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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Objects from the Tiller Mound, Southeastern Arkansas in the Collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Southeast
Associated Cultures: Tunica-Biloxi

This report provides an inventory and assessment of the cultural affiliation of the human remains and objects in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from Arkansas that are potentially affiliated with the Tunica-Biloxi Indians of Louisiana. The report documents human remains in 44 catalog numbers in the Physical Anthropology Division and represents a minimum of 36 individuals.  All of these remains were collected by Edward Palmer under the auspices of the Smithsonian’s Bureau of American Ethnology Mound Exploration Project. They were removed from the Tillar Mound site (3DR1) in southeastern Arkansas in late November of 1882. The remains were accessioned by the museum in 1882 as part of accession number 14255 and were transferred to the Army Medical Museum (AMM) where they were accessioned in 1884. The remains were transferred back to the museum in 1898 as part of accession 33553 and in 1904 as part of accession 42109. 

The objects found in the Tillar Mound by Edward Palmer that were sent to the Smithsonian were originally cataloged by the Bureau of American Ethnology and were accessioned in 1882 as part of accession number 14255 and have been placed in 32 catalog numbers. Some of the objects can be seen in the drawings made by H. J. Lewis who participated in Palmer’s excavations. Of the objects present, there are 19 complete vessels and 91 sherds, some of which have been reconstructed from two or more pieces. A single lithic item was collected, a spade of Mill Creek chert.  Faunal material includes freshwater mussel shell, box tortoise, an unidentifiable species of deer, and an unidentified mammal. The freshwater mussel pieces consist of 16 fragments.  The pieces of box tortoise consist of one complete shell, one shell broken into four pieces and one shell fragment. One deer antler is present. One mammal bone is present, but could not be identified as to species. 

The individuals responsible for the Tillar complex and the ancestors of the Tunica Tribe are identified through archaeological evidence as being Tunican. The historical ancestry of the Tunican groups cannot be traced into the protohistoric period. The Tillar complex may be ancestral to one or more of the Tunican tribes, but not enough detail is known to determine positively that a relationship of shared group identity exists between the Tillar complex and a specific Tunican tribe. A distinct relationship of shared group identity cannot be traced between the Tillar complex and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. A cultural relationship may exist, but this is not sufficient to recommend repatriation. It is recommended that these remains in 44 catalog numbers and funerary objects in 32 catalog numbers be retained by the NMNH. Should new evidence come to light, the NMNH will reconsider this evaluation. 

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