The Midden Mound Project, run by the Office of Cultural and Archaeological Research of the University of West Florida in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, developed as a byproduct of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Project. The waterway is a canal built by the Corps of Engineers to connect the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers to facilitate shipping across the South. The Midden Mound Project, which lasted from late 1979 or early 1980 until 1987, examined eleven prehistoric sites, including four midden mounds, in or near the Tennessee and Tombigbee floodplains in northeastern Mississippi between Aberdeen and Ryan’s Well. Some of these mounds of midden (deposits of human artifacts or plant and animal remains) are as large as 15 feet across and 6.6 feet thick. Common features of these mounds are pits and fire hearths, and some point to burials that date from 6,000–8,000 BP (before the present).
The midden study sought to provide a better understanding of the environmental changes and human adaptations of the region in various stages of prehistoric times. Since the holes in the archaeological records occurred mainly in the late Paleo-Indian (13,000–10,000 BP) and the Archaic (10,000–2,500 BP) periods, the project focused on those eras. However, the project also considered archaeological evidence from other prehistoric stages, such as the Middle Gulf Formational and Late Woodland, to establish a more complete timeline of life adaptations from the prehistoric evidence. The mineral analysis suggests that the composition of the soil accounts for the well-preserved condition of artifacts in the middens.
The principal investigator for the Midden Mound Project was Judith Bense, who worked with varying staff members and consultants during the project’s three phases. The first two phases operated from Fulton, Mississippi. By Phase III (1984–87), fieldwork was over, and a more detailed and refined analysis took place on the University of Western Florida campus in Pensacola as the final report was prepared. At the end of each phase a progress report was published, and the results of the project constitute one of the largest collections of data of its type in the southeastern United States.
- Judith A. Bense, Archaeology of the Southeastern United States: Paleoindian to World War I (1994)
- Judith A. Bense, ed., The Midden Mound Project (1987)