GAAS February meeting: MARTA archaeology

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The next meeting of the Greater Atlanta Chapter (GAAS) of the Society for Georgia Archaeology will be on February 12th at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, and begin at 6:30PM. The meeting is free and open to the public. Our program will be lead by Dr. Jeffrey Glover of Georgia State University (GSU) and students. We will have a presentation on the MARTA archaeological collection. We will also have a chance to process artifacts as GAAS volunteers and students have been doing at the GSU lab.

Dr. Jeffrey Glover is Assistant Professor in the GSU Department of Anthropology and a member of our GAAS Board. Jeffrey did his undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University where he majored in anthropology. He pursued his doctoral degree at the University of California, Riverside which he completed in 2006.

Dr. Glover’s general research interests focus on interpreting the spatial patterning of ancient Maya communities in northern Quintana Roo, Mexico and the dynamic role the built environment played in lives of past people. Currently, he is co-director of the Proyecto Costa Escondida that is investigating the Maya port of Vista Alegre, a small island site along the north coast of Quintana Roo. The project hopes to understand the role this port site played in both regional and inter-regional political economies, in particular was the site an outpost for the Itzá State with its capital at Chichén Itzá. The Costa Escondida Project is now available on Google Ocean part of the Google Earth application.

In summer of 2011, Dr. Glover worked on the the Maritime Maya Project which is part of the larger Proyecto Costa Escondida. In summer 2012 he supervised a field school for the archaeological excavation of De Soto’s journey through South Georgia with 12 students from Georgia State University who were joined by several GAAS volunteers, and analyzed artifacts from the ancient Maya port of Vista Alegre in the Yucatan, Mexico, funded by a NOAA grant.

In our October newsletter Dr. Glover wrote a detailed description of the history of the MARTA archaeological collection. The following is excerpted from that description:

During the 1970s, Georgia State University (GSU) archaeologists, led by Dr. Roy Dickens, conducted systematic survey and excavations associated with the construction of the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) rail lines. This project recovered the material remains of Atlanta’s past, and these materials represent the single most comprehensive archaeological collection of Atlanta’s history. In addition, the excavations themselves are among the pioneering projects of urban archaeology in the then nascent field of CRM (Cultural Resource Management). The entire collection, 469 medium-sized “banker” boxes housing over 100,000 artifacts and all the accompanying documentation and excavation archive, has recently been returned to GSU.

While the significance of the collection for historians of the discipline of archaeology is somewhat narrow in focus, the collection’s broader significance stems from the insight it can provide into the development of Atlanta from an agrarian backwater to a ravaged, railway hub at the end of the Civil War into the major metropolis in the Southeast in the 20th century. While this transformation has been documented historically, the written record only tells part of the story. The approximately 100,000+ artifacts that make-up the MARTA archaeological collection have much to add to the story of Atlanta’s rebirth and showcase significant “moments” in the life of the city, including several Civil War sites associated with the Battle of Atlanta.

In general, the collection opens immense opportunities for faculty and student research and public education and outreach. Furthermore, it will facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations within GSU, as well as with other universities, CRM firms, and interested groups (like GAAS) in the Atlanta-area for the curation, conservation, study, and exhibition of the artifacts and archive. With the support of GSU and GAAS members, this long-forgotten collection can finally shed light on the development of the Southeast’s largest city and engage the public about the benefits of archaeology in ways that were not even dreamed of when this project began in the 1970s.

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