OAS busy educating the public, doing research

The OAS continues its mission of educating the public about the archaeology of Middle Georgia, and has had several excellent speakers this winter. In January Sam Lawson, recently returned to our area from south Georgia, gave a talk on the locations of the Creek towns that were along the Upper Ocmulgee from 1686 to 1716. Sam has been invaluable in sharing his immense knowledge and research with OAS members informally, so it was great to have him give a more formal presentation. He has some fascinating ideas, in fact, that are sure to shake things up if they are correct. Only excavation will say for sure! For those unfamiliar with this 30 year episode in Middle Georgia history, it is believed that there were 12-13 Creek towns that moved from the Chattahoochee to the Ocmulgee to escape Spanish pressure and raids in the Apalachicola watershed, and to create a trading relationship with the British in South Carolina. The deer skin trade dominated the Southeast at this time, and the Creeks brought in skins in order to trade for European manufactured goods. The Carolinians quickly established trading posts in some of these towns, such as the one on the Macon Plateau site on Ocmulgee National Monument. Sam has been scouring primary and secondary documents for references to these towns and trading posts, and is working together with OAS Secretary Stephen Hammack on finalizing a location map for both known town sites and unknown areas to visit and survey. Additionally, Stephen will soon begin working with a GIS specialist with an archaeology background, who will create a GIS location model for where these towns might have been. Anyone with any hard data is asked to contact the OAS. Thus far we have been in contact with Chad Braley, Sylvia Flowers, Carol Mason, Tom Pluckhahn, Marvin Smith, Greg Waselkov, and several local landowners, to all of whom is owed a great debt of THANKS!

In February, Dennis Blanton spoke to the OAS about his search for the Spanish mission Santa Isabel de Utinahica, which was probably located somewhere in the Big Bend region of the Ocmulgee River in Telfair County. Dennis described these efforts, as “Archaeology Fantasy Camp,” comparing them to Earth Watch-style public archaeology, a thing we have too little of in Georgia. While the site has been known to have produced early Spanish artifacts, it turns out that what has been found predates the dates for that particular mission (which was in the area from about 1610-1640). Dennis explained that there are so many artifacts from the earliest period in Georgia’s recorded history, that there had to have been a significant encampment at the site that lasted for some time. Further, there could only be two explanations: 1) that De Soto encamped there (which would put his much-debated route closer to that theorized by John Swanton, of the 1930s U.S. De Soto Expedition Commission than to the route theorized by UGA professors and students in the 1980s and 1990s; 2) that some survivors of Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon’s doomed 1526 colony at San Miquel de Guadalpe (which was probably located somewhere in Sapelo Sound on the Georgia coast) boated up the Altamaha and settled there among some Lamar Indians. The telling artifacts are the many chevron beads, made no later than 1540, found on the site. Either way, a major reinterpretation of the Spanish in Georgia seems certain!

In March, Lloyd Shroder, author of “The Anthropology of Florida Points and Blades” spoke to the OAS about the Paleo and Early Archaic lithics of Florida and southern Georgia. Lloyd has assisted the OAS at a number of Artifact ID Days, and has spoken to the group once before. One of the most interesting aspects of his talk was his explanation of his theory that based on a sample of 350 Florida Bolen points he studied, there are 10 Bolen subtypes! He calls these: Types 1-5, E-Notched, Wide-notched, Recurved, Ace, and Auriculate subtypes. When asked about Taylors and Big Sandys, and whether or not they are just the same points as Bolens, Lloyd said that he thinks Taylors are equivalent to his Type 1 subtype and that Big Sandys are the same as his Auriculate subtype. After the lecture Mr. Chad Childs of Jones County, a well-known artifact buyer and seller who evidently disapproves of most of Georgia’s artifact collecting laws, then stood up and described an Early Archaic site that he has been digging in Clinchfield, in Houston County, on the property of a local cement factory. This area has been known to collectors for many years, and may not be in existence much longer, due to uncontrolled pot hunting and the destruction of the soil profile by mining.

The OAS has a number of Artifact ID Days scheduled for 2008, including:

1) Hawkinsville – March 8th, 12-4 pm in the Opera House

2) Macon – May 17th, 11-3 pm at Fort Hawkins

3) Thomaston – June 14th, 11-3 pm in the Archives building

4) Milledgeville – July 12th, 11-3 pm in the Old Capitol Museum

5) Gordon – August 16th, 11-3 pm in the Depot

6) Jackson/Indian Springs – October 11th, 11-3 pm at the McIntosh House

7) Gray/Old Clinton – November 15th, 11-3 pm at the Clinton School House

It is hoped that these events will continue to lead to collectors taking OAS members out to record sites. So far about 20 sites throughout Middle Georgia have been recorded by using this strategy. In return, members of the public learn what they have and how old it is, and hopefully they go home a little more educated about Georgia’s archaeological heritage and artifact collecting laws.

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Follendore Cemetery pedestalled within development tract.

In other news, a Macon judge came down on the side of a local developer, Moon Family Properties, which had petitioned to remove a historic cemetery from a planned shopping center. The cemetery had evidently been abandoned since the 1960s, and though some family members fought the removal, they lost the court case in the end. The known burials at the site include Joseph Follendore, a native or Germany, and his two sons. The developer graded all around the cemetery, creating the island seen in this photo (at right), well before the case went to court. The “mound” has since been further reduced in size. Archaeologists from a Florida company will be overseeing the removal in the near future.

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Brown’s Mount after logging.

And in other bad news, the important site at Brown’s Mount was adversely impacted by logging activities sometime in 2007. It was discovered when OAS member John Wilson (President, Brown’s Mount Association [BMA]) took the OAS on a guided tour of the property in January. Due to an unfortunate oversight within Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which did not consult the Office of the State Archaeologist-a unit within DNR-about the project caused an unknown amount of damage to an earth lodge on top of the Mount (see photo to the left). The BMA is hoping that the OAS will be able to do some investigations at the site in order to find evidence of the famous wall that was in existence on parts of the site at late as the late nineteenth century.

Some good news is that OAS members Rick Day, Matt Marone, and John Trussell are working to get us a permanent website up and running! Rick designed it with photos provided by society members and gave us a preview at the February meeting. The trio hopes to have it up and running sometime this spring.