NOTICE: Friday publications of the Weekly Ponder were suspended in September 2012.

Archaeologists collect diverse information and think about it, trying to piece it together into a coherent whole; in a sense, it’s our specialty. A scientific understanding and interpretation of the human past requires the marshaling of heterogeneous data. The best archaeological projects seek input from scientists specializing in many other fields (e.g., soil science, chemistry, zoology, geomorphology, etc.).

So, archaeologists ponder. In this vein, the SGA presents the Weekly Ponder, a brief, thoughtful picture-and-text post every week. We guarantee a new Ponder each week, posted at 5 am on Friday mornings. Topics are tremendously diverse!

Ponder is a great word. It means to think about something carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion.

We invite you to ponder with us. All SGA members are invited to send submissions to become Ponders—words and visuals! All readers are invited to post comments using the link at the end of each post.

There are 191 articles in this category. Each excerpt below links to the full article (click on the article headline or the 'Click here to read' link!)

2012 Fall Meeting abstracts

The SGA is proud to announce the presentations we’ll be hearing at the Fall Meeting, on Saturday, October 27th, at the Columbus Museum’s Patrick Theater. Go to the full story for the abstracts, and a downloadable version, too. For more stories on the SGA’s meeting, click here.

Big buildings: Monumental and civic-ceremonial architecture

Eiffel tower from SE sunny day CUArchaeologists have two specialized terms for large-scale buildings and building-complexes: monumental architecture and civic-ceremonial architecture. One is descriptive. The other refers to function. Consider the activities that happen in the monumental architecture of modern times, and what insights this gives you for examples from the past.

Preservation by parking lot

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Thisisleicestershire co uk city car park exavationsJust recently two examples of archaeological remains coming to light that had been preserved beneath pavements have been in the news. One is the possible burial of a king in England. The other are human remains found beneath where a middle school was recently razed in the historic district of Brunswick. What do you think of paving over as a deliberate way to preserve archaeological remains?

Visit the Columbus Museum with the SGA

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Join members of the SGA this fall at our semi-annual meeting. Stay tuned for information on pre-registration and an order form for a boxed lunch. Our 2012 Fall Meeting will be at the Columbus Museum’s Patrick Theater on Saturday, October 27th. While you’re there, check out Museum exhibits and a free film on the history of the Columbus area.

Dig into this website

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Make like an archaeologist and dig around in this website—and see what you can find! For help digging, click here. For diverse stories, check the Weekly Ponders. Read the full story for more ideas….

Learning about the past: Jefferson Davis

Submitted by Catherine Long (diggergirl77@gmail.com)

Jefferson Davis gastateparks org CURead SGA President Catherine Long’s first-person story of adventuring from the Atlanta area to Douglas to attend meetings on the 17–18th August, 2012. En route, she stopped and toured the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site in Irwin County, and discovered that one of the tales she had heard about Mr. Davis…well, read the full story and find out!

Measurements and projectile points

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Buchanan et al 2012 PLoS ONE Fig 2 CUArchaeologists sometimes make detailed studies of artifacts. Projectile points are one kind of artifact that some archaeologists study with great care. This article discusses measurements made in one recent study of North American Paleoindian points, in which measurements were made of the bases and blades of points, along with various length measurements, and the maximum thickness. Consider that points were almost always used, which altered their dimensions from when they were created.

Chemical testing shows Native Americans used ritual drink for centuries

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

L Alexander Ill State Archaeo Survey beakers CURecently, researchers have studied the chemistry of food remains on mugs from the huge Mississippian-period occupation at Cahokia, a multi-mound site across the Mississippi River from what is now St. Louis, Missouri. They discovered that the chemical profile included methylxanthines present in two species of holly. Historical records from early Euro-Americans record that Native peoples drank teas made from these species. This research confirms that these ritual drinks were consumed for hundreds of years. Also, these holly trees are not native to the Cahokia area, and researchers propose that bark and leaves for making teas were traded inland from native stands along the Gulf Coast.

July 31, 2012

Ft Hawkins Abby 2012 CU…in which Abby the ArchaeoBus visits Fort Hawkins (Macon) during Archaeology Month, in Spring 2012. Abby tells about her adventures at Fort Hawkins, and provides many photographs of visitors and activities, including excavations and surveying with a transit. Look through them all to find SGA friends and acquaintances!

