Rutherford County is well known for its Civil War battlefields, making them the major focus of history in the area. The discovery of a significant Native American site within the city limits opens up new possibilities for the area’s prehistory. The main objective of this project is to discover the prehistory of Rutherford County through archaeological investigations of several recently identified Native American sites and share this new knowledge with the local community.
The Tennessee State Site File lists approximately 275 recorded prehistoric sites, the majority of which are in the Percy Priest Lake vicinity. The number of sites in Rutherford is markedly low compared to Davidson and Williamson counties, with a combined total of over 1,300 prehistoric sites. Some believe the low number of sites in Rutherford is because Native Americans did not physically live in the area in the centuries and millennia before European settlers arrived. The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture records that Native Americans kept this area as a communal hunting ground. In reality, there is much more to the story, but since the county is still largely agricultural, few archaeological surveys have been undertaken to identify and locate areas where prehistoric Native Americans lived. The Rutherford County Archaeology Research Program will allow us to collect and interpret data from prehistoric Native American sites in the county via field and lab work that will include MTSU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and interested Rutherford County citizens. Ultimately this collaborative project will result in a re-writing of the prehistory of the county.