Friday, December 12, 2008

African Diaspora Archaeology Network Newsletter

The December 2008 issue of the newsletter is available online now.

The December's newsletter features articles and essays by Mark P. Leone, John Michael Vlach, Christopher N. Mathews, J. O. Aleru, K. Adekola, and Charlotte King; news reports and announcements; and book reviews by Liza Gijanto, Kevin M. Bartoy, Kenneth G. Kelly, Deb Rotman, and Jessica Zimmer.

LCHA Archaeology Volunteer Program

The Lincoln County Historical Association is implementing a new volunteer program for the archaeology department. Lincoln County is a rich and diverse area to study for past human occupation. This program will include activities such as lab night, fieldwork, and research opportunities. Archaeology involves a great deal of planning and patience, so there are many opportunities for public involvement.

The organization has several ongoing projects that are the focus for the current research. The first archaeology camps were held this past summer, and there is a need for volunteers to work on artifact processing for the Ramsour’s Mill Battlefield and Historic Woodside. In addition, upcoming projects include a Native American Mississippian site, and three other possible historic sites in eastern Lincoln County. The activities planned for the upcoming year are going to allow for field-walking exercises, digging and testing, recording techniques, artifact washing and identification training, and further extended research.

The program will to start with an ongoing “lab night” session once a week from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the evening, with the specific day to be decided. Other activities are available in the lab throughout the week during daytime hours, and fieldwork is something typically performed on the weekends.

All activities are available to ages 12 and up. The organization is accepting feedback in regard to interest in this specific program. Interested persons should contact the LCHA located at the Lincoln County Cultural Center, in downtown Lincolnton, NC. The volunteer program is starting in the coming year, so contact the LCHA about specific interests. Please contact January W. Porter at (704) 748-9090 or

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shipwreck clues could clear Blackbeard of sinking his ship to swindle his crew

Interesting article on the new perceptions about the sinking of Blackbeard's ship.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

1890’s Christmas in Heritage Village (EVENT)

Experience Christmas as Gaston County farmers and mill workers did in the 1890’s. Learn what the blacksmith did during the winter, listen to popular mill songs of the time, look at the way farm and mill homes were decorated, enjoy hot cider and cookies while singing along to Christmas carols in the Chapel, and perhaps take a carriage ride. Children will receive historically accurate commemorations of their visit.

Sponsored by Gaston County Parks and Recreation and the Gaston County Historical Preservation Commission.

Thursday, December 4, 2008, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Dallas Park
1303 Dallas Cherryville Hwy
Dallas, NC 28034

Gigantic Shell is Roadside Attraction

Check out this link on the preservation of an original Shell Gas Station, right here in North Carolina. This is a great example of what professionals are doing with historic preservation, and how structures do not have to look "really old" to be considered a treasure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A History of Catawba Pottery (presentation)

Nov. 8, 2008

A History of Catawba Pottery, presentation and lecture by Dr. Thomas Blumer; Display featuring examples of Catawba clay work will be on display during the preceding week. LaVonne Nalley Piper Auditorium, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Free.

Located at the corner of Hwy. 178 at 307 Johnson Street in Pickens SC, the Pickens County Museum is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Admission is free but donations are welcomed. For more information, please call the museum at (864) 898-5963 or email

Thursday, October 30, 2008

SC Announcement


The first 40 years of the Archaeological Society of South Carolina's journal, South Carolina Antiquities is now available on DVD for FREE (to new or renewing 2009 members). If you don't want to join copies can be obtained for $25.

Individual and student memberships are $20 and $15 respectively. See out web site for further membership options and for an order form / application ( - click on “Publications”).

Articles focus on South Carolina and the Southeast. Contributors range from non-professionals to some of the leaders in the field. Articles run the gamut from discussions of hunter-gatherers to modern city dwellers.

Contact Carl Steen for more information: E-mail:

To order send a check (and application) made out to the ASSC to:

Carl Steen
PO Box 50394
Columbia SC 29250.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Indian settlement saved from development with Land Trust purchase

This is a great news story on a site in South Carolina. I had the opportunity to observe the artifacts recovered from archaeological excavations at the site a few years back. The site was proposed for development, but instead will be protected as a natural preserve. Please follow the link and check it out. It just shows that archaeologists are accomplishing some great things!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Historic Preservation Group on Ning...the Lincoln County Historical Association

Our organization has a newly created site in addition to our other sites. Please visit at to become a member:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Standing On A Box

Standing on a Box (Exhibit)
Lewis Hine's National Child Labor Committee
Photography Gaston County, 1908

A multi-part community project exploring Greater Gaston's early twentieth-century textile heritage and its influence on our present and future.

