Pisgah Phase

Pisgah Phase (A.D. 1000~1500) having a 14,000 square miles region in the South Appalachian Geologic province. On the rim of the region during the earlier phase, the sites were occupied for rather short periods with the interior of the region having sites occupied throughout the phase. Between about A.D. 1000 and 1250, the region of northestern Tennessee, western North Carolina and northwestern South Carolina was a subregional development (Keel, a "Paper") of an indigenous culture whom incorporated characteristics from the Mississippian culture. (Geier 1992 Pp.284-285). The villages ranged from about a quarter of an acre to six acres which complexity and cultural pattern does not compare in size to the Mississippian in the south and west (Dickens; also Purrington 1983 Pp. 145-147). However, the Mississippian cultural pattern influence was as far north as Lee County, Virginia, and south to Oconee County, South Carolina (Dickens, 1976 Pp.211)


The houses of the Pisgah Phase were about 20 feet square, tending to be rectagular. The floors had a raised hearth in the center (Mails Pp. 35) The walls were either bark or woven mats lashed to upright posts. It is not clear if the roofs were thatched straw or bark covered. Around the houses within the palisade were common burials, fire pits and clay deposits used for storage pits and some as fire pits. There is evidence of smaller structures near the houses which are thought to be storage cribs and sweat houses. A larger counsel house fronted the homes surrounding the central plaza opposite the village entrance. These villages were palisaded and the earlier ones had an off-set entrance facing the stream (Mails Pp. 35).


There are three types of burials for Pisgah Phase. These are side-chamber pits, central-chamber pits and simple pits. High ranking adults and infants were placed within the side-chamber location in a loose-flex positon with the head towards the west. The adult's back and fore heads were apparently artificially flatten during their youth. The infant's grave objects included calumella shell beads, shell gorgets and perforated marginella shells. The adult graves also had shell ear pins, turtle-shell rattles, shell bowels and perferated animal bones bones. Included within certain graves in some sites show a social ranking having stone, clay, bone, shell and wood artifacts (Mails Pp 36).


Pisgah ceramics were similar to the northern Iroquois area as to Complicated Stamped designs. The similarity is noted by collared jar rims being punctated. The complicated stamping designs was found to be like Etowah of the Piedmont region and Hiwassee Island designs of the Ridge and Valley province (King). Bolder check stamping becomes a minority style and some having rectilinear motifs, some curvilinear towards the end of the phase. To the most part, these became more common on the Blue Ridge basins of western North Carolina and northwestern South Carolina after A.D. 1250. The following period, called Qualla Phase pottery, is found to be the result of the Lamar and Pisgah merging culture's life styles appearing about A.D. 1450. (Keel, 1976 Pp 312 pp.) This was leading to one of the region's historic nations, the Cherokee Nation.

Stone Industry

Chronological position

The Pisgah Phase is a part of the Southern Appalachian Summit Archaeology which includes the following chronology:
  • Archaic occupation B.C. 7500~4300)
  • Morrow Mountain Phas (ca.4300~2500B.C.)
  • Savannah River Phase (ca.2500~750B.C.)
  • Swannanoa Phase (ca.750~150B.C.)
  • Pigeon Phase (ca. 200B.C.~A.D.100)
  • Connestee Phase (A.D.~150~1000)
  • Pisgah Phase (A.D. 1000~1500)
  • Qualla Phase (ca. A.D.1500 to Historic).



  • "The Cherokee People: The Story of the Cherokees from Earliest Origins", By Thomas E. Mails, Published 1992, Council Oak Books, Pp. 35, 36 ISBN:0933031459

  • Cherokee Prehistory, The Pisgah Phase in the Appalachian Summit Region, Roy Dickens, Jr., University of Tennessee Press, 1976

  • The Cherokee Nation, A Troubled History, by Duane King, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville

  • Cherokee Archaeology, A Study of the Appalachian Summit, by Keel, Bennie C., Paper ISBN: 0-87049-546-1 Library of Congress No.: LC 75-41444 Copyright Year: 1976 312 pp., Illustrations, Professor Keel received the Ph.D. in anthropology from Washington State University.

  • Prehistory of the Upper Cumberland River Drainage in the Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee Border Region by Jonathan P. Kerr © 1996-2001 Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc
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