Monday, September 18, 2017

The Tchefuncte Culture

According to information provided by the Louisiana Dept. of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the Tchefuncte Culture began around 600 B.C. as a hunter-gatherer culture living in small, scattered sites in coastal areas or in lowlands near slow-moving streams. 

Archeologists studied the Tchefuncte Culture for years at a dig in Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, the location of which is called the Tchefuncte Site.

 The Tchefuncte Site located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain was so named because it was situated inside Tchefuncte State Park (later renamed Fountainbleau State Park).

The site had two shell middens, one that measured 100 feet by 250 feet and another 100 feet by 150 feet. Both were excavated, and archaeologists found 50,000 pieces of pottery, as well as artifacts made from bone, shell, and stone. Forty-three human burials were recovered, none of which had objects buried with them.

Tchefuncte people appear to have camped on natural levees, terraces, salt domes, cheniers, and ridges that provided dry ground in the wet environment. They built their houses, which were probably temporary circular shelters having a frame of light poles covered with palmetto, thatch, or grass mixed with mud.

They were the first Louisiana Indians to make large amounts of pottery. They rolled coils of clay into shape and then smoothed them to form a container. Many shapes of pots were made, but characteristically they had "footed" bases. 

After decorating the pots, they fired them by slow baking. The introduction of pottery was an important improvement in food storage. When these pots were kept covered, they provided a relatively dry and animal-proof, portable container. The Tchefuncte culture began to phase out around 200 B.C.
 The archeologists found that apparently long-distance trade was much less important with this group, yet people in Louisiana were in contact with people in western Mississippi, coastal Alabama, eastern Texas, Arkansas, and southeastern Missouri.

CLICK HERE for more information about the Tchefuncte Site (PDF File).

Later on, a number of other Native American tribes made their home in or near St. Tammany Parish, as the map below indicates. Click on the image to make it larger.