A new home is going up near the Mississippi River bluff, but unlike many upscale homes near the river, this one won't have a three-car garage or a pool and patio.
The re-created prehistoric home planned for the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa will be a modest 40 square feet with a central hearth and benches lining the walls. The museum is launching its fund-raising campaign next month to finance the $35,000 construction.
"The house will be built on top of the large platform mound," said museum director and University of Memphis anthropology professor Robert Connolly. "We know, in pre-history, there were actually two of them there based on post-mold patterns. We're doing this reconstruction to give visitors an idea of what the site would have looked like."
The Chucalissa site in South Memphis is home to several prehistoric Native American ceremonial and burial mounds dating between 1,000 and 1,500 A.D., a time known as the Mississippian period. The platform mound was likely home to a counsel house or "big man's house," according to Connolly.
"We don't know what tribe was there, because there was so much movement of Native Americans," Connolly said.
Unlike past reconstructions on the Chucalissa site, this one will be historically accurate and made from sustainable materials. In the 1960s, a series of homes were built on the property, but Connolly said they did not represent of what prehistoric homes would have looked like.
Those constructions fell into disrepair, and the last home was torn down in the late 1990s. Currently, there are no prehistoric homes on the Chucalissa site, so visitors see bare mounds in the area behind the C.H. Nash Museum building.
"We've been kicking around the idea of building new ones since the last houses were torn down, but we've got to build them to be sustainable. We don't want to have them fall apart again like the last time," Connolly said.
Although prehistoric homes would have been built from mud and straw, those materials won't be used in this reconstruction.
"We're going to use modern materials, but we're using the same construction techniques," said Ronald Brister, president of Friends of Chucalissa. "Instead of mud, we'll use concrete. Instead of straw, we'll use a plastic reconstruction straw."
Construction on the platform mound home should be complete by the end of 2012, and Brister said there are plans to erect a second building of the same size on the mound in the next two years.
In the next five years, they hope to complete eight to 10 smaller houses in what would have been the village area around the mounds.
The Friends group will begin raising money for the first home's construction at its annual Chefs and Chiefs dinner at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa on Sunday, November 13th, from 4 to 7 p.m.
The event features fine wines paired with food prepared by local chefs, a silent auction, and tours of the museum.Information can be found at chucalissafriends.com.