A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Off the Grid
Volume 64 Number 5, September/October 2011
The Tchefuncte (pronounced "cha-FUNK-tuh") River Lighthouse is a historic structure that sits on Lake Pontchartrain near the mouth of the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville, Louisiana, 45 miles north of New Orleans. Built in 1837 to help guide boat traffic into the river, it has survived the Civil War (though it was rebuilt), hurricanes, age, and a movement to automation. This key piece of Louisiana's nautical history is still in operation, but the land it sits on is also of great interest. Andrea White of the Greater New Orleans Archaeology Program at the University of New Orleans recently conducted the first archaeological testing at the site.
The site and archaeology
"The area around the lighthouse has been poorly understood archaeologically until very recently," says White. Though the landscape has been heavily disturbed by water and weather, the team found archaeological evidence spanning more than 2,000 years of occupation—from the early twentieth century, when the site included a keeper's cottage, back into prehistory, when Native Americans used it as a seasonal camp to harvest shellfish and other aquatic species. The finds included bone buttons, pottery, and stone tools and points. Among them was a hand-painted sherd with a Dutch maritime motif, which may have belonged to Harry Brouwer, lighthouse keeper from 1918 to 1920, who was born in the Netherlands.
While you are there