Russell Cave National Monument

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OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio only described version of Russell Cave National Monument’s park brochure. The information presents the history of former inhabitants of the cave shelter and details about planning your visit. It includes a combination of text, illustrations, maps, and photographs.

There are 15 sections to this recording. The recording time for side one is 17 minutes 17 seconds, and 10 minutes 31 seconds for side two.

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OVERVIEW: Russell Cave National Monument

Russell Cave is an archeological site. It was established as a National Monument in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, after the property was purchased by the National Geographic Society, and donated to the American people. It is part of the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior.

The 310 acre park is situated just south of the Alabama state line in Jackson County. Each year, thousands of visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences and views that only can be found at Russell Cave National Monument. We invite you to explore the park's natural beauty, solitude, and connection to prehistoric people who lived in and around the cave shelter. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, please speak to one of our park rangers at the visitor's center.

Junior Ranger books are available for kids of all ages. Special events and programs are presented throughout the year and can be viewed on our park website.

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OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

Side one of the brochure is laid out in a typical National Park Service style with an inch long horizontal black band bordering the top. In large white bold letters “Russell Cave” is printed on the left. On the right side of the border, smaller white print reads, “Russell Cave National Monument, Alabama, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior." There is a small National Park Service arrowhead logo on the far right. The arrowhead is medium brown with a white bison grazing on green grass in the center foreground. A tall giant sequoia tree on the left, a small lake on the right, and a snow covered mountain range lie in the background. Above this scene, “National Park Service” is printed in white text.

The top two thirds of side one contains a large illustration displaying the inferred lifestyle of Archaic period inhabitants at the cave shelter dating back approximately 9,000 years ago. Included are representative plants, animals, and tools used in daily life for the era. Flora with special significance are featured in the lower foreground of the cave shelter illustration.

The bottom third of side one, separated by a line from the top, contains two maps. One depicts the park’s physical location in relation to major highways and State lines, while the second identifies park specific features including orientation, buildings, and trails.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Human Stories Unearthed

Descriptions: Side One Illustrations.

Image 1 of 9: Russell Cave. The scene is a full color artistic rendition depicting ancient indigenous tribal people from the Archaic period in landscape as it may have looked about 9,000 years ago. In this serene setting, long shadows reveal an early summer morning with white clouds covering an emerging blue sky. The front view looks up at a very wide, highly fractured, grey limestone cave divided by a central stone support column. The left side of the cave’s double entrance is at grade level. On this side, wispy fog hangs lightly one third above the gushing blue stream flowing into the opening. An equally wide entrance on the right side of the dividing column is significantly higher and exposes a shelter. Someone inside the shelter is tending a fire.  Above the shelter entrance, a ray of sun is lighting up the protruding ledges where pockets of moss and freely hanging, stringy, green vines are growing. 

A steep, grass covered slope, heads down from the shelter towards the creek and is strewn with large fallen boulders from the cave’s upper ledges. Near the water’s edge, young river cane and Jerusalem artichokes are thriving. The creek bed is heavily bordered by small to medium sized river stones.

Topping the cave is a soil layer providing ample nutrition and stability for many shrubs and deciduous trees, both young and old. The assorted trees are full of brilliant green leaves. The cave is surrounded by a rich woodland. On the left, a large double trunk Ash tree is leaning toward the cave along a shady, rocky slope covered in lush ferns and a large wild hydrangea heavily laden with white flower bracts.

19 people, infants through middle aged adults, are shown in various locations in front of the cave entrances. Their demeanor is peaceful as they methodically perform their normal daily activities. They are muscular, lean, and deeply tanned from outdoor living. Their long, dark, hair is coiled in tight buns held in place by long bone pins at the rear of their heads. Two of the older inhabitants have white hair, and are still actively participating in the daily tasks.

Close to the left cave entrance, a woman has collected water from the stream in a tightly woven basket. She is pouring it into another basket placed in front of a kneeling woman and a child sitting on a white mat.

From the east, five males are returning from a hunt carrying turkey and fish. In the center of this group, a man is carrying spears on his left shoulder, and an atlatl is tucked in a band around his waist. Two others ahead of him have slain turkeys hanging behind them, as though wearing backpacks. Coming from behind, a bare chested young boy is scampering next to a white haired older man. The man is carrying two large white fish. They are evenly balanced hanging on strings from a stick over his left shoulder. A woven basket with a long strap hangs from his right shoulder.

Three women are standing just ahead ready to greet the hunting party. A young woman is leaning slightly forward to see the men as she stands behind the oldest female of the tribe. The long, white hair of the older woman is flowing freely. Large, round white earrings adorn both of her ear lobes. Around her neck, a hide strap containing three long bear claws is worn as a necklace. Further forward, a pregnant woman, with her right hand resting lightly on her abdomen, has a strapped basket filled with water hanging from her left shoulder. She is approaching the leader of the hunting party as though to offer a drink upon their long awaited return. Nearby, two young children, a boy and a girl, are running from the creek toward the hunting party. The boy, barefoot and unclothed, has a large tan dog happily bounding alongside him. The dog, almost as big as the boy, appears to be a pet.

