History and Hydrology: Engineering Canoe Canals in the Estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico

Gregory A. Waselkov*, Donald A. Beebe, Howard Cyr, Elizabeth L. Chamberlain, Jayur Madhusudan Mehta, Erin S. Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Local lore has long identified an entrenched feature crossing Fort Morgan peninsula on Alabama’s Gulf of Mexico coast (USA) as an ancient canoe canal, a folk identification now confirmed by archival, artifactual, geochronological, geoarchaeological, and hydrological evidence. A 1.39 km canal (site 1BA709) linked two estuaries, Oyster Bay and Little Lagoon, connecting Mobile Bay to the Gulf of Mexico late in the Middle Woodland period, ca. a.d. 600. Construction of such a large hydraulic engineering feature by a non-agricultural, non-hierarchical society seems unusual but not inconsistent with the sorts of monumental landscape alterations accomplished more routinely by other Woodland populations in eastern North America. Although such canals certainly expedited local travel, communication, and transport, their construction and use had broader social ramifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-500
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Volume47
Issue number7
Early online date29 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Alabama
  • coastal
  • lidar
  • Middle Woodland
  • shell midden
  • soil stratigraphy

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