- Russell Cave National Monument
Infobox Protected area
name = Russell Cave National Monument
iucn_category = V
locator_x = 198
locator_y = 113
Jackson County, Alabama, USA
nearest_city = Bridgeport, AL
lat_degrees = 34
lat_minutes = 58
lat_seconds = 27
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 85
long_minutes = 48
long_seconds = 12
long_direction = W
area = 310 acres (1.25 km²)
May 11, 1961
visitation_num = 23,496
visitation_year = 2005
National Park Service
The Russell Cave National Monument is a
U.S. National Monumentin northeastern Alabama, United States, close to the town of Bridgeport. The Monument was established on May 11, 1961, when 310 acres (1.3 km²) of land were donated by the National Geographic Societyto the American people. It is now maintained by the National Park Service. The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Placeson October 15, 1966.
With a mapped length of 7.2 miles (11.6 km), Russell Cave is the third longest mapped
cavein Alabama, is ranked 90th on the United States Long Cave List, and is currently listed as number 314 on the World Long Cave List.cite web | publisher=World Cave Database| author=Eric Madelaine|title= Long Caves of the World | url=http://www-sop.inria.fr/agos/sis/DB/world.bylength.html| accessdate=2006-10-28] Its exceptionally large main entrance was used as a shelter by prehistoric Indians from the earliest known human settlement in the southeastern United States, through to European colonization. The surrounding forestprovided food, tools and fuel for fires.
The rock from which Russell Cave was carved was formed over 300 million years ago at the bottom of an inland sea covering the region. Due to continental drift, the area that is now northeast Alabama was located very close to the Equator at the time this limestone was forming. This area is now located in a temperate climate, but 300 million years ago it was a shallow, tropical sea. Carbonaceous deposits of skeletons and shells were slowly transformed into
limestone. Rainwater, mildly acidic from atmospheric carbon dioxide, slowly dissolved a portion of the limestone rock result in the formation of the cave. About 9,000 to 12,000 years ago, the collapse of a cavern roof beneath a hillside near Doran's Cove created a sinkholeand exposed Russell Cave.cite conference | last = Hack | first = John T. | title = Geology of Russell Cave | Year = 1974 | booktitle = Investigations in Russell Cave (Publications in Archeology 13) | editor = John W. Griffin | Publisher = National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior | pages = 1628]
Until shortly before the first occupation by Native Americans, the cavern was uninhabitable due to the presence of a large
streamwhich occupied the entirety of the cavern. A fortuitous rockfall from the cavern roof diverted the stream to one side, however, exposing a portion of the cave floor. The first occupants dwelled on this irregular floor of rock slabs. Debris from occupants and deposits falling from the ceiling slowly raised the floor. The floor ultimately was raised an additional seven to eight feet (2.0 to 2.5 m) and up to 30 feet (9.0 m) near the upper entrance.cite web | publisher=GORP| title= Monuments - The Story of Russell Cave | url=http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_nm/al/russell.htm | accessdate=2006-10-28] In the 1960s, the United States Bureau of Minesinstalled bolts with a length of 15 feet (4.5 m) to prevent additional collapses of limestone rock.cite web | publisher=U.S. National Park Service| title= Russell Cave National Monument - Frequently Asked Questions | url=http://www.nps.gov/ruca/faqs.htm| accessdate=2006-10-28]
The cave mouth faces to the east preventing the ingress of a cold north and northwest winds and allowing in the morning sun. According to a published cave map, the cave has five entrances in addition to the Main Entrance.cite book |last=Matthews |first=Larry E.| title=Caves of Chattanooga| year=2007| publisher=National Speleological Society|pages=143-145|id=ISBN 978-1-879961-27-2] Three of the entrances are referred to as Canoe Entrances while the other two are named the Picnic Entrance and Pig Entrance.