Artifact styles…do not always match genetic data

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

SGA 0160 RJL PIDBA CUAre you interested in the earliest human settlers in North America? If so, you may enjoy browsing the information offered online in The Paleoindian Database of the Americas. The Georgia section now includes thousands of photographs and drawings of Paleoindian and Early Archaic projectile points, and metric data for the points, too, courtesy of R. Jerald Ledbetter. Style studies, for example of stone tools, do not always match the results of archaeogenetic studies.

GAAS visits Stewart County

Submitted by Lyn B. Kirkland and Elizabeth Allan (lkirkla@aol.com)

Veg pharm CUOn Friday, June 29, 2012, twenty-plus members of the GAAS and their guests visited several notable locations in Lumpkin, Stewart County, in southwest Georgia: the Bedingfield Inn, the Hatchett Drug Store Museum, and the Singer/Moye archaeological site, a complex of nine Mississippian mounds, which now belongs to the University of Georgia and is currently being used for a UGA field school.

Archaeology and learning: Summer opportunities

Submitted by Catherine Long (sgapresident@thesga.org sgapresident@thesga.org)

It’s summer and what are kids doing? Attending summer camp and having fun on summer vacation! For those interested in archaeology as a career or to spur their child to examine the interdisciplinary focus of the field, there are field work and volunteer opportunities. It is great fun for everyone. A great introduction to Georgia archaeology is the book Frontiers in the Soil. This website is THE place to order a copy of Frontiers.

Researcher skill: Assessing letters

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

National Tribune Sherman generals CUWhat did the countryside look like in northern Georgia during the Civil War? We get some idea from a contemporary description from General O.O. Howard, who lead troops traveling from Chattanooga toward Atlanta in the spring of 1864. How can you assess the accuracy of such reports? This is a basic skill required of researchers….

Cemeteries and lot lines

Submitted by Stephen A. Hammack (stephen.hammack.ctr@robins.af.mil)

SH lot line fig cropped CUA little known fact about historic cemeteries is that they were often purposefully placed on land lot lines. This type of land usage seems to have been based on common sense, as land owners established family cemeteries on the edges of their property in places that were least likely to hinder agricultural activities. Several examples from Middle Georgia are discussed, although placing cemeteries on the furthest edges of property lines was common across the Southeast, and quite possibly across the nation.

Cause and effect: Climatic change

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Cause effect graphic CUScientists, including archaeologists, think about causal relationships between two events (or situations or conditions) separated by the passage of time. As an example, think about the role of climate change in the decline of civilizations. Some have argued that climatic change can cause the decline of civilizations. But does this hypothesis overlook important factors that may or may not happen between the two events—between the change and the decline?

Electromagnetic induction research at Ocmulgee reported

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Bigman 2012 Ocmulgee Arch Prosp Fig2 CUIn a recent article, Dan Bigman of the University of Georgia describes using electromagnetic (EM) induction techniques to investigate two areas adjacent to the Funeral Mound at Ocmulgee National Monument, near Macon. These techniques allowed Bigman to learn more about the archaeological resources in the park without disturbing them. Using non-invasive methods allows archaeologists to learn about buried evidence of the past without disturbing it. You can visit the park yourself and see the area near the Funeral Mound for free.

School’s out

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

The Weekly Ponder is on vacation. Now is a good time to think about seasonal patterns in the lives of people living in what is now Georgia in the recent and long-ago past. Did they have a sense of time comparable to our weeks, months, seasons, years? Why do you think so?

Frontiers, chapter 4

Frontiers in the Soil cover at angle CUThe Society for Georgia Archaeology proudly sells Frontiers in the Soil, a softcover book about archaeology in Georgia. Author Roy S. Dickens, Jr. and illustrator James L. McKinley convey details about Georgia’s ancient past through engaging text and colorful cartoons. The book includes exercises for studying Georgia archaeology.

Links between language diversity and archaeology?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Gorenflo et 2012 Fig 1A crop CUA recent study finds high linguistic variability in areas that also have high biodiversity. How much biodiversity does Georgia have? How much did it have over the last 10,000 or 20,000 years? What implications does this have for our understanding of ancient peoples of Georgia? Consider these issues in light of research published in May 2012 by LJ Gorenflo, Suzanne Romaine, RA Mittermeier, and K Walker-Painemilla.

Get your copy of Frontiers!

Frontiers in the Soil cover at angle CUIf you don’t already have a copy of Frontiers in the Soil, click here to access an order form! Clocking in at over 100 pages, Frontiers tells the story of young archaeologists working on an excavation project, using lively text and humorous cartoon illustrations. This classic volume will be enjoyed by everyone curious about Georgia’s archaeological heritage. There’s also a free lesson plan based on the book.

