Old Stone Fort, Tennessee
Hilltop Fort/Enclosure • Hopewell
By Dr. Greg Little
Portions of this article come from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Native American Mounds & Earthworks
The Old Stone Fort is located in a well-maintained Tennessee State Park west of Manchester, TN on U.S. Highway 41. There is a museum at the site. The structure consists of a 54-acre flat hilltop, roughly oblong in shape, elevated along steep bluffs of the Big and Little Duck Rivers. It is encircled by a stonewall extending for 4,600 feet along the edges of the bluffs. Old Stone Fort is the most complex hilltop enclosure in the South. It is known to be associated with the Hopewell Culture and at least 50 similar structures can be found in Ohio, New York, Georgia, and other states. The walls vary in height from 4 to 6 feet but may have been the foundation for a palisade wall. Excavations show that the enclosure was used over a long time period from about A.D. 1-400. Charcoal found in one of the stonewalls was radiocarbon dated to A.D. 30-430. Numerous large village areas, considered to be “Woodland” or Hopewell era, have been found nearby but not within the enclosure leading many archaeologists to suggest that it was used for ceremonial purposes rather than as a defensive fortress. The actual purpose remains an unsettled argument. At the northeast opening into the structure the wall forms what looks like a complicated entryway similar to a bastion facing to the inside. It can be described as a complicated L-shape entrance. There are several conical burial mounds, called “pedestal mounds,” located inside the entrance.