A natural spring flows into the cave and travels underground for 1.5 miles (2.5 km) before joining Widow's Creek and, ultimately, the
Archaic period (before 1000 BCE)
Chipped flint points and
charcoalfrom campfires provide evidence that occupation of Russell Cave began nearly 9,000 years ago by Archaic period Native Americans. The charcoal remains of the first fires in the cavern date to between 6550 and 6145 BCE based on radiocarbon dating.cite web | publisher=U.S. National Park Service|title= Geology Fieldnotes - Russell Cave National Monument | url=http://www2.nature.nps.gov/Geology/parks/ruca/index.cfm| accessdate=2006-10-28] As they maintained their existence as hunter-gatherers, it is likely that the cave was only occupied during the autumn and winter seasons. According to John Griffin, the issue of seasonality (during what seasonor seasons the cave was utilized) remains to be determined.cite book | last = Griffin | first = John W. | editor = Patricia C. Griffin | title = Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology: Selected Works of John W. Griffin | Publisher = University Press of Florida | year = 1996 | pages = 137-159 | id = ISBN 0-8130-1420-4] Evidence indicating inhabitance in autumn and winter include deerbones and passenger pigeon remains. The presence of shellfishartifacts clouds the determination somewhat since shellfish would have been easier to procure during periods of dry weather in mid-spring and late summer. However, William Clench has suggested that the occupants may have brought mussels and snails to nearby bodies of water (Dry Creek and/or Crownover Springs) for use as needed including in autumn or winter.cite conference | last = Clench | first = William J. | title = Mollusca from Russell Cave | Year = 1974 | booktitle = Investigations in Russell Cave (Publications in Archeology 13) | editor = John W. Griffin | Publisher = National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior | pages = 8690] Based on the existing information, Griffin is "strongly inclined" to view Russell Cave as a place of winter occupancy.cite book | last = Griffin | first = John W. | editor = Patricia C. Griffin | title = Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology: Selected Works of John W. Griffin | Publisher = University Press of Florida | year = 1996 | pages = 137-159 | id = ISBN 0-8130-1420-4]
In addition to serving as a shelter (presumably for several related families totaling 15 to 30 individualscite web | publisher=U.S. National Park Service| title= Russell Cave National Monument - Frequently Asked Questions | url=http://www.nps.gov/ruca/faqs.htm| accessdate=2006-10-28] ), the cave would have provided a constant source of
waterdue to the lack of freezing temperatures in the cavern. The surrounding hardwood forest and nearby Tennessee River served as sources of food throughout the year. The food sources would have included aquatic animals ( fish, turtles, shellfish), birds (including turkey), small mammals ( squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, gray foxes, skunks, bobcats, porcupines, peccaries), nuts (including acorns), seeds, and roots. Larger animals such as deer and black bears were also commonly hunted when the seasons permitted. Griffin has stated that the dominant animal food sources for these occupants were deer and turkey.cite book | last = Griffin | first = John W. | editor = Patricia C. Griffin | title = Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology: Selected Works of John W. Griffin | Publisher = University Press of Florida | year = 1996 | pages = 137-159 | id = ISBN 0-8130-1420-4] As gatherers, these occupants also would have consumed fruits and berries although these plant foods may have been scarce or unavailable during the seasons of cave occupancy. Generally speaking, hunter-gathers relied more heavily on plant foods than they did animals.cite book | last = Lee | first = Richard B. | coauthor = Irven DeVore | title = Man the Hunter | Publisher = Aldine Transaction | year = 1968 | id = ISBN 0-202-33032-X] cite book | last = Service | first = Elman R. | title = The Hunters | Publisher = Prentice-Hall| year = 1966] Indirect evidence of gathering includes pits for storage of nuts and seeds, mortars and pestles, and nut stones.cite book | last = Griffin | first = John W. | editor = Patricia C. Griffin | title = Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology: Selected Works of John W. Griffin | Publisher = University Press of Florida | year = 1996 | pages = 137-159 | id = ISBN 0-8130-1420-4]
Goosefoot, also referred to as Chenopodium, is a small flowering plant with edible seeds that may have been cultivated in small gardens. The evidence for this is uncertain, however. This also leads to an uncertainty in the timeframe of the suspected cultivation (believed to be during Archaic or Woodland periods).cite book | last = Osterweis Selig | first = Ruth | coauthor = Marilyn R. London | title = Anthropology Explored: The Best of Smithsonian AnthroNotes | Publisher = Smithsonian | year = 1998 | pages = 184-186 | id = ISBN 1-56098-790-1] cite book | last = Johnson | first = Jay K. | title = The Development of Southeastern Archaeology | Publisher = University of Alabama Press | year = 1993 | pages = 143-146 | id = ISBN 0-8173-0600-5] cite journal |last=Miller |first=Carl F. |year=1960 |title=The Use of Chenopodium Seeds as a Source of Food by the Early Peoples in Russell Cave, Alabama |journal=Southern Indian Studies |volume=12 |pages=3132] cite journal |last=Smith |first=Bruce D. |year=1985 |title=The Role of Chenopodium as a Domesticate in Pre-Maize Garden Systems of the Eastern United States |journal=Southeastern Archeology |volume=4 |pages=5172]
weaponof these occupants was a short spear(tipped with stone point) propelled by an atlatl(throwing stick). The points were chipped from chertwhich occurs as nodules and veins in limestone near the cave.
