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UPDATED WITH PODCAST – The oldest Alabamian can be found in Colbert County

“Somewhere beneath the dust may be the first skeleton of a Paleo Indian to be found in the Western Hemisphere.”Stanfield-Worley newsclipping

Confirmation established by discoveries at Russell Cave

Paleo-Indian culture of seminomadic hunter-foragers lived in open countryside and in natural rock shelters (e.g. Russell Cave in Jackson County and the Stanfield-Worley bluff shelter in Colbert County) 10,000 BC to 7000 BC.

Previously confirmed dates for Stone Age men in the East was 8000 to 9000 years ago. The confirmation was established by discoveries at Russell Cave near Scottsboro and the Modock Shelter in Southern Illinois.

Archaeologists throughout the world took notice in 1961

In Colbert County, there is a place called the Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter that excited archaeologists throughout the world around 1961 when charcoal from campfires found there was believed to provide proof that Stone Age men roamed Alabama 10,000 years and more ago. By 1960, it was clear that north Alabama had possibly the densest concentration of Paleo-Indian sites within the United States.  During the years of 1961-1963, the state of Alabama was experiencing Civil Rights struggles which probably diverted attention away from this historic discovery and it did not receive the attention it probably would merit. Worley Oct 15 1961 - Copy

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One of most prehistoric sites excavated in the state

The Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter, located on private property of R. B. Stanfield in Colbert County in northwestern Alabama, United States, is one of the most important prehistoric sites excavated in the state due to the archeological evidence deposited by the Paleo-Indians who once occupied the rock shelter.

The site was unique because it has four Indian cultural periods in the Southeast in sequence, and all in the same location. Charles H. Worley, an amateur archaeologist, first recognized the cliff shelter as a haven for prehistoric man.

Stratigraphic zones exposed during excavation at Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter

Stratigraphic zones exposed during excavation at Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter
Worley September 9, 1962 pg1

Well-protected environment for the Native American occupants

Lying in Sanderson Cove along a tributary of Cane Creek approximately seven miles south of the Tennessee Valley, the shelter and the high bluffs of the surrounding valley provided a well-protected environment for the Native American occupants.

Paleo-Indian culture of seminomadic hunter-foragers lived in open countryside and in natural rock shelters (e.g. Russell Cave in Jackson County and the Stanfield-Worley bluff shelter in Colbert County) 10,000 BC to 7000 BC.

The excavation of the Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter commenced in 1960, after gaining approval of the property owner, Robert B. Stanfield.

Overview of Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter illustrating trench and block excavation

Stanfield-Worley_Rock_Shelter_-_Overview

Partnership between the University of Alabama and Archaeological Research Association

The project was under the guidance of the North Alabama Project, a partnership between the University of Alabama and the Archaeological Research Association of Alabama. The first two field seasons (1960 and 1961) were reported by David L. DeJarnette and colleagues.A report, entitled “Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter Excavations,” was in the Journal of Alabama Archaeology, 1962, from the DeJarnette Research Center at Moundville, Alabama. The authors were David L. DeJarnette, Edward B. Kurjack and James W. Cambron. The excavation of the third and final season (1963) was smaller in scale with the results never being published.

Big Sandy projectile points collected at Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter

Stanfield-Worley_Bluff_Shelter_-_Big_Sandy_Points

Excavations remained unreported

For all Stanfield-Worley’s importance, the 1963 excavations along with recovered cultural material and data have been little studied and remain unreported. By 1963, Edward B. Kurjack had left the University of Alabama to carry out a settlement pattern survey at Dzibilchaltun—the subject of his doctoral dissertation at Ohio State. Oscar Brock was assigned to duties at Mound State Monument. The two men visited the site again in 2008 and their experience is written up in Stones & Bones, The Newsletter of the Alabama Archaeological Society, Volume 50, Issue 4, July-October 2008

During the year of 1963, the state of Alabama was experiencing Civil Rights struggles which probably diverted attention away from this historic discovery and it did not receive the attention it probably would have normally received.

The Stanfield-Worley shelter remains on private property and According to The Earliest Americans Theme Study for the Eastern United States, Stanfield-Worley Rock Shelter is considered a strong candidate for National Historic Landmark status

Source

  1. The University of Alabama – Archaeology Research
  2. The Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter
  3. AL.com

Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter Excavations (Journal of Alabama Archaeology Volume VIII No 1 and 2, June, December 1962) at Amazon.com

Books by Donna R. Causey

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) is a collection of lost and forgotten stories about the people who discovered and initially settled in Alabama.

Some stories include:

  • The true story of the first Mardi Gras in America and where it took place
  • The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
  • Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
  • Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
  • Alabama had its first Interstate in the early days of settlement

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) (Paperback)
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ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) (Paperback)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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