Meetings: Crossroads to knowledge

Submitted by Catherine Long (diggergirl77@gmail.com)

Meetings are a crossroads to knowledge. The full story discusses the April 2012 statewide preservation conference. You’ve missed that meeting, but it’s not too late—May also has interesting events scheduled for 2012 Archaeology Month, including the SGA’s Spring Meeting, which will be held Saturday, May 19th, at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville.

War of 1812: A British caricaturist’s perspective

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Cruikshank 1812 sketch Gabriel to JMadison color CUArchaeology Month 2012 recognizes the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. The War was declared by the USA under President James Madison against Great Britain, which was already fighting France under Napoleon. One British etching of the time shows the Archangel Gabriel blowing his trumpet, conveying criticism of Madison. Witnesses to this event include personifications of the USA and Great Britain as women. Examine this Library of Congress holding and the British perspective on this New World conflict in the full story.

Walking the landscape: Georgia’s prehistoric trails

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

“Before Georgia had roads, it was laced with Indian trails or paths,” writes Dr. Louis DeVorsey in his 2003 entry in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Indian Trails. Why did people establish, maintain, and travel these trails? Dr. DeVorsey suggests that normal economic needs motivated much of the travel. What do you think?

Urbanization causes archaeological resource destruction

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Megapolitan areas Grimm et 2008 Fig 3 CUCall it a megapolitan area or a megaregion, but Georgia’s Piedmont is experiencing an increase in human settlement that endangers—and destroys—archaeological remains. Join the Society for Georgia Archaeology and help preserve Georgia’s archaeological heritage. Once you’ve joined the SGA, volunteer with the Society to actively help the SGA to preserve, study and interpret Georgia’s historic and prehistoric remains.

Dams hold more than water

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Eagle and Phenix Dam Google Maps dam intact CUWe all know dams hold water, but they can also preserve archaeological information. The recent dynamiting of the Eagle & Phenix dam in the Chattahoochee River adjacent to downtown Columbus has revealed considerable data on the industrial history of the mill complexes that lined this stretch of the river. The water also concealed many archaeological artifacts. Read about what destruction of the dam has revealed, and the exhibits that will be created to tell the story of the Eagle & Phenix dam and the mills it served.

Annual website statistics: 2009–2011

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

How much attention has thesga.org, the website of the Society for Georgia Archaeology, received over the period 2009–2011? Read the full story and learn about the success of the SGA’s website. The SGA’s mission “is to unite all persons interested in the archaeology of Georgia and to work actively to preserve, study and interpret Georgia’s historic and prehistoric remains,” and this website aids the Society in reaching its goals.

Archaeological lessons for us today: Coping with environmental stresses

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Butzer 2012 pg3636 PNAS Collapse Fig 1 CUHow do archaeological investigations can help us understand the present, and give us insights into the future of the world? A series of articles in a Special Feature called “Critical Perspectives on Historical Collapse,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012, vol. 109, no. 10), and available online here for free, offers archaeological examples that are helpful in understanding how societies under stress react, and what reactions are more and less successful. Dr. Karl Butzer, in his contribution, argues that “resilience and readaptation depend on identified options, improved understanding, cultural solidarity, enlightened leadership, and opportunities for participation and fresh ideas” (p. 3632).

Archaeology: Real world to hypotheses, theories

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Framework K 12 Science Education FIG 3 1 three spheres CUHow do archaeologists do…archaeology? Archaeologists analyze the material remains (sites and artifacts) people have left behind, then interpret and recreate past human life. So, how does the analysis lead to the interpreting and recreating? A new, 2012 publication by the National Academies provides a helpful discussion of how all kinds of scientific researchers, including archaeologists, move from the real world to hypotheses and theories. Archaeologists use their understanding of material remains to reconstruct our human past.

War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration planned

Submitted by Catherine Long (diggergirl77@gmail.com)

Fort McHenry from CL CUWe hope you will join us in commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 by attending the SGA’s Spring Meeting on May 19th at the Georgia Gwinnett College campus. Georgia’s role in the War of 1812 had three main focus points: the Creek War (1813–1814), the British blockade, and the British occupation of St. Mary’s and Cumberland Island (1814–1815). Attend the Spring Meeting and learn about relationships between the Creek and the frontier people and feature research on fortifications from that period.

