Baseball Trumps History in Nashville
Nashville’s Minor League Baseball team is expected to start the 2015 season on a brand new ball field, but the $65 million stadium is being constructed on top of layers of history.
The team broke ground in January at the site of the historic Sulphur Dell Park, which was built in 1885 and hosted Negro and Minor League Baseball teams until 1963. History runs much deeper in this city, however. Below the remains of the original ballpark—and beneath layers of landfill—is part of what anthropologists call “Ancient Nashville.”
A piece of that early metropolis was uncovered during construction, offering a rare peek at a Native civilization dating from 1150 or 1250 A.D.
“It was a thriving population, in the thousands, with dozens of villages and a number of large towns,” said Kevin Smith, director of Middle Tennessee State University’s anthropology program. “The biggest was underneath where Nashville is now.”
Smith believes as many as 15,000 people once lived in the area, or twice Nashville’s population in 1820—10 years after it was incorporated.
The Cumberland Valley attracted civilizations because of a big salt stream that ran through the center, Smith said. People built workshops near the creek and extracted salt by boiling the water or letting it evaporate in the sun.
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