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Prep Work for New Splash Park Uncovers Pieces of Pine Bluff's Past

UAPB archaeologists find remnants of the city's early history.
PINE BLUFF, AR (News release) - Archaeologists stationed at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) are monitoring preliminary earthmoving in conjunction with construction of a splash park at Lake Saracen Park in downtown Pine Bluff.  

The location is on the bank of Lake Saracen which occupies a former channel of the Arkansas River abandoned in 1908. This is the earliest part of Pine Bluff, a few blocks from the Jefferson County courthouse and not far from where Joseph Bonne, a fur trapper and trader of French and Quapaw ancestry, settled in 1819.

Preliminary archaeological study of the site two years ago revealed artifacts, including ceramic and glass fragments and hand-forged nails dating from the pre-Civil War era. Artifacts representing the late 1800s and the 1900s up to the creation of the city park in the 1970s were also found.

The first day of earthmoving at the splash park site uncovered a line of brick piers representing a structure, probably a residence, that appears to have been demolished in the 1920s or 30s. Lime and sand mortar between the bricks suggests that the structure had been built before 1900.

The archaeologists have been watching for traces of a house indicated in the immediate vicinity on an 1864 U.S. Army Engineers map of Pine Bluff. Archaeological features expected at the location of an early to mid-1800s urban residence might include foundations of the house and outbuilding as well as remains of wells, cisterns, or privies. To date, however, artifacts from that era have only been found scattered in disturbed soil.

John H. House and Robert J. Scott of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, a unit of the University of Arkansas System, are directing the work. House directs the Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Station at UAPB and also teaches in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Scott has been Research Assistant at the station since October. Hydco, Inc. of North Little Rock, General Contractor, is constructing the splash park.

The Arkansas Archeological Survey is carrying out the current work at Lake Saracen Park to assist the City of Pine Bluff in complying with federal laws pertaining to the conservation of cultural resources on projects that receive federal funding.

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