GAAS schedules March meeting

Submitted by Sammy Smith (

GAAS_logo_150The next meeting of the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society, a chapter of the SGA, will be March 9th, 2010, at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (Clifton Road, just north of Ponce de Leon), at 7:30 PM.

The speaker will be GAAS’s own Allen Vegotsky. Allen will discuss Dr. Lindsey Durham (1789-1859), a physician who worked in the Scull Shoals community, south of Athens. Allen’s innovative presentation will take the form of a one-act play, and Allen will play both the Doctor and a narrator. He explains:

Many GAAS members have participated in excavations at Scull Shoals in the Oconee National Forest with Dr. Jack Wynn. What was once Creek and Cherokee hunting grounds, later a frontier village occasionally at war with the Creeks, and still later, part of Georgia’s industrial revolution, is now a ghost town on the Oconee River with only traces of brick structures remaining. During the rapid rise of Scull Shoals to a busy factory town, there were a few individuals who were bigger than life, who became very well known in Georgia and the Southeast.

One of these was Dr. Lindsey Durham (1789-1859), who became one of Georgia’s most successful and popular physicians as well as one of the town’s wealthiest plantation owners. As a doctor, he was known for his complex receipts (formulas for medicines) and Scull Shoals became a magnet for sick people from Georgia and even distant states.

The Durham Family papers are housed at the University of Georgia and I have been studying Durham’s more than 200 medical receipts for the last year. The formulas range from cures for familiar diseases like malaria and consumption (tuberculosis) to cures for esoteric conditions like the effects of witchcraft. The medical receipts provide a rare glimpse into medicine and pharmacy of the early 19th century. I would like to tell you about several of these medical formulas and explain how they were viewed 150 years ago.

The format of the talk will be a one-act play in which I will sometimes be Dr. Durham, himself, in 1850, telling you about his medicines, and sometimes I will be a narrator in the present providing more modern insights into Dr. Durham’s remedies. The talk is in the tradition of historical archaeology, which blends archaeological and archival approaches to understanding a site and its people.

There were few aspects of early 19th century life in frontier communities as important as health and disease.

The meeting is free and the public is invited.

Where to find it