In the foreground, a woman is squatting near the stream. She is piercing shells with a hand driven pump drill made from a straight stick, counter weight, and sharp tip. This tool will be described in greater detail on side two of the brochure. The shells are held in place centered in a ring of small stones. Sitting opposite the woman, with his back to the creek, a young boy is shelling the nuts with a stick after cracking them open with rocks. He has a lot of work ahead with a square basket filled with nuts at his left side.

Across the stream, just above the waters’ edge, a young couple is facing one another in the morning sun. The male, facing the creek, is sitting on a hide spread upon the ground. He has a stone in his left hand and appears to be flintknapping. The woman is walking up the hill toward him carrying an armload of rivercane.  A baby is strapped on her back secured in a woven cradleboard.

All but the naked boy are wearing an assortment of animal hide leg coverings, tunics, or dresses. Children are barefoot, but adults are wearing moccasins. The clothing appears soft, light, and supple from highly skilled tanning techniques. Raised, exterior seams are visible on all stitched items. They lightly pucker, and are pulled together with sinew or thin hide straps.  In addition to the woman already described, other men and women are also wearing earrings. 

Highlighted in the foreground, at the bottom of the scene, are larger scale renditions of important period plants, all of which still grow today.  Featured from left to right are: Cardinal flower, Mulberry, Turkey mustard, American chestnut, hickory nuts, acorns, black walnuts, Little sweet Betsy trillium, Jerusalem artichokes, and Tulip poplar.

On the upper right hand portion of the scene, white italicized text is described in the caption below.

CAPTION: On a hot summer morning, thousands of years ago, sunshine lights up the cave entrance. The extended family staying here, perhaps up to 30 people, begins the day. This cave shelter, its cooling stream, and the surrounding forest provided for America’s earliest inhabitants for hundreds of generations. Yet only in the 1950's were the ancient clues of life at this site unearthed.

Descriptions: Illustration of featured plants

Image 2 of 9: Cardinal flower. Tall, erect stalks are surrounded with many brilliant, red tubular flowers filling half the height of the stem. Beneath them, long, green, opposing leaves continue to ground level. A lush stand of flower spikes is shown in partial sun.

Image 3 of 9: Mulberry. A slender tree branch with simple, alternately arranged, serrated, lobed leaves shade the long, ripe, dimpled berries colored in deep red to purple. A stem with multiple upturned leaves, and approximately 12 berries is shown.

Image 4 of 9: Turkey Mustard. (also known as Broadleaf toothwort).  A long, erect stem is burdened with terminal clusters of drooping white flowers, consisting of 4 petals. Wide, deeply lobed, and sharply toothed leaves, in whorls of 3, lie at mid-stem. Four plants are shown in bloom.

Image 5 of 9: American chestnut. A tree, with widely spaced, saw tooth edged leaves  along a thin brown stem, contains a cluster of three nuts. One nut is tucked in the background. They are enveloped in round, spiny brown burs. Mature bottoms are split open and lined in tan velvet. The brown nutmeats, tucked deep within the bur, are smooth, shiny, and pointed. A short stem, with leaves and nut cluster, is shown.

Image 6 of 9: Hickory nuts, acorns, and black walnuts. 

Hickory nuts.  A large brown segmented outer husk surrounds the multi-ridged round nut with a pointed tip. The nut itself is tan. Four nuts are shown, one of which is partially encased in a mature brown hull. 

Acorns. A single, elongated, tan tree seed is enclosed in a tough, leathery shell. The shallow brown cup shaped cap is heavily scaled. A sharp tip pokes from the top, where it separated from the tree limb. Three acorns are shown.

Black walnuts. A large, dark brown, rounded, deeply ridged, non-splitting husk covers hidden nutmeats. Two whole, closed walnuts are shown.

Image 7 of 9: Little sweet Betsy trillium. A variegated, large triple leaved, plant with long stem. Leaves emanate equally opposite from the same place on the stem. The 3 petal burgundy colored flower originates just above the leaves, separated by 3 short sepals at the top of the stem. Six plants are shown.

Image 8 of 9: Jerusalem artichokes. Tall, stout stems bear multiple, large golden yellow flower heads on narrow spreading bracts. Long, ovate leaves are alternate in the upper section of the stem, while the lower ones are opposite. A small stand of about 10 plants is shown with the flower heads facing the morning sun.

Image 9 of 9: Tulip poplar. A tree branch with large, uniquely shaped leaves are clustered at the end of a long, hairless stem. The leaves have a broad, concave top and base and contain 4 to 6 pointed lobes around a square shaped leaf, similar to the palm of your hand. The leaf is symmetrical, with 2 to 3 lobes on each side, separated by a center line. Diagonal veins radiate from the center line toward the outer leaf edges.  It bears yellow magnolia like, or tulip cup-shaped flowers. Two branches, with many leaves and approximately 5 flowers, are shown.

RELATED TEXT: Human Stories Unearthed

Abundant resources here and nearby provided for the people at Russell Cave. What nature did not provide, they either created or acquired through a gradually expanding trade network. As years passed, those who lived or hunted here left thousands of items linked to their everyday lives. In the mid-1900's archeologists uncovered a remarkable collection of art, technology, and debris representing over 10,000 years of human use in a single place.

This archeological record reveals evidence of the early Americans’ innovations, lifestyles, and social dynamics. Their creation and migration stories reveal how they came to live here and how this area helped form their cultural identity. Today, Russell Cave National Monument helps bring to light the many cultural developments of these phenomenal human journeys.