Please check out the link for further details and dates.

Presented By:Gaston County Public Library, Gaston County Museum of Art & History, Preservation North Carolina, Gaston Arts Council, Friends of the Gaston County Public Library, Gaston County Historic Preservation Commission, Levine Museum of the New South, The Gaston Gazette.

Annual ASSC Fall Field Day

ASSC and Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site present:

"Historic Indian Trade and Colonial Interactions"On October 25th, 2008, between 10am and 4pm Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site will host the ASSC's 21th Annual Fall Field Day. Visit their web site for maps and more info:

Join the Archaeological society of South Carolina, Inc. for the 21st Annual Archaeology Field Day at Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site near Summerville, South Carolina. Event begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. Colonial Dorchester offers a wonderful setting to discover the past. Its tabby fort ruins and the brick bell tower of St. George's Anglican Church set a historic atmosphere and its archaeological record offers a window into village life from 1697 until the American Revolution.

The theme for this year's event will focus on Historic Indian Trade and Colonial Interactions. The Society's goal is to educate the public about the past that can be found beneath their feet by offering presentations and demonstrations, which bring life to the archaeological record and show the human side of history. While the theme, Historic Indian Trade and Colonial Interactions is our focus, presentations and demonstrations will not be limited to this subject.

There will be other technological demonstrations of maritime archaeological techniques and terrestrial remote sensing. Archaeologists will be there discussing excavations of historic sites which have informed us about the interactions between Native Americans, African and Europeans. Demonstrators include: aboriginal skills, colonial lifeways, Revolutionary War soldiers and more. Native American groups will be there to talk about their history and current culture. Tour fascinating archaeological exhibits and bid on unusual gifts at a Society fundraising auction. Please contact Nena Powell Rice if you have items for the auction ( / 777-8170 / (803) 331-3431 Cell).

Pack your picnic basket if you're coming for the afternoon or purchase food from concessions on-site. Please bring a lawn chair and/or blankets, items to be donated to the Society auction, and your favorite artifacts for identification. The all-day event fees are $8/adult, $5/child, or $6/senior. For further information contact: Sean Taylor, Vice-President of the ASSC and Archaeologist at SC Department of Natural Resources-Heritage Trust Program, (803) 734-3753 or Nena Powell Rice, SC Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, (803) 777-8170. This event is sponsored and partially funded by the Archaeological Society of South Carolina, Inc., SC Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, Leigh Fibers, Archaeological Consultants of the Carolinas, and Diachronic Research Foundation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Heritage Health Index Report

Summarizes the findings of the first comprehensive survey to assess the condition of the U.S. collections. The study concluded that immediate action is needed to prevent the loss of irreplaceable artifacts held in collecting institutions, large and small, from internationally renowned art museums and research libraries to local historical societies and specialized archives.

National Council on Public History Conference

National Council on Public HistoryWorking Group Call

NCPH working groups, led by senior practitioners and involving up to twelve participants, will allow conferees to explore in depth a subject of shared concern. In these innovative seminar-like conversations, participants will have a chance to discuss questions raised by specific programs, problems, or initiatives in their own public history practice with peers grappling with similar issues. For the 2009 Annual Meeting, six working groups are being assembled.

To apply, please send your one- or two-page resume or c.v. and a one-paragraph abstract of your case statement by October 31 to Please include the specific working group title in the subject line of your email. Learn more about the April 2-5 conference by visiting or calling 317-274-2716.

New Magazine Available from Camden, SC


Call to join the Continental cause for the American Revolution! Dispatched to you: a new quality magazine for the education about, promotion for and preservation of the people, places and principles of the Revolutionary War and the founding of our country. Come ye historians, living history reenactors, scholars, history buffs, authors, tourists, archaeologists, military gamers, military miniaturists, members of heritage and patriotic organizations such as the
SAR, DAR, Society of the Cincinnati, photographers, genealogists, preservationists, metal detectionists, 18th Century enthusiasts, site supervisors, teachers, etc.

The American Revolution Association is a national, nonprofit organization advocating LIBERTY and all things of and about the American Revolution. This includes connecting historians and historic sites. JOIN, contribute your time, talent and/or treasure to the enduring march of freedom. Without each other, stories are lost; hallowed fields forgotten; legacies diminished; banners furled; battles lost; and we die.

