Dams hold more than water

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Eagle and Phenix Dam Google Maps dam intact

Satellite photograph from Google Maps of the Eagle & Phenix dam in the Chattahoochee River at Columbus prior to destruction.

Dams hold water. They may also conceal archaeological information. Artifacts of all kinds may be discarded or accumulate behind a dam. Also, the flooding upstream of a dam may obscure the remains of buildings and architecture invisible when the flood pool is filled.

SGA Member Dean Wood, of Southern Research, Historic Preservation Consultants, Inc., has been monitoring the artifacts and archaeological information revealed after sections of the Eagle & Phenix dam in the Chattahoochee River adjacent to downtown Columbus have been dynamited over the winter.

As Tom Chitwood of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer online reported on 7 April 2012, Mr. Wood and his team have

…found the remains of old wood dams, two wooden buckets and a keg, three guns, numerous bottles, part of a trumpet, and a pipe wrench about 18 inches long, bearing an 1882 patent date.

Mr. Chitwood continues:

Whitewater rapids will be sculpted below the 1882 dam before it’s removed with heavy equipment. The remains of the old wood dams will be dug out of the river along with other debris, but they will not be lost to history, Wood said.

“Eventually the plan is to create interpretive exhibits, museum exhibits, to have technical reports on the industrial archaeology and industrial history of Columbus,” he said. “We also will produce more popularized versions of the technical reports for the general public.”

Eagle and Phenix drained dam SouthRes view west

View west of the structures and artifacts revealed behind the drained dam. Photo courtesy of Dean Wood.

These exhibits may go beyond the industrial history revealed by remains found by archaeologists behind the dam. Would you consider a dam good at preserving archaeological remains? What are the advantages of underwater preservation? What are the disadvantages? Why did mill complexes use dams?