1875 Scull Shoals article leads researcher home

Submitted by Tom Gresham (searcheo@aol.com)

Scull newspaper CURecently, SGA member Tom Gresham found an 1875 article in the Oglethorpe Echo in which the newspaper’s editor and publisher, T. Larry Gantt, discussed an overnight fishing adventure he made with friends along the Oconee River. As Tom comments, “Fortunately, little of the article discusses fishing, and most describes his ten-mile buggy ride to and from the river and the archeological sites they found along the river, including the Scull Shoals mounds.” We offer the full text of the article in a format evocative of the original, and Tom’s account of finding the article.

Snacking in Middle Woodland times: plant foods

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Back in Middle Woodland times, there was no McDonalds, no Starbucks, and no drive-up windows. Middle Woodland times date to roughly 2000 years ago and more, so the lack of convenience food stores is not surprising. This leaves us with the question: just what did the people of Georgia eat back then? In a recent Early Georgia article “Middle Woodland Gardening in the Etowah River Valley, Northwest Georgia” (2011, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 119–136), Leslie E. Branch-Raymer and Mary Theresa Bonhage-Freund discuss plant foods people ate back in those times. Follow the link to learn more….

Abandonment/reuse of the Etowah mounds

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

King 2003 Etowah paperback cover CUWhile the Etowah mounds are large and imposing, and people used them over several hundred years during the Mississippian period, they were not continuously occupied. Read the story of the Etowah mounds in detail in Adam King’s Etowah: The Political History of a Chiefdom Capital (2003; University of Alabama Press), which is now available in paperback and ebook versions.

Long-distance travel: The Leake Site example

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Leake on National Map topo CUIn an article in the Fall 2011 issue of Early Georgia (vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 173–200), Scot Keith discusses evidence for long-distance trade and exchange in Middle Woodland times (from about 350 BC to AD 650), using data from the Leake Site, near Cartersville. Members of the SGA in 2011 received that issue of Early Georgia as a benefit of membership. Join the SGA, and you will receive the current volume of Early Georgia!

Combating damage and deterioration of artifacts

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

GA state capitol Early Archaeology in GA display 2002 CUMuseums and other institutions store and display artifacts. Curators—the professionals who care for artifact collections in museums and other institutions that preserve artifacts—must be very careful to make sure that artifacts are preserved and not damaged while in their care. Read about many potential agents of deterioration, degradation, and destruction in the full article.

Blue Ridge Parkway archive online with geolocation data

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Driving through Time truck CUDo you geotag your digital photographs? North Carolina archivists have determined the geographic location of myriad photographs and other historical materials that illuminate the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway, then put scans of those materials online for researchers to browse. Read more about Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina in the full story.

Georgia’s naval stores industry: Harvesting

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

The naval stores industry was important to Georgia’s economy for generations. Naval stores are made from the sap of pine trees. This industry was concentrated in the piney areas of the Coastal Plain. Visit the Million Pines Rest Area north of Soperton and learn about harvesting pine sap.

Mining in Georgia: Gold and online resources

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

The first documented find of gold in Georgia dates to the summer of 1829, according to E. Merton Coulter in Auraria: The story of a Georgia gold-mining town (University of Georgia Press, Athens, originally published in 1956 and released in paperback in 2009, and available online for free). Auraria, in Lumpkin County, was a town that flourished during the rush and is a ghost town today.

Is religion an adaptive behavior?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Wade Faith Instinct cover cropped CUNicholas Wade, in his 2009 book, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures, argues that behaviors we describe as religious conferred a survival advantage on early humans, and thus were adaptive and favored by natural selection. The benefits he ascribes to religious beliefs and practices include emotions like trust and loyalty, which support cooperation and empathy, improve group cohesion, and improve the survival rate of groups.

An ethnohistorian’s insights into untangling the past

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Looking for de Soto cover CUHave you ever wondered what it would have been like to travel in North America with an early European adventurer? Read Joyce Rockwood Hudson’s Looking for De Soto: A Search Through the South for the Spaniard’s Trail (published in 1993) and you will learn what it was like to try to trace the route that Hernando De Soto and his entourage took through southeastern North America in 1540. Mrs. Hudson and her husband, then UGA professor Dr. Charles Hudson, set out to retrace and verify the route of the De Soto expedition in 1984.

Ways to make the past a story

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Fraser Rimas Empires cover CUHistorical and archaeological books and articles commonly tell the story of the past either using a timeline (a sequential version of the past) or using a specific topic—a place or person or theme—to anchor the tale. This story notes that there’re two sequential versions of Georgia’s past on this website—a table and a prose post. The full story contrasts these with Caldwell’s volume on research prior to the flooding of the Allatoona Reservoir, and a book on food and the human past (and future)—both with topical foci. Caldwell’s volume is recommended to anyone interested in Georgia’ prehistory.

