GAAS Update: Summer 2011

Submitted by David Kasriel & Allen Vegotsky (Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society)

ABOVE: Doug Sain (left), Pleistocene terrace supervisor, assisting in extraction of OSL sample at Topper. BELOW RIGHT: Carol Reed and large core in the preClovis Pleistocene terrace; excavation of the artifact will have to be completed in the 2012 season.

In May and June several Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society (GAAS) members and members of other SGA chapters volunteered at the Topper site in Allendale County, South Carolina. The Southeastern Paleoamerican Survey (SEPAS) site is a well known Clovis site and (with some debate) preClovis site on the Savannah River. During the first week in June five GAAS members worked and camped among 60 volunteers and staff. Many GAAS volunteers have participated in SEPAS for a number of years. Longtime volunteer and GAAS treasurer Carol Reed was present the entire five week season and lent first aid support as needed. Excavation work included digging in the Clovis and preClovis units in the Pleistocene terrace and sands and hillside Clovis units, screening and documenting artifact location.

Archaeological inquiries this summer included the geographic extend of the Clovis occupation and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating in the Pleistocene terrace where preClovis artifacts have been found. OSL results should be available by the 2012 season. GAAS volunteers were able to observe the sample extraction procedure at several depths including those in which sediments have already been radiocarbon dated to at least 50,000 years before the present. In the evenings participants attended site supervisor updates and lectures from staff, graduate students and visiting archaeologist.

Volunteers during the first two weeks of the season were able to screen artifacts at the dredge operation at the Big Pine Tree site. According to Dr. Al Goodyear, Director of SEPAS, “Dredge work over the years has resulted in a scientifically significant collection of artifacts concerning this ancient multicomponent site, most of which unfortunately has eroded into the creek. It has a major Clovis occupation and is the largest Dalton site now known on the SC coastal plain, not to mention Archaic and Woodland materials.”

GAAS members/Fernbank Museum of Natural History volunteers bid a fond hasta luego (see you later) to our colleague and friend Dennis Blanton at a farewell reception at the Fernbank Museum on June 8, 2011. For several years as many as ten GAAS volunteers have been privileged to work with Dennis and his staff in the archaeology lab processing “Points of Contact” artifacts and the extensive St. Catherine’s Island collection artifacts. Recent lab work included cleaning, sorting, and recording lithic and ceramic artifacts and cleaning and preparing field tools. Working as an archaeology volunteer provides a special educational opportunity as Dennis and staff share their latest findings and conclusions as well as soliciting volunteers’ own conclusions about the sites.

Volunteers worked under the direction of professional staff in the field in South Georgia under the Fernbank and National Geographic Society banner. GAAS members dug and screened at the council house units, and aided in metal detection and preparation for a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey in the proposed De Soto contact site at the Glass site in Telfair County last year. Last fall GAAS volunteers worked with professional staff and students from Georgia State and the University of Georgia conducting shovel test at another Points of Contacts site in southwest Georgia. The extensive shovel tests found late Mississippian artifacts surrounding numerous mounds in what appears to be a major settlement.

GAAS will greatly miss Dennis Blanton, who has provided professional leadership to our Chapter for several years and has served as President. He is off to Costa Rica, where he will no doubt become involved in new adventures in archaeology. Thanks Dennis!! You brought us much knowledge and the joy of discovery and we will never forget you. Replacing Dennis as President of GAAS will be Lyn Kirkland, who has been a member of GAAS for over 20 years.

In GAAS Lyn has served as Program Chair and on the Board several times. She has been a volunteer in the Fernbank archeology lab for 3 years and helped develop the unit on archaeology for the Michael C. Carlos Museum. In addition, Lyn has helped with Archaeology Day at the Carlos and Fernbank museums, and, has taught stimulating classes on the Maya culture at Evening at Emory for about 7 years. Aside from participating on digs conducted by GAAS in past decades, she has worked at the Topper site in South Carolina, and participated in four Earthwatch archaeology digs: the Roman fort in South Shields, England near Hadrian’s Wall; a Bronze Age site on Majorca; Mammoth Cave; and a bronze and Iron Age site in Thailand near Phi Mi. We appreciate all that our new President brings to the table.