Illustrations by NPS / Kristin Kest

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TEXT: Plan Your Visit

Located 8 miles west of Bridgeport, AL, and 5 miles from US 72, the park is open daily year-round from 8 am to 4:30 pm central time except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. The visitor center has a museum, gift shop, restrooms, Junior Ranger Program, and videos. A short path on the Cave Trail (boardwalk) leads to the cave shelter and outdoor exhibits. Trails are open during park hours. The park has a drink machine but no food service. Picnic tables are first-come, first-served. Wheelchairs are available upon request.

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TEXT: Emergencies

Emergencies call 911 

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MAP: Overview of Russell Cave area

MAP 1 of 2  DESCRIPTION:  On the lower left corner, a small 2 inch by 3 inch, two tone overview wayfinding map of Russell Cave National Monument places the park just south of the TN State line in AL. TN is shaded in light tan, and Alabama is shaded in light green. The scale is 5 miles per inch, and the map is oriented  to the north. Russell Cave is depicted as a dark green box on the left side of County Road 98, less than 5 miles from the intersection of County Road 75, in the town of Bridgeport. To the northeast lies Chattanooga, TN, along Interstate 24. To the south lies Stevenson, AL, which is located just west of U S Route 72 on County Road 117. The Tennessee River runs from north to south, east of the park and the city limits of Bridgeport.



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MAP: Sharing stories of the Southeast’s earliest people


A larger, illustrated, cultural and wayfinding map displays park boundaries, trails, parking and picnic areas, and the Gilbert Grosvenor Visitor Center. Large white text spells out Russell Cave National Monument within the park boundaries.  Additional cultural history is presented in white text and described further below. Scale varies in this perspective view.

The map is oriented from the east. County Road 98 heads from south on the left to north on the right. The park is located on the west, or top side, of the road. Park boundaries are shaded in dark green, with outlying areas in lighter green. This two dimensional scene places a mountain range behind the park. The highest elevation from the road to Russell Point is 1654 feet, or 504 meters. The overall aerial oriented view is predominantly tree covered with some flat grassland and private homes along the roadside in the foreground. The map legend displays three different trails in white lettering over green, blue, and brown boxes.

The visitor center is located left of the parking area and picnic tables. A one way looped road curves in front of the visitor center. Leaving the rear of the visitor center, a solid, dark tan line heading left denotes the path entitled “Cave Trail” which dead ends at the shelter. Halfway to the shelter, a right turn leads to a sinkhole where the hiking trails begin.

A light tan dashed line, with many switchbacks, indicates a steeply looped nature trail of 1.2 miles, or 1.9 km, round trip in length.  A 0.2 mile, or 0.3 km, cutoff trail dissects the lower third of the main trail, significantly reducing the hike along a fairly level area within the larger loop.

On the right side of the map, bold white lettering shares the following RELATED TEXT. Sharing stories of the Southeast's earliest people.


Living Descendants of the prehistoric cultures of America’s Southeast include the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Kialegee Tribal Town, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.


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OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

Side two of this collage relies on the science of archaeology which brought Russell Cave’s ancient past to life again during the excavations of the 1950's and 60's. It focuses on the cultural information revealed by the artifacts from each archeological period.

Soil layers, above and below fallen rock from the shelter roof, concealed crucial information left behind by prehistoric cave inhabitants whose stories would be unearthed thousands of years later. Remnants from prehistoric cultures, deposited over time as far as 43 feet down, were discovered. These artifacts were categorized, studied, and placed in context with other objects from the same stratigraphic levels to help unfold mysteries of the past.

Moving down the page, top to bottom, this 5 layer collage moves through the layers of time and reveals stories of ancient people. The deeper we dig, the older the artifacts become. Objects including weapons, tools, pottery, bones, and plant seeds bring to light the changes that occurred throughout four distinct prehistoric periods. The page is set up in a grid, similar to an excavation, with 5 horizontal periods divided by 4 vertical columns of data. Throughout each layer, column headings from left to right labelled Tools of the Hunt, Human Cultures, In the Cave, and World Events offer photos and corresponding text. Illustrations, photos, and text are scattered throughout each segment and are described in the most logical order possible, starting at the top, then left to right within each period. Subsequent layers will be presented in the same format as we move down the page.

The background color graduates in shades of tan, light to medium, from top to bottom. The sub-column entitled Cave Layers, under the heading In the Cave, is graduated in shades of brown. A thin black line separates each period.

There are 17 projectile points displayed on the page. These points are very generally described in their respective periods. More detailed descriptions for each point are provided under a separate tab entitled "IMAGES: In Depth Projectile Point Descriptions", for those with a more avid interest.

Accompanying text for photos and illustrations is provided.

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TEXT: Life Between the Layers

Objects, their depth, and their placement give clues about the people who used Russell Cave. Layer by layer, archeologists unearthed over 100,000 artifacts from four distinct cultural periods covering 10,000 years. Below are examples of what they found and how these everyday items reveal human stories.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Modern

DESCRIPTION LAYER ONE: MODERN, Present – Nearly 500 years ago. 

This segment describes the top, or most current layer of the excavation. Four photos are described within this section.


