A sandy terrace across the Clinch River from Dungannon was home to Native Americans 8,000 years ago. In 1977, an archaeological dig unearthed signs of a palisaded village that disappeared for unknown reasons around 1600 AD.
Native American Settlement
The Flanary Archaeological Site is ideally suited for prehistoric habitation. The natural levee floods frequently today, but was probably high and dry when Native Americans inhabited the spot. Here, the Clinch River turns shallow and broad, allowing for safe and easy access to the other side of the water as well as a perfect opportunity to harvest mussels, fish, turtles and aquatic birds. The nearby hills supplied unlimited supplies of firewood, fibers, nuts and berries, as well as large populations of deer and other game. Many spots nearby also offered high quality clay that could be used to make pottery, as well as rocks to be turned into tools.
Evidence suggests that Native American groups camped on and inhabited the spot intermittently for the last 8,000 years. A more permanent palisaded village was erected during the Woodland Mississippian period, around 900 AD. Evidence of a palisade, circular house, and ceramics have been found on the spot, along with an intact skeleton, but the extent of the settlement is unknown since only a small portion of the site was excavated.
No one knows when or why the palisaded village was abandoned. It may have been occupied as late as 1600 AD, but when Dr. Thomas Walker explored the area in 1750, he reported no Indian occupants in what are now Scott and Lee Counties. Later, a cabin was built on the spot in 1764, forming the nucleus for European settlement of the area.
History of the Dig
When a new bridge was planned to cross the Clinch River near Dungannon in 1977, archaeologists got involved. The fields in the area had been known by local relic-collectors as prime artifact territory, and periwinkle shells, marine shell beads and potsherds regularly turned up in the area after floods. Archaeologists dug test plots throughout the area to be affected by the highway and determined that the primary Native American site was downstream and out of harm’s way.