Membership includes five (5) issues of American Revolution magazine, ($36 to be billed with first issue) keeping you current with informative articles, commentary, networking, and updated calendar; primary invitations to Revolutionary events and conferences nation-wide; a wallet card for enrollment; and the heart-felt knowledge that YOU
are making good things happen of historic difference on the ground and in the minds of AMERICA.

Name: ______________________________________________________________
Street: ______________________________________________________________
City: _______________________________________________________________
State/Zip: ___________________________________________________________
Phone: __________________________
Email: ______________________________________________________________

The American Revolution Association
306 Hampton Park office
P.O. Box 1716
Camden, SC 29021
david@americanrevolutionassociation .com

"The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave..."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

NC Coastal Plain Symposium

N.C. archeologists to meet at ECU; public invited

GREENVILLE, NC (Oct. 1, 2008) -- North Carolina archeologists will gather at East Carolina University next week to discuss recent research in the coastal plain.

A symposium, “Twenty-five Years and Counting: Current Archeological Research in the North Carolina Coastal Plain,” will be held Saturday, Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Willis Hall on ECU’s campus. The public is invited to this free event.

The symposium is being held more than 25 years after the publication of “Prehistory in North Carolina,” a prominent guide to state archeology in its time. Presenters will discuss discoveries made since that journal’s release, as well as the direction of future studies. Their findings will be compiled in a new publication about archeology in the coastal plain.

Charles Ewen, ECU archeologist and symposium organizer, said the past 25 years have brought many changes to the study of archeology here.

“There are so many more archeologists in North Carolina today, and a lot more work is being done. As much, if not more archeology, has been done in the last 25 years, than in all of the previous years combined,” he said.

Ewen said much of that research has been driven by development. Before land can be developed, archeological surveys must be completed.

New data, Ewen said, have not changed common perceptions of history but, rather, filled in the gaps.
“We’re finding out more about the hunting and gathering societies in eastern North Carolina, and what life was like for the colonists. We’re rethinking what life was like back then,” he said.

The symposium will feature studies of all time periods, from the Paleoindian-Archaic period through Woodland and Historic periods. Some of the subjects include Native American subsistence practices, ongoing research at Fort Raleigh, underwater archeology and the digital future of research in the coastal plain.

Ewen encouraged the public to attend the talks, which will be accessible to everyone. “Everybody likes archeology; they just don’t know too much about it,” he said. “This will be a great opportunity to learn new things about North Carolina history.”

A reception planned for Friday, Oct. 10, will feature Dr. Stanley South, a well-known historical archeologist in the Carolinas who will discuss several of his recent inquiries into the archeological record of North and South Carolinas.

Registration for these free events will continue through Friday, Oct. 3. Walk-in guests are welcome to attend but will not receive lunch on Saturday.

To register or for more information, contact John Mintz or Charles Ewen,

Schedule for Symposium and Presentations:

9:00-9:10 AM
Welcome and Introduction to the Symposium, John J. Mintz (North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, Charles R. Ewen (Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University), and Lawrence E. Abbott (North Carolina Office of State Archaeology)

Paleoindian-Archaic Period Studies

9:10-9:30 AM
Geoarchaeological Investigations of Stratified Holocene Aeolian Deposits along the Tar River in North Carolina, Chris Moore, Savannah River Archaeological Research Program
9:30-9:50 AM
The Lithic Resources of the North Carolina Coastal Plain: Prehistoric Acquisition and Utilization Patterns, Lawrence Abbott, Office of State Archaeology, Kathleen Farrell, John Nickerson, and Kenny Gay, North Carolina Geological Survey

9:50-10:10 AM
“Paleoindian and Archaic Period Research in the North Carolina Coastal Plain” I. Randolph Daniel, Jr., Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University

BREAK 10:10-10:25 AM

Woodland Period Studies

10:25-10:45 AM
“Recent Woodland Archaeology of the North Carolina Coast” Joe Herbert, Ph.D. Cultural Resources Management Program, Fort Bragg, NC

10:45-11:05 AM
Woodland Period Site Distribution and Landscape Use in the Coastal Plain of Southeastern North Carolina-Tracy L. Millis (TRC Environmental Corporation, Inc.)