Diaries as research tools

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Diaries are one of many primary sources about the past. Primary sources are records from people who had first-hand experience with what is recorded in the materials they have left behind. On this website we have a diary—of Abby the ArchaeoBus. The ArchaeoBus is a major outreach project of the SGA, and billed as Georgia’s mobile archaeology classroom. Using Abby’s diary as an example, consider the strengths and weaknesses of diaries as aids to understanding the past.

Georgia archaeology: Transportation sites

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Altamaha Brunswick Canal crossing 99 CUThere’s a little-known type of archaeological site called a transportation site. Transportation sites are of many sub-types, including railroads and railroad depots and yards, roads and trails, canals, and wharves and docks. These are archaeological sites but not residential sites. Read more in the full story, which focusses on the Brunswick-Altamaha Canal, which SGA members and guests visited during the tour of archaeological sites near St. Simons Island that was the focus of the SGA’s exciting 2010 Fall Meeting.

Columbian Exchange quiz results

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Columbian exchange correct answers chart CUFor about three months, the SGA’s website had a twelve-question quiz on the origins of commonly used species, mostly plants. The question posed was: is this species native to the Old World or the New World? The movement of plants and animals between the Old and New Worlds after Christopher Columbus’s First Expedition in 1492 is commonly referred to as the Columbian Exchange. Thus, the quiz provides insights into quiz-taker knowledge of the Columbian Exchange. Should you wish to take the quiz before reading the answers, click here.

How important is dating?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

In Small Things Forgotten title page CUMany people have encountered one of the editions of James Deetz’s In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life, which was first published in 1977 and is still an insightful volume. Dr. Deetz discusses, among many other things, the importance of chronology and dating to the study of the past. He also argues that small things are extremely important to understanding the past, giving examples of how we may continue behaviors with roots in the past in everyday life today.

What was the New World like in 1491?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Mann 2005 cover CU In 2005, Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus appeared on bookstore shelves, and still is selling well in a paperback edition with a new afterword. Mann’s book focuses on what the New World was like prior to the arrival of the Columbus expedition in 1492. Mann offers enough information for you to envision what you would have seen if you could have flown over the Western Hemisphere in AD 1000. What he writes about may be a bit (or a lot) different from what you learned in school about his subject.

Historic preservation primer available from HPD

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

HPD Preservation Primer 2011 CUCareful preservation planning means knowledge about important historical and archaeological resources are part of the planning process. In late October 2011, Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division released Preservation Primer: A Resource Guide for Georgia, available in both high- and low-resolution PDFs. The Primer will help you identify historic properties, evaluate them, and develop local preservation planning strategies. And help protect your community’s resources.

Origins of agriculture discussed in detail

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Price Bar Yosef 2011 Fig 1 worldwide origins of ag CUThe origins of agriculture is one of the major topics of the field of archaeology. The journal Current Anthropology has just published an issue dedicated to this topic, called The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas. The issue’s twenty-two articles can be accessed for free. An article by Bruce D. Smith considers the origins of agriculture in eastern North America, in particular the seed plants squash (Cucurbita pepo), sunflower, sumpweed (Iva annua), and lambsquarters/pigweed (Chenopodium berlandieri).

Volcanoes and archaeology: pros and cons

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Herculaneum inside SE exposed area CUWhile volcanoes are undeniably destructive, they can aid archaeological tourism by preserving ancient homes and settlements. We discuss the case of AD 79 Roman Herculaneum, formerly on the Bay of Naples, Italy, and offer a few photographs.

Description of Indian mound from the 1770s

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Bartram Plate3 Ixia caelestina 1793 CUEver wonder what an Indian mound was like in the late eighteenth century? In the mid-1770s, natural historian William Bartram traveled through what is now Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. He described his adventures in a 1793 volume Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws…. He describes a special round building the Cherokees used for important group activities. His architectural description gives a good idea of what careful archaeological excavation may reveal of a building like this.

October 22nd is National Archaeology Day

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

2011 National Archaeology Day AIA CULeading national archaeological organizations are partnering to participate in National Archaeology Day, on 22 October 2011. What will you do to celebrate? In addition, across the US and Canada, there are events throughout the whole month of October. What will you do to celebrate archaeology this year? And, it’s not too soon to start planning your 2012 National Archaeology Day celebrations!