Chert was also utilized to fashion knives and scrapers. They turned bones into awls and needles indicating the production of clothing from hides or manufacturing of
baskets. Small pieces of bone were also used to make fish hooks. No ornamental works have been found in this layer of deposits.
Other items such as baskets and articles fashioned from
woodand hides were probably produced but have not been preserved by the soil.
Woodland period (1000 BCE to 500 CE)
Around 1000 BCE, the implements of the Native Americans utilizing Russell Cave underwent a dramatic change.
Potteryappears for the first time. Smaller weapon points indicate that the bow and arrow had replaced the atlatl. Tools fashioned from bone were more refined. Other domestic implements provide the first evidence of gardeningat the site. Additionally, bone and shell appear in ornamental artifacts. Evident throughout the Woodland periodis an increase in the amount of hunting at the expense of other activities. During this period, it is clear that the cave had become simply a hunting camp. In the seasons away from the cave, the natives probably joined other groups at summer villages larger than those of the Archaic period.
These changes occurred in groups throughout the eastern United States marking the beginning of the Woodland period. During this period, burial mounds were first built, the population increased, and
Changes in the shape and style of artifacts at Russell Cave during the Woodland period serve as a basis for identifying cultural subdivisions within the period. For example, early pottery of the period is decorated with fabric impressions while later pottery is decorated with impressions made by carved wooden paddles.
Mississippian period (after 500 CE)
After the close of the Woodland period (around 500 CE), Native Americans made less and less use of Russell Cave. Occasionally, small parties of hunters left objects distinct from those of the Woodland period occupants. These visitors (Mound Builders of the Mississippian period) came from permanent villages which had successfully implemented agriculture near the rich river bottomlands. The last occupants departed around 1000 CE.
Centuries later, Cherokee Indians occupied this part of the
Tennessee Valley. They and the subsequent European settlers made little use of the cave. The few objects that they left were found very close to the surface. The only modern historical artifact found at the site was a metalfishing hook.cite book | last = Griffin | first = John W. | editor = Patricia C. Griffin | title = Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology: Selected Works of John W. Griffin | Publisher = University Press of Florida | year = 1996 | pages = 137-159 | id = ISBN 0-8130-1420-4]
The expedition of Hernando de Soto passed within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of Russell Cave in 1540.
