russell Cave National Monument
showed that people first settled in the area 10,000 years ago.
Radiocarbon dating of charcoal left from fires Archaic people
burned here were date as early as 6550- 6145 BC. This natural
formation could house several families of 50- 60 people. The
cave provided shelter from the natural elements as well as
constant source of water that flows here.
Geology The rock in which Russell Cave is dug
was formed more than 300 million years ago, at the bottom of a
closed sea that covered the region. Deposits of skeletons and
shellfish were found in the limestone. Rainwater, slightly acidified
by the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, slowly dissolved
part of the limestone, giving birth to a cave. The collapse of a
cave ceiling between 9,000 and 12,000 years ago under a hill near
Doran's Cove creates a sinkhole, revealing the existence of Russell
Cave. Practically until the occupation of the cave by the Native
Americans, Russell Cave was uninhabitable because of a stream
occupying the entire cave.
Biology Historical biology and
paleobotany studies show that the fauna and flora of the Eastern
Forest Region have not really changed for thousands of years. This
situation begins to evolve as European settlers clear their land for
wood or for commercial and subsistence farming.
is inhabited by bats and the cave's watercourse is home to a species
of fish (the "sculpin"). Different species of snakes live around the
cave, such as agkistrodon contortrix, crotalus horridus, elaphe and
king snake. More than 115 bird species have been identified by
researchers at Russell Cave or around it.
History of the Russell Cave
Archaic period (before 1000 BCE) The history of
thousands of years of prehistoric humans has been revealed at this
archeological site. Chipped flint points and charcoal from campfires
provide evidence that occupation of Russell Cave began nearly 10,000
years ago by Native Americans in the southeastern Archaic period.
The charcoal remains of the first fires in the cavern date to
between 6550 and 6145 BCE, based on radiocarbon dating. As the
people were hunter-gatherers, it is likely that they occupied the
cave only during the autumn and winter seasons, when they needed
more shelter. According to John Griffin, the issue of seasonality
(during what season or seasons the cave was used) remains to be
determined. Evidence indicating occupation in autumn and winter
include deer bones and passenger pigeon remains. The presence of
shellfish artifacts clouds the determination somewhat, as shellfish
would have been easier to procure during periods of dry weather in
mid-spring and late summer. However, William J. Clench has suggested
that the occupants may have brought mussels and snails to store in
nearby bodies of water (Dry Creek and/or Crownover Springs) for use
as needed including in autumn or winter. Based on the existing
information, Griffin is "strongly inclined" to view Russell Cave as
a place of winter occupancy.