Tools of the Hunt: On the cave floor, archeologists find modern tools of the hunt, like buckshot and a fishhook. Projectile points (below) are the ancient tools that first drew archeologists to excavate Russell Cave. ALL IMAGES-NPS UNLESS OTHERWISE CREDITED; PENCIL ILLUSTRATIONS – NPS/GREG HARLIN

IMAGE 1 of 4: Buckshot

DESCRIPTION: Two small round musket balls or buckshot are depicted. Their surfaces are grey, worn and striated from firing.

CAPTION: Buckshot.

CREDIT: All images: NPS

IMAGE 2 of 4: Fishhook


A heavily corroded, metal fishhook facing left is displayed. A short eye at the top curves gently to the shank below. The bend is almost perfectly circular. The point is tilted inward with a gap about 1/3 of the diameter of the bend.

CAPTION: Fishhook.

Moving right to the Human Cultures column, two photographs are shown. The first displays an archaeological dig while the other is a portrait of Bettye J. Broyles.

RELATED TEXT: Knowledge Seekers

Archeology is one way modern people may study the past to learn about our world and discover a variety of human stories.

DESCRIPTION IMAGE 3 of 4: Archeological dig

This faded color photo from the late 1950’s displays 7 archeological staff members performing various excavation activities inside the cave shelter. The dig area is divided into grids with yellow and red stakes evenly placed about 3 feet apart in rows. About 28 stakes are visible. Scattered around the dirt floor and ledges are small, portable railroad lanterns offering light inside the dim cave shelter. Strategically placed on the floor between the workers, paper artifact collection bags are sitting on white boards. Moving from left to right, a man is pushing a wheel barrow full of dirt to the right. In front of him, a man in the foreground facing right is pounding stakes in the grid with a hammer. Looking upward in the photo, three men with long handled shovels are digging in trenches near the cave wall where the excavation has begun. The man in the center is depositing soil in a wheelbarrow topped with a sifter, while the two on either side of him are placing the soil in piles in front of them. To the far right in the foreground, a man is kneeling in front of a bucket and is examining or cleaning an artifact. Behind him, another man is bent forward with his left foot on a rock ledge in front of him. He has a long handled shovel on his left side and appears to be looking at something in his right hand. The photo fades in a heavy borderless vignette around the upper and side edges. All are wearing work clothes such as overalls, jeans and long shirts. Two are wearing rimmed hats while others are wearing ball caps. A caption to the right of the photo reads: Before digging, ARCHEOLOGISTS (left) prepare a grid that will help them search squares of earth for evidence of past human presence.

CREDIT: NPS / National Geographic Society

IMAGE 4 of 4: Bettye J. Broyles

DESCRIPTION: A sepia portrait photo of Bettye J. Broyles, portrays her in a seated position, leaning slightly forward. She is looking at the photographer with a half-smile on her face,  which reaches her eyes. Her demeanor is good-humored. She appears to be in her late fifties, or early sixties, and is wearing her long, wavy, salt and pepper hair pinned up above her neck and ears. Her forearms are resting on her lap, and she is holding a white brochure in her hands. She is wearing a dark banded watch on her left wrist. Her long sleeved, mock turtle neck, white knit dress is adorned with a long, chunky necklace which ends in a large, downward facing, horse shoe shaped medallion. She has a name tag pinned to her dress near her right shoulder. The edges of the photo fade out in a heavy borderless vignette cropping all background from view.

CAPTION: Archeologist Bettye J. Broyles (right) published a detailed work on the excavations, which was key to understanding Russell Cave’s history. CREDIT: EASTERN STATES ARCHEOLOGICAL FEDERATION


In the MODERN ERA soft drink bottle caps, sardine tins, tent pegs, broken bits of china and glass, and even 1800s-era buckshot litter the cave.






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IMAGES and TEXT: Mississippian


From left to right, this section displays the following items: Projectile points, a stone hoe, a garden scene, a lamar pottery bowl, a bone needle, a shell ornament, and a map of North and Central America. The last three items are stacked over one another with the bone needle on top and the map under the needle.


Projectile points for spears, darts, arrows, and knives are shaped out of bone, stone, and other material. A point’s style, source, and depth can reveal who used the cave and when.


Three small projectile points are shown on the far left. One is ovate and two are triangular in shape. Distal ends of all three points face right. They are whole, with no chips or defects, and predominantly grey in color. Placed in a triangular pattern, the ovate Guntersville point is on top. Below, side by side from left to right, are the two triangular Madison and Fort Ancient points.

RELATED TEXT: Growing Communities

The MISSISSIPPIANS live in locations based on shared political, agricultural, and spiritual belief systems. Corn is essential for food, cultural exchange, celebration, and spiritual events.

CAPTION ABOVE IMAGE: This STONE HOE from Russell Cave is a non-local trade item used for cultivation.


This is a large, chipped stone hoe with a narrow, notched end, for attachment to a handle. The hafting area is not symmetrical, so each notch is uniquely shaped. One side is deeply indented while the other side has a shallower notch further down the shaft. The working end is facing right. It is significantly wider than the handle end and dull from use. It is ovate in shape, with long, large random flaking over its thick elliptical cross section. The blade edges are randomly and lightly serrated. Its colors are swirled greys and tans in a variegated pattern.

