GDOT busy around the state, beyond

Submitted by Shawn Patch (shawn.patch@dot.state.ga.us)

On May 5, 2005, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) co-sponsored Archaeology Day at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains. Timed to coincide with Georgia’s Archaeology Month, this event turned out to be highly successful and richly rewarding for the both the sponsors and participants. The event was geared for groups of second and eighth grade school children from the surrounding communities and included a variety of activities highlighting different aspects of archaeology with plenty of hands-on opportunities. The event was distinguished by the appearance of former President Carter himself, who spoke briefly about his experiences on the farm before posing for pictures with the children (Figure 1).

Representatives from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians graciously agreed to display their unique talents through a combination of traditional dance, story telling, and music (Figure 2). Wendy Weaver, an archaeologist with Brockington and Associates, presented a wonderful overview of archaeology with examples from a GDOT mitigation project in Sumter and Schley counties.

GDOT archaeologists were also involved in the activities. Eric Duff opened the program with a brief overview of archaeology. Teresa Lotti was swamped by masses of children as she adeptly displayed the finer points of GPR surveys (Figure 3). Jim Pomfret and Shawn Patch teamed up to give flintkapping and atlatl demonstrations to captive audiences. To everyone’s complete surprise and delight, President Carter requested a personal flintknapping demonstration so Jim and Shawn were put on the spot (Figure 4). As a lifelong collector of “arrowheads,” Mr. Carter said he had never seen anyone fabricate a point, although he had tried himself on numerous occasions.

Paul McIntosh has begun working with a local citizen in the Atlanta area who is concerned about possible destruction of numerous Civil War-era earthworks and fortifications. At this time, Paul has been able to document a rather extensive and undisturbed series of trenches, rifle pits, and batteries. Future work will involve detailed mapping with a total station and GPS with the intent to record and report on the structures.

In April 2005, Shawn Patch organized a project to conduct GPR surveys of portions of Fort Frederica National Monument in Glynn County. Working in cooperation with archaeologists from the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) (John Cornelison and Chuck Lawson) and Park staff (Denise Spear), the research goals included attempts to identify a previously unknown bomb magazine that exploded sometime in the 1740s. Due to favorable weather and excellent field conditions, we were also able to use the GPR in the Hird House lot, previously excavated in the 1970s, and the cemetery near the Visitor’s Center (Figure 5). Results for this project are better than we expected and quite impressive. Numerous targets and anomalies have been identified including a possible large scatter of construction debris, a buried wall/foundation, previous excavation units, and additional unmarked burials. Future archaeological investigations are planned to investigate many of these targets as the Park’s resources warrant.

Also in April 2005, Teresa Lotti led a series of GPR investigations at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in advance of the ensuing activities scheduled for late May. This work was also completed in cooperation with SEAC archaeologists (Cornelison and Lawson). The Park was interested in locating and identifying the original chicken coop and garage behind Mr. Carter’s boyhood home. Old photographs showed the approximate location, so we used these to guide the GPR investigations. Although the results are inconclusive for the chicken coop and garage, Teresa was able to identify a series of buried water pipes as well as a possible privy (Figure 6).

In late March, Jim Pomfret and Shawn Patch represented GDOT at the Society for American Archaeology annual meetings in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jim gave a poster presentation on his GPR work and archaeological testing at Ceylon Plantation in McIntosh County. At the Association of Transportation Archaeologists’ meeting Jim and Shawn teamed to present an overview of GPR in a transportation setting with highlights from selected GDOT projects. The response from fellow archaeologists was overwhelming, with intense interest, spirited discussion, and numerous questions. One gentleman from Missouri, upon the meeting’s adjournment, went straight to the GSSI booth and ordered a unit for his department.

From January to February 2005, Shawn Patch led a crew that investigated a 70-acre wetland/ stream restoration site along the Etowah River in Cherokee County. Ten new archaeological sites were recorded, all dating to the Woodland Period. Many of these sites are very large with deep deposits, abundant features, and high artifact densities dominated by ceramics. Of the decorated sherds Dunlap Fabric Impressed is the most common type, followed by Cartersville Check and Simple Stamped, and then a modest amount of Woodstock Complicated Stamped. Impacts to the sites have been substantially minimized so they will be left unaltered. Future investigations will focus on using the GPR to assess sub-surface conditions and spatial patterning.

For those who may be interested, the Natural, Archaeological, and Historical Resources GIS (NAHRGIS) is now online and fully operational. This web-based GIS contains location and feature information for all the known archaeological sites in Georgia as well as known historic resources. For access privileges and passwords, please contact Mark Williams at the Georgia Archaeological Site File: (706) 542-8737; or visit the NAHRGIS website.