Russell Cave was named after Colonel Thomas Russell, a
veteranof the American Revolutionary Warfrom North Carolina,cite web |url=http://www.showcaves.com/english/usa/showcaves/Russell.html |title=Russell Cave National Monument |accessdate=2006-10-29 |work=Show Caves of the United States] who owned the property at the time when maps of the area were drawn.cite web | publisher=U.S. National Park Service| title= Russell Cave National Monument - Frequently Asked Questions | url=http://www.nps.gov/ruca/faqs.htm| accessmonthday=October 28 | accessyear=2006] The surrounding land called Doran's Cove is named after Major James Doran, the brother-in-law of Russell and the original owner of the land.cite web |url=http://www.showcaves.com/english/usa/showcaves/Russell.html |title=Russell Cave National Monument |accessdate=2006-10-29 |work=Show Caves of the United States] The land was purchased by the National Geographic Society and donated to the American people. The area was designated as a National Monument in 1961 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
Archeological field surveys have uncovered the records of the cave's occupants. Around two tons of artifacts have been recovered from the site.cite book | last = Rosenberg | first = Kenneth A. | title = Wilderness Preservation: A Reference Handbook | Publisher = ABC-Clio | year = 1994 | pages = 144 | id = ISBN 0-87436-731-X] These discoveries include charcoal from fires, bones of animals (as remains of hunted game and as bone tools), spear and arrow points,
sherds of pottery, and the remains of several adults and children buried at the site. The bodies, ranging in age from infant to 50 years,cite web | publisher=GORP| title= Monuments - The Story of Russell Cave | url=http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_nm/al/russell.htm | accessdate=2006-10-28] were buried in shallow pits in the cave floor and were not accompanied by artifacts.
The first relics were discovered in 1953 when four members from the Tennessee Archeological Society and University of Chattanooga began digging in the cave.cite web | publisher=U.S. National Park Service|title= Geology Fieldnotes - Russell Cave National Monument | url=http://www2.nature.nps.gov/Geology/parks/ruca/index.cfm| accessdate=2006-10-28] cite book | last = Griffith | first = Lucille B. | title = Alabama: A Documentary History to 1900 | Publisher = University of Alabama Press | year = 1972 | pages = 76 | id = ISBN 0-8173-0371-5] This first
excavationreached a depth of six feet (1.8 m). Upon realizing the extent and importance of the site, they contacted the Smithsonian Institutionwhich conducted three seasons (1956-1958) of archeological digs in cooperation with the National Geographic Society reaching a depth of more than 32 feet (9.8 m). An additional excavation was performed in 1962 by the National Park Service to a depth of 10.5 feet (3.2 m). This final excavation completed the archeological record and established an on-site exhibit.cite web | publisher=GORP| title= Monuments - The Story of Russell Cave | url=http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_nm/al/russell.htm | accessdate=2006-10-28]
Analysis of the distribution of the artifacts among functional categories (fabricating and processing tools, domestic implements, weapons) using an experimental technique proposed by Howard Winterscite journal |last=Winters |first=Howard D. |year=1963 |title=The Archaic Period |journal=Illinois Archaeological Society Bulletin |volume=1 |pages=916] reveals that the ratio of non-weapon artifacts to weapons was very low. This is indicative of a hunting camp with lack of permanent occupancy.cite book | last = Griffin | first = John W. | editor = Patricia C. Griffin | title = Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology: Selected Works of John W. Griffin | Publisher = University Press of Florida | year = 1996 | pages = 137-159 | id = ISBN 0-8130-1420-4] It should be noted that the picture of prehistoric life gained from Russell Cave is incomplete due to the incomplete nature of archeological records and because Russell Cave only represents a portion of the annual life cycle of the inhabitants.
historical geologyand paleobotanyhave shown that the floraand faunaof the Eastern Forest Region remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years. This began to change with the arrival of European settlers who removed trees for timberand to open land for subsistence farming and commercial farming.
The cave is populated by both the
brown batand northern long ear bat. The cave stream contains fish known as sculpin. Snakes of the surrounding area include the copperhead, timber rattlesnake, rat snake, and kingsnake.cite web | publisher=U.S. National Park Service| title= Russell Cave National Monument - Frequently Asked Questions | url=http://www.nps.gov/ruca/faqs.htm| accessdate=2006-10-28] Over 115 species of birds have been identified by researchers at Russell Cave, a site on the North Alabama Birding Trail. Although the site is now below the southern boundary of their range, porcupine bones have been found in digs at the earliest occupational levels. The peccary, also hunted by the occupants, is no longer found in this region.
Russell Cave National Monument is located on County Road 98 near Bridgeport, Alabama. The site is open year round, seven days a week (closed on
New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day). Hours of operation are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Central Time. There are no fees to enter the park or tour the cave.
