Study Georgia’s natural environment using 1978 volume

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Wharton 1978 Natural Environments cover VBefore the internet and the myriad of information it offers, archaeologists frequently referred to Charles H. Wharton’s The Natural Environments of Georgia, originally published in 1978.

Wharton brought together important and insightful information about, among other things, Georgia’s terrain, rainfall and soils, the distribution of wild species, and the impact of forest fires and environmental change during the Holocene.

Some information that Wharton published is out of date—mostly because of dramatic impacts in the destruction of undeveloped land to install homes, shopping centers, roads, and other environmental transformations. This same development, not surprisingly has also adversely impacted Georgia’s archaeological resources. But most of what Wharton described remains helpful.

Maybe you’re wondering why Wharton’s book was (and is) so useful to archaeologists.

Knowledge of the natural environment frames our understanding of our human past. Prior to modern times, most people lived off the land in ways we no longer do here in Georgia. People may have farmed, and would have found it useful to know where to find wild resources like plants for food and medicine, and animals for food, hides, and other uses. Thus, to decipher the landscape prior to modern times, archaeologists found the information in Wharton’s volume instructive.

Wharton’s book was published originally by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and its third printing (1998) is still available from the Georgia Geologic Survey. Order it online here for $10. It’s Bulletin 114, and you probably will have to click through the list to find the listing for it.