RELATED TEXT: The THREE SISTERS – corn, beans, and squash – are still grown, eaten, and used ceremonially together. ©MOTHER EARTH NEWS/ELAYNE SEARS

DESCRIPTION IMAGE 3 of 7: Three Sisters

An illustration of corn, beans, and squash displays a stand of about 6 corn stalks with beans growing up the stalks. Surrounding the base of the stalks, and branching out to the left, is a thriving group of summer squash. Approximately 6 crookneck like fruits are shown ripening under the scalloped plant leaves. The squashes are ribbed and cast light shadows, like stripes, along the fruit. Tucked between squash leaves are pale yellow blossoms waiting to be pollinated. Corn, beans, and squash plants are shaded in light green. Corn tassels and squash fruits are tan.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION 4 of 7: Lamar Pottery

This side view illustration features a wide, medium sized bowl curving up gradually from the base. The edge of its widest point is pronounced, then curves back in to create a short rim that would prevent spillage. The bowl image is penciled in light grey with two dark brown sherds highlighted in specific locations on the rim. This suggests how the broken pieces were aligned to recreate the bowl’s original shape and size. Both the sherds and the bowl have impressed, or carved line patterns embellishing the rim. The overall cupped bottom of the bowl has a dimpled linen look, as though cloth was pressed against the wet clay before it dried.


IMAGE DESCRIPTION 5 of 7: Bone Needle

A long thick needle is laid out horizontally with the sharp tip on the right and needle eye on the left. It is off white and a shadow lies below it. Its surface is smooth and polished in appearance. The eye is fairly large and might have been big enough for a piece of sinew, thin deer hide or cordage to be threaded.



A vertically hanging long, thin piece of shell with a hole at the top, similar to a long drop earring, is shown. The shell has a shiny iridescent surface and has random ripple patterns similar to an oyster shell. The length of the tapered shell is about 5 times as long as it is wide. There is a very small chip to the right of the drilled hole.


IMAGE DESCRIPTION 7 of 7: Map of North and Central America

This is a taupe color, conceptual map of North and Central America with no borderlines defining boundaries or ownership like modern maps. The majority of the map is placed within the Mississippian layer while the areas we know as Baja California, Mexico, Central America, and Florida blend into the next lower Woodland period section of the brochure. Its purpose is to display trade routes and origins of materials that made their way to Russell Cave. Russell Cave is printed in green next to a box of the same color designating site location. In black text, the words Copper, Shells, and Mica are strategically located on the map depicting their original sources. Copper is located at the Great Lakes, shells are located along the Gulf Coast, and mica is placed around current day North Carolina. Each of these items has a black curved line showing the trade route. The lines all end with an arrow pointing at Russell Cave’s location. Darker brown text is typed in the upper Midwest and Canada which reads: Materials from hundreds of miles away suggest the people using Russell Cave developed TRADE and social networks.


Just below the surface, artifacts suggest people of the Mississippian period use Russell Cave as a hunting camp. In this layer artifacts, like projectile points and potsherds, are more sparse.







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IMAGES and TEXT: Woodland


RELATED TEXT: Smaller points (layer above) suggest the Mississippians used bows and arrows while people of the Archaic period hunted with larger points for the atlatl spears (layer below). Woodland hunters use both.

IMAGE 1 of 6 DESCRIPTION: Arrow and Spear heads

Five grey stone projectile points of varying shapes and sizes, from pentagonal to triangular, are displayed. All have distal ends facing right. They are stacked in the photo in the following order from the top: Jack's Reef Corner Notch, Hamilton, and Copena. Beneath the Copena, the Swan Lake and Camp Creek are placed side by side, left to right respectively. The Jack’s Reef and Hamilton points are the smallest of the five. Jack’s Reef is the lightest in color. The Copena point, centered in the group, is the largest, while the Swan Lake and Camp Creek are medium in size.

RELATED TEXT: Early Farmers

Religion, politics, expanding trade, and agriculture emerge during this time of social and technological change. People live in larger villages, and food resources may be more stable.

IMAGE 2 of 6 DESCRIPTION: Wooden Paddle

A black and white penciled illustration of a paddle lying horizontally is shown. The handle is on the left, and the wider spatula end, which contains a carved design, ends on the right. The design is placed within the widest portion of the paddle. The paddle then tapers slightly to the straight distal end. The design starts with a solid circle in the center surrounded by two outer rings, similar to two separate orbits around a planet. From the center circle, a single stem heads right toward the distal end of the paddle and passes through the two rings. At the junction of the outer ring, three long stems taper out from the top of the circle, like a dissected V. Beneath this sideways apple shaped design, a semicircle curves from the bottom in a clockwise direction about 1/3 the distance of the outer circle. A short, straight line perpendicularly emerges from the bottom semicircle, slightly off center, and points down the paddle handle.

CAPTION: WOODEN paddle with a carved design (above); Swift Creek pottery sherds (right).

IMAGE 3 of 6: Swift Creek pottery sherds

Below and right of the captioned text are two 5 sided pottery sherds dark taupe in color. There is a small piece on the left and a larger piece to its right. The large piece is about 3 times the size of the smaller sherd and the color fades to the right. They are both randomly impressed with the same pattern described on the above paddle.


A stone drill bit, in its current form, is shown inside a brown outline of its assumed original arrowhead shape. The original triangular arrowhead outline is pointing downward with the shaft at the top. The drill bit has ears below the shaft which taper in to a long blade. The outer edges of the original blade points are severely and evenly knapped away to provide a long, sharp, straight bladed drill bit. This is a hand drawn illustration in shades of grey and tan.

