Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Charles H. Faulkner

Committee Members

Walter E. Klippel, P. S. Willey


An archaeological survey of Big Bone Cave, Tennessee was conducted by the author from August 1984 to August 1985. Results of the survey indicate that while numerous historic activities, particularly the mining of saltpetre, have disturbed prehistoric deposits in the cave, evidence of aboriginal use of the cave remains intact. The nature of prehistoric remains, their context, and the radiocarbon dated period of activity are used as evidence to support the interpretation that extensive mining of selenite gypsum occurred in the cave, primarily during the Early Woodland period.

The radiocarbon age chronology from Big Bone and other similar cave sites was statistically analysed to support the evidence for a diachronically patterned use and perception of cave sites during the Late Archaic through Mississippian periods in the Eastern Woodlands. This pattern includes the use of caves as mines and quarries, places for the burial or disposal of the dead, and as ceremonial retreats. Finally, suggestions are offered for guiding future research to test and refine this pattern.

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