11:05-11:25 AM
Native American Subsistence Practices in Coastal North Carolina: Current Evidence and Future Directions. Dale Hutchinson, Ph.D., C. Margaret Scarry, Ph.D., Kim Schaefer, and Ben Shields, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

11:25-11:45 AM
Broad Reach Revisited – What We Know Now
Heather Millis (TRC Environmental Corporation, Inc.)

LUNCH 11:45 AM-1:00 PM

Historic Period Studies

1:00 PM- 1:20 PM
Reenvisioning North Carolina's Coastal History. Charles R. Ewen, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University

1:20-1:40 PM
“they in respect of troubling our inhabiting and planting, are not to be feared:” Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Native Coastal Populations Before and After European Contact. John J. Mintz (North Carolina Office of State Archaeology), Thomas E. Beaman, Jr. (Tar River Archaeological Research), and Paul J. Mohler (North Carolina Department of Transportation)

1:40- 2:00 PM
Archaeological Research at Fort Raleigh: The Past 20 Years. Phillip Evans, Eric Klingelhofer, Nicholas Luccketti First Colony Foundation

BREAK 2:00-2:15 PM

2:15- 2:35 PM
Material Snapshots of Tuscarora Life: The State of Cashie phase Research in Eastern North Carolina. Charles L. Heath, Fort Bragg CRMP, E. Clay Swindell, University of Leicester, and David S. Phelps, East Carolina University (Emeritus), John E. Byrd, Central Identification Laboratory, Hickam AFB.

2:35-2:55 PM
Giving Voice to a Silent Past: African American Archaeology in Coastal
North Carolina. Patricia M. Samford, Ph.D., Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, St. Leonard, Maryland.

2:55-3:15 PM
Forty Years Beneath the Waves: Underwater Archeology in North Carolina
Richard Lawrence, Office of State Archaeology Deputy State Archaeologist, Underwater

BREAK 3:15-3:30 PM

New Problems- New Opportunities

3:30-3:50 PM
Now You See It; Now You Don’t. Coastal Erosion and Coastal Cottages: Twenty Years of Cultural Resource Management Studies.
Loretta Lautzenheiser, Susan Bamann, Ph.D., Dennis Gosser,
Coastal Carolina Research, Inc.

3:50-4:10 PM
Present and Future Trends in Coastal Development Patterns
Doug Huggett, Division of Coastal Management Major Permits Coordinator

4:10-4:30 PM
Taking a Byte From Your Trowel: Is There a Digital Future for the North Carolina Coastal Plain’s Past? Scott Madry, Ph.D., Research Associate, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

PANEL DISCUSSION. 4:40-5:00 pm
Steve Claggett, NC State Archaeologist
Charles Ewen, Professor, Anthropology, East Carolina University
Randy Daniel, Professor, Anthropology, East Carolina University

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mystery Question

This week I am posting a photograph of the Battleground Theatre that was located in the vicinity of the Ramsour's Mill Battlefield, in Lincolnton, NC. The theatre was used for the productions of "Thunder Over Carolina" many years ago. Currently the site is no longer extant, but the LCHA is trying to relocate the original location of the theatre at the battleground. If anyone has any information or stories they would like to share with us about the theatre it would be greatly appreciated. You can post your comments to the blog, contact me, January Porter, at the LCHA via e-mail listed on the blog, or contact us at the office at (704) 748-9090.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I have encountered many issues with cuts in the non-profit world, but this issue completely shocked me. I have posted two letters that were sent out last week in regard to the cuts of the archaeology program at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. The idea is tragic, much less the program itself is something that has been building over the last 70 years. The second response, is in response to the first announcement about the cuts. Upon reading the announcements, I realize that I am skeptical about what will actually happen in the end. What I do hope, is that the organization will not be another to succumb to profit cuts and generalized assumptions of what is truly important in examining and interpreting the past.

Read as follows:

Some sad news from the United States, which will not only have an impact on the discipline across the pond but which will also reverberate in the very vibrant fields of historical, post-medieval and industrial archaeology in the UK and Europe. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which in many ways pioneered historical archaeology and has always been central to the discipline over the last 75 or so years, has closed the Department of Archaeological Research.Professor Marley R. Brown III, who was selected by Ivor Noel Hume to direct the department in 1982, has been made redundant. Curatorial and laboratory duties have devolved to the Collections division, while the one remaining full-time archaeologist now works for the Department of Architectural History (in an rather ironic full swing back to the 1930's division of labour). Those of you who enjoyed the 1984, 1997, and 2007 SHA/SPMA events in Williamsburg, and of course all of us concerned about the past, the present and the future of the discipline of historical/post-medieval archaeology, will be anxious about this development.