CAPTION: People would REPURPOSE broken projectile points, like this one made into a drill bit.


An illustration of a 5 piece wood and stone pump drill is shown. The straight, vertical wood shaft, similar to a dowel, has the center of a long cord attached to the top. The ends of the even cord lengths are attached to the distal ends of a perpendicular pumping stick. The center of the horizontal pumping stick has a hole through which the vertical shaft is placed. A hand is placed on each side of the pumping stick. As the stick is pushed up and down, both sides of the cord twirl around the upper half of the shaft, forcing a sharp, stone drill bit to alternately turn left and right with each stroke. Below the pumping stick, a stone weight, with a hole in its center, is affixed to the shaft creating centrifugal force for its rotation. The shaft passes through the center hole of this spindle whorl also providing weight and stability for the drill assembly. The stem of a long, tapered stone drill bit is fasted at the bottom of the shaft with a cord or sinew. Ears from each side of the drill bit stick out from the side of the shaft. This illustration displays the pump drill in a vertical position as though in use with two hands pumping it. The drawing is colored in shades of monochrome brown.

CAPTION: Stone discs with centered holes are used as weights for PUMP DRILLS and SPINDLE WHORLS.

IMAGE 6 of 6: Chenopodium

This branching plant has alternately placed, long, narrow, toothed leaves which are medium green in color. The ends of the branches contain tightly clustered, small, white to yellow flower spikes. The central stem is thick with a darker greenish brown coloring. The plant depicted is leaning slightly left as though blowing in the wind.

CAPTION: At Russell Cave archeologists find charred remnants of a basket filled with Chenopodium (lamb’s quarters) seeds – one of the first wild PLANTS humans cultivate in North America. CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA


Key archeological finds from the Woodland period provide evidence of new technology, like the manufacture of pottery for cooking and storage of food, the development of the bow and arrow, and increasing agricultural techniques.








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IMAGES and TEXT: Archaic


RELATED TEXT: Digging more deeply takes archeologists further back in history. Russell Cave’s points exhibit how humans chipped weapons over thousands of years.


At the top of this photo collage, a carved bone fishhook, ivory in color, appears very delicate, but in fact is very strong. It appears quite smooth. A deep groove surrounds the lower portion of the eye. The long straight shaft turns in an abrupt “u” shape at the bend. No barb is apparent, but it is finely tapered to a sharp point. The throat length is about one third the length of the entire hook.

Beneath the fishhook, 4 projectile points are placed almost in a square formation with distal ends facing right. The top two, from left to right are labeled Crawford Creek and Morrow Mountain. Beneath them, from left to right are labeled Kirk and Russell Cave. All are roughly triangular in shape, but the Morrow Mountain point has a rounded contracting stem at the base and is the only point that is not serrated along the blade. They are all dark grey in color.

RELATED TEXT: Warming weather and over-hunting contribute to the extinction of the largest Ice Age animals. People use more reliable sources of plants, nuts, and seeds for food; hides for clothing, shelter, and containers; bones for tools, game pieces, and adornments; and domesticated dogs for hunting.

IMAGE 2 of 6 Grinding and nutting STONES

A color photo of two mottled tan stones is shown. The bottom stone is large and nearly square with a flat top and roughly chipped sides. The top, working side of the stone is smooth and almost polished from use. Resting on top is a smooth, large egg shaped stone which would fit nicely in the palm of your hand. The bottom is flat and lays securely on the larger stone below.

CAPTION: Grinding and nutting STONES



DESCRIPTION: A shaded grey penciled illustration of the rear of a woman’s head is shown. Her head is facing slightly to the right showing her right ear, jawline, cheekbone, eye socket and tip of her nose. Her hair is coiled into a knotted bun and held in place with two long tan colored bone pins. The pins are crossed in an X through the bun with the tips pointing downward on the right. The wider ends on the upper left have notched edges.

CAPTION: BONE hairpins



Bright green twisted strands of fresh yucca leaves are laying on a 45 degree angle with the lower corded end on the left and the uncorded leaves spraying up and to the right. The long strand has been tightly twisted together to create a thick rope like cord.

CAPTION: Corded YUCCA fibers


RELATED TEXT: An ATLATL is used to throw projectiles like spears or darts at a longer range and a higher velocity.

DESCRIPTION: Pictured is a shaded grey pencil illustration of a male or female left forearm extending up from the elbow. The arm passes through two sections of the brochure starting with the elbow in the Paleo period below this segment, and the wrist and hand in the Archaic section. Three fingers, pinky through middle finger are wrapped around the handle of an atlatl. The index finger and thumb are pointed up with finger tips holding a spear. The long spear covers the entire distance of the collage scene, and the triangular projectile point is heading left. The atlatl handle is bone colored with a hide strap pulled through a hole and draped around the throwers hand. Random lined etchings have been carved into the handle from a sharp tipped tool. The atlatl shaft has a sharply hooked end that dips inside the hollow end of the spear. A dark grey stone counterweight, with a flat side touching the atlatl shaft, is tied on with straps. The opposite side of the weight is curved and tapered toward both ends to the shaft.



