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8 November 2003
Ancient sites threatened by clay mines in Georgia

Nine previously unknown ancient archaeological sites, including a complex of 17 mounds, plus villages and workshops, have been found in Georgia (USA), on land owned by Cherokee Brick and Tile Co. Three of the sites, including the oldest, would be destroyed if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves Cherokee Brick and Tile Co.'s application to expand its clay mines.
     Archaeologists and historians say some of the sites could expand our understanding of ancient cultures and the importance of the Ocmulgee River Valley settlement. They are located on property in the floodplain south of Macon's Seventh Street industrial district. Family-owned company Cherokee Brick has owned the land for about a century. The archaeological discoveries were made in 1999 and 2000 as part of a study the company had to do for its mining permit application. The study has not been released to the public.
     Seven of the sites were deemed eligible or potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Of those, four, including the mound complex, would be preserved in place, according to the Cherokee proposal. The remaining three, where pottery and toolmaking shards were found, would be mined for clay deposits after artifacts are removed.
     The oldest of the archaeological sites, called Four Oaks, dates back about 8,000 years, said Sylvia Flowers, an expert on the historic cultures of the Ocmulgee River Valley and former park ranger at the Ocmulgee National Monument. "The presence of intact strata (from that time period) indicates that additional significant cultural remains may be present," states the Environmental Services archaeology report. "Such deposits would be some of the oldest excavated within the Ocmulgee River Valley." It is one of the three sites slated for destruction.
     Cherokee Brick owners have said the company will go out of business unless it is allowed to expand its mining operation, and the Corps has determined that there will be "no adverse affect" if the three sites are excavated before being destroyed.
     The Corps is awaiting comments from some tribal groups and is working on the portion of the permit dealing with wetlands destruction. Officials hope to decide this year whether to grant the permit.

Source: The Macon Telegraph (5 November 2003)

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