PARKIN, AR (KAIT) - Seven hundred years ago the Native American city of Casqui was surrounded by a high wooden stockade. At the Parkin Archeological State Park, a team is searching for what remains of that wall.
Most Mississippian tribes built walls and moats around their cities. Not to defend against white invaders but other hostile tribes.
One of the two park interpreters, Mel Harvey stood by the mounds of dirt where the digging was taking place. "The tribe that lived here were built a city that had a lot of different houses and a couple of mounds actually. It was built somewhere in the 1300s."
The town was named Casqui after it's chief. Defenses at Casqui were two-layered. One was the palisade wall, the stockade that they are trying to locate with the archeological dig. The other was a moat about 65 feet wide and about 6 feet deep. Casqui's defenses were not unusual considering the tribal friction of the times.
"These tribes probably had been at war with one another for generations. One of these things where they probably didn't even remember what it all started about." said Dr. Jeff Mitchem, the station archeologist.
Moats and watchtowers and walls, hundreds of years before any European ever came to Northeast Arkansas, very advanced ideas for their survival.
Portions of the moat remain but no remnants of the wall have been found so far.
Mitchem says it was kind of a surprise not to find any wood posts at all. "They weren't left in place to rot and they didn't burn or anything like that."
They were pulled up by someone leaving just the holes. What the holes show is that the wall probably stood about 12 - 15 feet tall with a gap between the posts.
Mitchem said, "Somebody could have easily slid between them so we're pretty sure there was some kind of lattice work between these posts."
The village itself stood on a raised spot with two mounds in the back by the river. Eventually a small part of the palisade will be reconstructed on the original site to be used as part of the park's education program.
The meticulous dig has uncovered a few pottery shards and an arrowhead or two but what is getting in the mix are more modern artifacts.
Mitchem, "Unfortunately we also find the garbage from those that lived here in the 20th century as well and we have to deal with that."
This is not the first time the wall has been searched for. Early excavation in the 90's gave a starting point and then in April the first dig on this location began. It has been a slow process excavating about a square yard at a time, layer of dirt by layer.
Mitchem, "We try and be very slow and methodical. It's not like Indiana Jones, it's not all exciting although we do make some exciting finds from time to time."