Irene was occupied primarily during the Middle Mississippian period (A.D. 1100-1350) but also was occupied in the Late Mississippian period (A.D. 1350-1600). Although the date is uncertain, it likely had been abandoned before Europeans began visiting the coast of Georgia. Mound sites like Irene were quite common in the Georgia Piedmont but rare on the Georgia coast. While it is certain that its residents grew corn and beans, such coastal resources as fish and shellfish were also clearly vital to their economy.
The Irene site was perched directly on the bank of the Savannah River and bounded on two sides by Pipemakers
The Irene site is now best interpreted as a Chiefly Compound, a special location normally inhabited only by a chief and his family, wives, and children. Thus the total full-time resident population may have been as few as thirty to forty people. The compound also served as a social center for all the other families that lived nearby, likely in individual farmsteads. The rotunda served for much of the society as a meeting place where issues of the day could be discussed. It is likely that the site also functioned as a gathering place for parties and celebrations by much of the population.
Joseph Caldwell and Catherine McCann, Irene Mound Site, Chatham County, Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1941).
Cheryl Claassen, "Black and White Women at Irene Mound," Grit-Tempered: Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States, ed. Nancy Marie White, Lynne P. Sullivan, and Rochelle A. Marrinan (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999).
Gail Whalen and Michael E. Price, "The Elusive Women of Irene: The WPA Excavation of a Savannah Indian Mound," Georgia Historical Quarterly 82 (fall 1998): 608-26.
Mark Williams, University of Georgia
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