PaulPaul Belford, BSc., MA., MIFA.Head of Archaeology and MonumentsIronbridge Gorge Museum Trust


Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of Jim Horn, V.P. of Research and Historical Interpretation at Co= lonial Williamsburg:As part of a recent reorganization, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has combined the departments of Archaeological and Architectural Research into a single department, the Department of Architectural and Archaeological Research, under the leadership of Edward Chappell.Colonial Williamsburg remains committed to archaeological research, excavat= ion, and field schools. The Foundation continues to support one of the largest archaeological units in the nation, consisting of staff and project archaeologists, laboratory and curatorial staff, and several part-time archaeological technicians. Staff archaeologists will be actively engaged in excavations in Williamsburg's historic area and elsewhere and curatorial staff will continue to have responsibility for the nationally known collection of artifacts and faunal remains. Hope this clears up any misconceptions regarding the Archaeology Program at Colonial Williamsburg.

Andrew Edwards
Staff Archaeologist
Department of Architectural and Archaeological Research
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Even though this is something I am completely passionate about, it it also a great example of the type of things that museum professionals deal with on a daily basis. Budget cuts are always a problem with non-profit organizations, and can cause severe problems for museums. We all know the economy is in a rough spot at this point, but my question is where do we decide what is more important?....Keeping an organization and running it at a lower standard with more financial security, or improving and maintaing research strength so that the pertinent information needed for accurate interpretation and living history programming can be presented to the public. It is a hard question......and one that will never be completely answered. Unfortunately, the museum world is at the bottom of the totem pole, and yet we are one of the most important facets of today's society since history is what makes us who we are!
As part of our job here at the LCHA, and as the curator it is my responsibility to help other colleagues with identification of objetcs. In addition, I also help people who come into the office who want information on a particuloar object. So, with that in mind, I wanted to share this inquiry to see if anyone can help me in this process. I am posting this message received from a friend on an artifact. If anyone has any idea what is is you can contact me, or contact Erin directly.

Erin wrote:

A friend of the museum dropped off this object for assistance in identification. I have no idea what it is... you can see photos here It is about 4 feet tall or so, cast iron and has four of the upward-facing hooks at 90 degree intervals regularly placed all the way around. It is marked for a foundry, but is illegible due to pitting. It also says PAT APPL'D FOR. The only distinct wear is at the base of the shaft, which is rounded down slightly. I believe the lettering for the manufacturer is _ _ _OUR & CO. But, it is quite difficult to read. It is not a clock part.. other suggestions have been: Portable hitching post Meat hook or hook for storing meat on other hooks Hook for hoisting hay or cotton bales Any guesses are welcome.. also please forward on to any other listservs you think might be willing to lend a hand in identification.

Thanks! Erin.

Erin Crissman Curator The Farmers' Museum PO Box 30 Cooperstown, NY 13326 p: 607.547.1521 The Farmers' Museum®

Friday, September 5, 2008

Summer 2008 LCHA Archaeology Camp News

This year the Lincoln County Historical Association hosted the very first Archaeology Camps in Lincoln County. This is a great achievement for the county, in addition to the LCHA. Two sessions of archaeology camps held this summer implemented two types of archaeological research methodologies. The first session was held from July 14 to July 18 and was completed at the Ramsour’s Mill Battlefield Site. The area chosen for study lies in the floodplain area beside Clarke’s Creek, just below the two log structures that were relocated to the site. A grid was established in the bottom area with measuring tapes and oriented to magnetic north. The grid was created using compass bearings and placing survey flags every 10 meters. This allowed for a hole to be dug every 10 meters in order to complete an archaeological survey of the property. This method is known as shovel testing and is useful in determining feature locations, areas where people manipulated the landscape.

The people involved with Session one included Tristan Griffith, Tina Guffey, Jason Harpe, Edward Little, David Edwards, Karyna Miller, and Aleshia Clippard. An Appalachian State University student, Katie Earl, who was interning with the Schiele Museum of Natural History located in Gastonia, NC, also assisted with the survey. We had many visitors throughout the week, and the week was considered a success. The findings throughout the week included a few fragments of undecorated coarse earthenware pottery made by the Native Americans in the area. In addition, a few gunflints, and flake debris from Native American stone tool manufacture.