A diverse range of attractions are presented to visitors of Russell Cave National Monument.
Gilbert H. Grosvenor Visitor Center
The visitor center at Russell Cave National Monument is named after
Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, the editor of " National Geographic Magazine" from 1903 to 1954 and president of the National Geographic Societyfrom 1920 to 1954. The visitor center was dedicated in 1967.cite journal | author=Anonymous|title=Russell Cave Dedicated| journal=National Geographic | year=1967 | volume=132|pages=440–442] In the center, guests can view museum exhibits, watch documentary films about the lifestyles of prehistoric peoples, or purchase items from the gift shopor bookstore.
Guided tours of the cave shelter are conducted by National Park Service Interpretative Rangers. The cave shelter includes the areas that were occupied by the prehistoric groups and features a
dioramadepicting activities of the occupants. The cave shelter is located approximately 300 yards (300 m) from the visitor center and is accessed via an elevated wooden boardwalk.
Russell Cave is one of the most extensive cave systems in Alabama with over seven miles (11 km) of mapped passageways.cite news | first = Harvey | last = Chipkin | title = State aims to lure ecotourists with its natural attractions | work = Travel Weekly | date = 1992-11-23 | accessdate = 2008-01-09 | quote = Alabama's mysterious and beautiful caves and caverns include Sequoyah Caverns, Desoto Caverns, Rickwood Caverns and Russell Cave National Monument.] Due to the discovery of several rare species (including a species of scorpion that exists nowhere else in the world other than Russell Cave) recreational caving is no longer allowed. Visitors interested in caving should contact the visitor's center for current information on this policy.
Russell Cave National Monument offers visitors two
trails: the Nature Trail, a 0.6-mile (1.9-km) paved trail, and the Backcountry Trail, a 1.2-mile (1.9-km) dirt trail. Both trails provide good opportunities to observe the forest, wildflowers, and Montague Mountain. Points along the trails feature plants utilized for food, tools, and other daily necessities.
Native American Festival
Each year during the first weekend in May, the Russell Cave National Monument hosts a Native American Festival. The festival includes performances of
storytelling, dancing, and Native American fluteplaying. A historical reenactmentof a Cherokee encampment is conducted. At this event and at other times throughout the year, demonstrations of Native American lifestyles and weaponry are conducted. Weapons demonstrations include flintknapping to produce points (arrowheads), use of the atlatl for spear throwing, and use of a bow and arrow. Other demonstrations feature wood carving, handbuilding of pottery, and fire building.
North Alabama Birding Trail
Russell Cave National Monument is Site 44 on the Northeastern Loop of the
North Alabama Birding Trail. The North Alabama Birding Trail is not a "trail" in the traditional sense of the word but a series of mostly roadside stops throughout North Alabama selected for their birdwatchingcharacteristics. The trail comprises fifty sites located in eleven counties. The trail was funded by a US$280,000 federal matching grant with US$210,000 provided by the federal government and US$70,000 of matching fundsfrom the chambers of commerce or convention and visitors bureaus of the eleven counties, the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and several corporate sponsors.cite web | publisher=Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources| title= North Alabama Birding Trail| url=http://www.northalabamabirdingtrail.com | accessdate=2006-10-29] The trail was dedicated on September 30, 2005.cite journal | last=Fleischauer | first=Eric |title=Bird watchers chirping - North Alabama Trail provides beauty, lure to businesses| journal=Decatur Daily| date= September 11, 2005|url=http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/business/050911/bird.shtml|accessdate=1006-10-29]
Although many types of bird are present, this site is known for its
tanagers ( Summer Tanagerand Scarlet Tanager) and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. During migration, almost any species of eastern warbler and vireocan be spotted in the park. The prime seasons for watching the songbirds are spring, summer, and autumn.
* [http://www.nps.gov/ruca/ Russell Cave National Monument (Official National Park Service website)]
* [http://www.northalabamabirdingtrail.com Official North Alabama Birding Trail website]
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