A color illustration of a whittled bone awl is shown with the point facing left. Its coloring is tan, with darker mottling near the tip, which appears very sharp and thin. The right side, where it would be held, is significantly thicker. The top is straight across. From the widest end, right to left, the bone slants sharply down in about a 30 degree angle, then the bottom gently tapers back to the tip.



Most of Russell Cave’s use occurs during the ARCHAIC period. At this depth, archeologists find points to hunt deer, turkey, squirrel, bobcat, bear, and other nearby forest animals. They also find stones used to process food, grind seeds, and crack nuts.








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RELATED TEXT: Found at the deepest level excavated, these oldest and biggest stone points date back to the Paleo-Indians.

IMAGE 1 of 8 DESCRIPTION: Five Projectile Points

A color photo of five medium to large spear points are in a vertical line, labelled as follows: Greenbriar Dalton, Allen, Dalton, Stanfield, and Beaver Lake. Of the 5, the Stanfield point stands out in size and shape. It is long and narrow, similar to an isosceles triangle, and dwarfs the length of the others. The rest are medium sized, pentagonal, or ovate. All are grey, except Beaver Lake, which appears to be mainly cream colored with a small section of grey on one ear. All are pointing with distal ends to the right.

RELATED TEXT: First Inhabitants. Paleo-Indians settle in the area. They hunt peccary and porcupine; fish in nearby rivers; and forage for berries, nuts, and edible roots.

IMAGE 2 of 8 DESCRIPTION Bark Basket

A color photograph of a brown bark basket strapped together, is shown. The basket is laying on its flattest side with the opening on the left. The side facing us is stitched together with straps, of an unknown material, which pass through holes near the seam edges. The holes are poked in three locations: near the top, in the center and at the base. The straps are pulled through in a randomly stitched pattern. The top of the basket has a rim of lighter inner bark which is laced all the way around in similar fashion. The outside of the basket is rough with deeply grooved bark ridges. It is somewhat conical in shape and comes to a blunt point at the bottom.

CAPTION: This poplar bark BASKET recreates a technique Paleo-Indians might have used.

IMAGE 3 of 7 DESCRIPTION: Original Roof

The first of two side by side sepia color illustrations, shows a double entrance to the horizontally fractured limestone cave. The entrances are separated by a pillar of the same cracked material. Only a small portion of the left side is shown since these drawings focus on the shelter side. A ledge juts forward producing an overhang, making this roofline lower than the left side. Both entrances are at the same grade level.

RELATED TEXT: Russell Cave’s original roof may have looked like this before the collapse

The second image, to the immediate right, shows the ledge collapsed in front of the cave shelter. The newly fallen, large boulders raise the grade level on the right side. The overhead roof line now almost matches the left side. The boulders have created a barrier to the shelter entrance. A shadow in front of the left entrance indicates a depression in the ground.

RELATED TEXT: Russell Cave’s collapsed roof raised the floor, making the cave cool, dry, and habitable.



This is a brown monochrome illustration of a peccary, having a strong resemblance to a pig. It has a large head with a long circular snout which begins at the forehead. The eyes are small relative to head size. Its body is covered in long, coarse hair, and has a heavier, darker bristly hair surrounding its neck and head. The face and snout has short hair. The body is large in comparison to its spindly legs. In this rendition, its mouth is partially open revealing a few bottom teeth. The ear shown is small and almost rectangular in shape, standing upright behind the jawline. It is facing to the right in the picture and has a body shadow underneath where it is standing.

RELATED TEXT: Peccary, or javelina, is a pig-like animal now EXTINCT to the Russell Cave area.

IMAGE 5 OF 7 DESCRIPTION Peccary teeth

Two tan and brown teeth are illustrated side by side. The blocky teeth are almost molar in appearance with spear like points facing downward. A front view of the tooth is shown on the left and a side view is shown on the right.


IMAGE 6 OF 7 DESCRIPTION Second Excavation

Displayed as a watermark, this faded sepia photograph shows a tiered cutaway view of the cave’s second excavation. At the bottom of the pit, two people are using sticks as levers to lift up a large rectangular boulder. On their right, above them, there is a pole light shining down. Moving upward to the next level, on the left, an individual appears to be seated cross legged on a ledge facing a cutaway. Above this seated person, a man is standing facing the tiered wall emptying a shovel onto a ledge in front of him. Above him, others are standing at various levels as the photo quickly in a heavy borderless vignette into the overall background of the brochure.

CAPTION: Russell Cave’s second EXCAVATION



The final photo in this section is a smoky grey colored stone scraper. The right edges are blotched in an opaque tan. It is flintknapped similar to a projectile point, but it uniquely shaped. The stone appears very sharp around the edges of the piece, and a large chunk is flaked off the face. Overall, the shape is oval with a short handle-like stem slanting slightly upward on the left. This may be intended as a handle, or a section below may have broken off causing the irregular shape.




Archeologists find that people during the Paleo period may have used the cave as a shelter or hunting camp. The first occupants may have arrived at least 10,000 years ago.


Dalton points are found on the fallen rock of Russell Cave’s roof collapse.


Archeologists reach the water table—over four stories below the cave floor.

300 million years ago Russell Cave’s sedimentary rock forms in a tropical sea.







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IMAGES: In Depth Projectile Point Descriptions

17 projectile points are described in this section starting with the most recent, Mississippian period, to the oldest, Paleo period. They are described as they appear on the brochure and may not exactly match typical text book descriptions of the same named points.  

