A May 2005 trip
to Bridgeport by J. Stephen
Quote: For almost 9,000 years, Russell Cave in northeastern Alabama was used for human habitation. This well preserved site offers one of the longest and most complete archeological records in the eastern United States.
Russell Cave National Monument was established May 11, 1961, with the cave and surrounding 310 acres.
Attraction | "Ancient History at Russell Cave"
Most groups using the cave would probably have numbered 15 to 30. They were likely extended families. Various styles of spear and arrow points tell archeologists that it was inhabited by different bands over the centuries. Twenty-four burials have been found in the cave, ranging from an infant to a 40- to 50-year-old woman.
The inhabitants of Russell cave used the abundant resources of the land around them. The wildlife they hunted, except for the porcupine and the peccary - are still found in the area today: deer, turkey, black bear, turtle, raccoon squirrel, and other small animals. They took fish from the nearby Tennessee River. Their staples were nuts, acorns, roots, wild fruits, and seeds. They also did some primitive gardening, raising goosefoot, a small flowering plant with edible seeds.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 25, 2005
Russell Cave National Monument
3729 County Road 98
Bridgeport, Alabama 35740
Attraction | "An Extensive Cavern"
The cavern has been found to be one of the more extensive cave systems in Alabama, with over 10 miles of currently known passageways. Entrance into cave passages, except on the walkways around the archeological exhibit, is allowed by permit only.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 25, 2005
Attraction | "Russell Cave Visitor Center"
The exhibits in the small museum at the Visitors Center are definitely worth a close inspection. Of the thousands of southeast Archaic sites, this is one of the best preserved. The Archaic era, beginning at the tail end of the last ice age (about 8,000 B.C.) is when the basic foundation for American Indian culture was laid.
Archeological evidence indicates that the earliest users of Russell Cave were actually at the transitional stage between Paleo and Archaic. During the Paleo period early man depended to a great extent on hunting large animals. In other words, people we usually think of as primitive "Cave Men" once inhabited this spot. Some regard it as the oldest house in America.
Both the National Monument and the Visitors Center are open daily from 8am-5pm, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Note that the Monument is in the Central Standard time zone, unlike nearby Chattanooga which follows Eastern Time.
Admission is free, courtesy of the American taxpayer.
Attraction | "Russell Cave Nature Trails"
Other than the boardwalk which leads to the cave, the only hiking opportunity in Russell Cave National Monument is a 1.2-mile loop trail through the oak-hickory forest above the cave. Parts of this trail are steep so we would classify it as moderate to strenuous. Points along the trail feature plants used for food, tools, and other everyday necessities by the cave's inhabitants.
Hikers are advised to stay on the trail and not take shortcuts. On the mountainside there are hidden dropoffs, sinkholes, and other natural hazards.
Attraction | "Outdoor Educational Exhibits"
For hundreds of generations, Russell Cave has drawn American Indians. The artifacts they left behind tell the story of the cave. It is difficult to make generalizations about how the cave was used over so long a period of time. During the ebb and flow of habitation some users seem to have been year-round family groups while others were nomadic hunting parties.
As archeologists dug down to the deepest artifacts, more than 30 feet below the cave's present floor, they traced the emergence of pottery more than 2,000 years ago, introduction of the bow and arrow, increasing sophistication of tools and weapons, and growing trade with other people for tools and ceremonial goods.