The Session two archaeology camp predominantly consisted of rising eighth graders from the surrounding area of Lincoln County, in addition to a rising seventh and twelfth grader. The students who participated in Session 2 include: Ashton Johnston, Seth Van Derwerken, Caleb McMillan, Cati Hambrick, Shelby Barkley, Danny Miller, Georgia Johnson, and Aleshia Clippard. The site location chosen for the camp was at the eighteenth century historic Woodside Plantation, located in Lincolnton, NC. The strategy at Woodside consisted of creating a grid on the property and actually laying out two 1-meter by 1-meter square excavation units. The fieldwork consisted of half days for the week of July 22 to July 25. Fieldwork consisted of laying out excavation units, shoveling and troweling, learning to use a line level to determine soil depths, soil screening for artifact recovery, and artifact washing and identification. The students were able to learn a significant amount of information about the process and details involved with performing archaeology. The artifacts recovered include various objects such as cut nails, animal bone, a coin, ceramics from utilitarian vessels, bottle and window glass, and toy fragments (such as a gun and marbles). The artifacts all date from the early to late nineteenth century and illustrate an ideal record for the occupation at Woodside.

This past summer was just the beginning of what is to come in Lincoln County and I was proud to be able to implement the archaeology camp program for the Lincoln County Historical Association. The work completed through the camps will aide in future research initiatives for the LCHA, and will lead the way for a successful archaeology program in Lincoln County. I look forward to our next projects and will definitely keep the public posted on future research projects and archaeological investigations.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Intrigue of the Past: North Carolina's First Peoples

This is an excellent resource for teachers to use for school curriculum requirements. We will be offering several new programs in the coming months that will complement these lesson plans, and allow for a more hands on interraction with the concepts that are presented. I want to get this resource out to help implement the study of archaeology and Native American cultures in Lincoln County. Please contact me at my e-mail ( if you have any questions. I will be posting the new educational programs very soon!

A Teacher's Activity Guide
for Fourth through Eighth Grades

Compiled and Edited by:

Margo L. Price
Patricia M. Samford
Vincas P. Steponaitis

Research Laboratories of Archaeology
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

With Lesson Plans by:

Kelly A. Letts
Jeanne M. Moe
Danielle M. Paterson
Margo L. Price
Patricia M. Samford
Shelley J. Smith

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Archaeology is Everywhere!

I always love the response I receive from people when I tell them that I am an archaeologist. People usully simply ask "you mean there are sites North Carolina?", which just gets me all excited since I know I have the opportunity to share information. My response is always "of course!" and I don't have to travel abroad to be able to do archaeology. The state of North Carolina is filled with many archaeological sites that most people never see. The reason for this is because of all the types of sites discovered and researched through CRM (Cultural Resource Management) companies. These companies provide a service to complete archaeological surveys for mostly federally funded projects where archaeological sites need to be located before eventually being destroyed.

A large portion of my background is from working on CRM projects. A recent example includes the Charlotte Douglas International Airport runway expansion project, which I worked on last summer. The investigations included the survey of two possible prehistoric Native American sites that were found in a survey I worked on in 1998. The two sites were chosen as possible candidates for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and are located in the direct path of the future runway. The survey meant the sites were tested and not recommended for National Register status based on the findings. If you drive by this area along I-485 it is possible to see the massive grading that has completely destroyed the sites. This result is what typically happens to sites, and as an archaeologist I have the chance to record the cultural remains left behind by past cultures before they are lost to "progress".

The best thing about my new job is that I am now in a position where I can spend more time on my research. I will continue to work on sites that fit more into the CRM type of work, but mainly I am now focusing in on locating sites in Lincoln County for research purposes. My main interest includes using the method known as landscape archaeology for interpreting sites. The cool thing is that it is useful on all types of sites so I don't have to limit myself to one specific period of interest. One of my goals currently is to locate the Native American sites in Lincoln County and record as many as possible. I am very interested in what David Moore terms the "Protohistoric Catawba Indians" who were also known as the Mississippian people (800 BC to 1600 AD). They are known as the mound-builders who built large mounds of dirt used for structural platforms, or for burials within the mound itself. So far, the explorations into the nature of their settlements in Lincoln County is very limited. In addition to the Native American cultures, I am very interested in the 18th and 19th century sites that can be found in this region including plantations, urban sites and also the overall study of sites in the "backcountry".