IMAGE 1 of 17 Description: Guntersville

Beginning with the Mississippian period points, this blade is excurvate, curving at the tip and becoming parallel at the hafting area. The cross-section is biconvex. Its widest point is at the midsection, and distal end is acute. The basal edge is straight and thinned. Broad, shallow, random, flaking appears on the face with fine secondary flaking along the blade edges and sides of the hafting area. Short flakes were removed to thin the basal edge.

IMAGE 2 of 17 Description: Madison

This is a thin, small, triangular point with a flattened cross section. The blade is primarily straight with a slight incurvate edge approaching the basal end. The edges are smooth and forms an isosceles triangle, (half as wide as the height). The base is slightly concaved with some basal thinning. The flaking pattern is random.

IMAGE 3 of 17 Description: Fort Ancient

This is a small, fairly thick serrated triangular point with an elliptical cross section. The blade is slightly incurvate, long and narrow with moderate serrations. The base is primarily straight with a concave lip on its right side and basal thinning. This point has a high degree of workmanship and a random flaking pattern.

IMAGE 4 of 17 Description: Jack’s Reef Corner Notch

Moving into the Woodland period, as it’s name indicates, this broad, thin small corner notch point is almost pentagonal in shape. This particular point is almost as wide as it is long. The cross section is primarily flattened. The blade is excurvate and its shoulders end with short thin barbs. The stem is expanding and base is slightly concaved. Basal thinning and smoothing is present. This point has a random flaking pattern.

IMAGE 5 of 17 Description: Hamilton

This is a thin small triangular point with a flattened cross section and is almost perfectly symmetrical. The blade is straight, mildly serrated, and forms an isosceles triangle, but flairs outward to the base. The base is concave with basal thinning. This has a random flaking pattern.

IMAGE 6 of 17 Description: Copena

This is a medium to large lanceolate point. It is long, narrow and tapered. The blade is predominately straight with a straight base. It is nearly symmetrical. This point has broad shallow random flaking and the edges are touched up with fine pressure flaking.

IMAGE 7 of 17 Description: Swan Lake:

A thick, small, triangular expanding stem point with an excurvate blade. Wide parallel notches are shallow and form a shoulder with an upward angle and an expanding stem. The base is convex. This point has a random flaking pattern and is crudely made.

IMAGE 8 of 17 Description: Camp Creek

This is a medium triangular point with an elliptical cross section. The blade is primarily straight, with a very mild concave base and some basal thinning. This point has a random flaking pattern with little to no fine flaking quality.

IMAGE 9 of 17 Description: Morrow Mountain

This is the first of four Mississippian period points. It is a medium triangular point with a convex stem. The cross section is elliptical. The blade is excurvate and is broad with the widest portion above the shoulders. The shoulders primarily slope upwards, but there is a well defined barb on the left side of this point. The right side barb may be worn or chipped off. The stem is short and broad with a convex base. This point has a random flaking pattern.

IMAGE 10 of 17 Description: Crawford Creek

This is a small to medium expanding stem point with an elliptical cross section. The blade is primarily straight with fine serration. The left shoulder curves slightly upward while the right shoulder is straight. The stem expands to a straight base with basal thinning. This point has a random flaking pattern.

IMAGE 11 of 17 Description: Kirk

This is a medium stemmed point with an elliptical cross section. The blade is thick, straight, and serrated. This particular blade has one pronounced barb on the right shoulder while the left side slopes more gently to the stem. The stem is short and slightly expands to a concave base. This point has a random flaking pattern.

IMAGE 12 of 17 Description: Russell Cave

This is a medium, expanded stem point with straight blade edges that are shallowly serrated. The side edges of the stem are incurvate, and the basal edge is straight. The point has broad, random flaking patterns.

IMAGE 13 of 17 Description: Greenbriar Dalton

The first of the Paleo period spear points to be described is a medium to large projectile form which has pointed ears projecting from the concave base. The cross section is rhomboid with excurvate blades up to the hafting area. This blade is chipped on the left corner of the base. The blades are finely serrated. Notches are broad and shallow, forming weak shoulders at an upward slope. The flaking pattern is random.

IMAGE 14 of 17 Description: Allen

This is a medium, pentagonal lanceolate point with a thin elliptical cross section. The right side of this point is damaged reducing the symmetry of the piece. The intact, left side, has sharp edges from the point tip down the blade. The shaft is fairly long and straight, while the damaged side has rough edges. The base is deeply concave. The flaking pattern on the left side is parallel oblique, but additional surface damage to the body of this point makes the flaking pattern appear random.

IMAGE 15 of 17 Description: Dalton

This is a medium to large point having rounded or pointed ears projecting from the concave base. The cross section is elliptical. The blade is primarily excurvate and lightly serrated, but lacks beveling. The flaking pattern appears random.

IMAGE 16 of 17 Description: Stanfield

This is a large point with long, straight blades. The blade is formed with collateral flaking forming a median ridge one to two thirds of the length of the blade, from the acute distal end. The basal edge is flat and thinned.

IMAGE 17 of 17 Description: Beaver Lake

This is a medium sized point. The blade is outward recurvate from the distal end, narrowing at the waist and flaring out towards the base. The base is concave. Flaking pattern is random. This point is damaged near the left tip and does not come to a sharp point at the distal end.

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