Many have asked me if I have a specialization in the field of archaeology. I am very knowledgeable about prehistoric and historic ceramics, but overall I have to say "no". I love what I do because of all the new things I can learn each day, and truthfully I am quite obsessed with all types of artifacts. I love them all...not because of what they look like, but because of the story they can tell me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Landscape Archaeology: A Useful Method for Interpretation of Sites

The topic I have chosen for discussion in this article relates to the importance of cultural landscapes. This is a topic that typically goes unnoticed, but major implications are indicated by observing historical sites through a holistic perspective. Take for instance, any of the rural farmsteads or plantations located right here in Lincoln County. The typical perspective of one of these sites is one of minimal visualization and focuses on the “Big House” where the landowners lived during the past. What types of questions can arise from this perspective? Several can be asked in relation to income level, method of economic subsistence, and the stories of the people who lived in the house, and so on. Now step back and observe the entire property from a bird’s eye view. This simple process has a fundamental relationship to observing the property through landscape. This very type of observation is a comparatively new way of looking at cultural landscapes, and is termed a sub-discipline of the field of archaeology known as landscape archaeology.

In using the method of landscape archaeology, it completely widens the scope of observation on a site. The once noticed plantation house can now be seen in conjunction with surrounding outbuildings, fields, plantings and property boundaries. In a concise moment the archaeologist, architectural historian, geographer, or any public viewer can start to see interaction on the landscape. It is then possible to ask more questions in relation to socioeconomic stratification on the landscape between class levels and race, gender differentiation, and the ways that the people manipulated the landscape around them such a long time ago. In addition, it is possible to go a step further and look at the ways that not only the people influenced the landscape, but how the landscape influenced them from the initial time of settlement. The people traveling into the area of Lincoln County in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were not entering the same context as those in coastal areas. This was a heavily wooded landscape inhabited by the Catawba and Cherokee tribes in the eighteenth century, so conflict and a very rural setting posed there own difficulties. What do you think it would have been like, and how would you have created your own home in such a strange and seemingly uninhabitable place? These are the types of questions that archaeologists try to ask and interpret about the actual people of the past of all time periods.

The use of landscape archaeology in exploring a site is part of my personal research methodology and its use has great potential as a tool for exploring archaeological sites in Lincoln County. Instead of just looking at whether a particular house, structure, or even cemetery is significant, we need to step back and try to take a second look at the place of examination as an “artifact” in itself. This will allow more information to present itself and allow for a more authentic “sense of place” to be illustrated and interpreted.

What is an “Artifact”?

In this particular article, I just want to examine the true definition of the word “artifact”. So I start out by asking, what is an artifact. Most people would say that it is a piece of a pottery or stone tool left behind by the Native Americans. Others may say that it’s a button, piece of glass, clothing, or basically “something really old” that was thrown away at some point a long time ago. Okay, so that makes sense and it is also very true, but how do we decide what is old? These are all very good questions that people can ask when trying to figure out if something is actually an artifact. So, I am going to make it really easy for everyone and let it be known that anything that was made or crafted by a person is an artifact. Not only that, but it doesn’t matter how old the object is either. This is the beginning process of understanding how an archaeologist, like me, thinks and interprets the objects we study.

I have been working as an archaeologist for a while, and I’m not going to say how long. When I first started in this field, I was only 12 years old. I did not have a clue what archaeology was really about, or what was an artifact either. I now realize that artifacts are everywhere! The best way to understand it is to look at your own trash that gets thrown away each day. Everything being put in the trash was made and used by people, right? So everything that we even use today and gets discarded is an artifact. It’s not old, but the importance of an artifact is the story it can tell. What you put in your trash, tells a lot about the people who used it and then threw it away. Not only that, but when objects are found together we can learn by what is called “inference by association”. What this means is that the more pieces of trash found together, associated with each other, can provide even more information about the people that threw it away, than if only one object was found.

Well, I hope that this at least brought some readers to a better point of understanding one part of what my job is all about. The main point I want to get across is that you can make discoveries about people in the past and present everyday, just like an archaeologist. My children pick up trash off of the ground all the time and bring it to me because they have just found an artifact. Granted it’s not going to solve some crucial cultural question that I might have, but they are still correct in saying the objects they find are artifacts. So imagine the possibilities, and you can begin to think just like an archaeologist in examining our own culture through the “artifacts” we use everyday.