Conservation news near and far

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hereclea Minoa Sicilia theater CUThis Weekly Ponder considers what archaeological resources are, and what it means to conserve them, using two examples. Earlier this month, the Secretary of the Interior awarded a 2011 Partners in Conservation Award to the Camp Lawton Preservation Team, which has been working to investigate and conserve this recently rediscovered Confederate prisoner of war camp that’s near Millen. The second example is the joint effort by The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Google to put digital images of the Dead Sea Scrolls online; five are now accessible.

Test yourself about the Columbian Exchange

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Old World CUThis Weekly Ponder offers a short quiz about which side of the Atlantic Ocean twelve species of creatures, mostly plants, now grown and used in both the Old and New Worlds, originated prior to Christopher Columbus’s First Expedition, in 1492.

Social science > anthropology > archaeology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Barfield 2010 Afghanistan cover CUArchaeologists think of human society as very complex. Other social scientists prioritize certain aspects of human social life. For example, political scientists look at political behavior, of individuals and the groups they form. We consider an example offered by anthropologist Thomas Barfield in which he observes that Afghani society prioritizes group interests (e.g., honor), whereas modern Americans, as a society, prioritize individual interests (e.g., household wealth).

Artifacts in Athens: an historic cannon

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Double barreled cannon 2011 CUMake a field trip to Athens and check out the Civil War-period double barreled cannon on the top of the highest hill downtown, on the northeast corner of the grounds of the old city hall. Consider visiting the cannon on 22 October 2011, as well as attending the SGA’s Fall Meeting that day and the Society’s silent and live auctions in the evening. Click here for more information on the Fall Meeting.

Collective learning, baseball caps, and Clovis points

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Braves batter 2007 CUHumans are adept at collective learning. We share information with our peers and information is learned from our elders and passed along to the next generation. This means that we don’t have to expend as much energy learning something that another person already learned. How can this be seen archaeologically? Baseball caps and Clovis points are touched on in the full discussion.

Camp Lawton artifact news

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Camp Lawton Colby token 2011 CUGeorgia Southern University’s archaeology team has announced more artifacts that have been identified from Camp Lawton. Camp Lawton was a Confederate prisoner of war camp located just outside of Millen. The camp was occupied for only six weeks before evacuations began in the middle of the night on November 26, 1864, as the Union army approached during Sherman’s March to the Sea. “The amount of artifacts and the variety of artifacts we are finding at this site is stunning,” said Georgia Southern archaeology professor and director of the project Dr. Sue Moore. Dr. Moore is a Past President of the Society for Georgia Archaeology. This story considers a trade token found by archaeologists that was issued in 1863 by a grocer-wholesaler in Niles, Michigan.

Scales of data and analysis

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Data data data data CUConsider how quantities of fine-grained data obtained through careful, well-documented excavation can be integrated to investigate broader questions of socio-political evolution. Consider how the scale of data and the research questions you can ask using them are related.

On rifle-trenches: The General says…

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Sherman Memoirs vol I frontispiece author CUIn his Memoirs, General William T. Sherman provides a detailed description of the rifle-trenches soldiers from both sides occupied while fighting near Kennesaw Mountain—and elsewhere—during the Civil War. Today, we consider the remains of these trenches archaeological features. What would you expect them to look like archaeologically—if they have survived the nearly one-and-a-half centuries since 1864?

Reconstruct, stabilize, or ???

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Resource saving investment schematic CUArchaeologists and managers of archaeological resources, including those on public lands, must make a choice. Basically, those archaeological remains can be ignored, stabilized, or reconstructed—along with perhaps subtle choices on the continuum between each of these. If you were the owner or manager of an archaeological resource, which would you choose? What would you consider in making your choice?

The ArchaeoBus attends Girl Scout camp

Submitted by Teresa Groover and Tom Gresham

ArchaeoBus Teresa girlscouts bus CUSGA’s ArchaeoBus, nicknamed Abby, visited a week-long Girl Scout Eco-camp in Oglethorpe County in July, 2011. Amy Glinski, leader of the camp, along with SGA’s Tom Gresham and Teresa Groover presented a half day of programming and hands-on activities to 40 girls who ranged from 6 to 13 years old. We think this was another successful venture for the ArchaeoBus and was a slightly different audience and setting. We are finding that the ArchaeoBus is readily adaptable to a wide range of audiences.

Considering household wealth: residential architecture

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Potts Tract Structure 1 Fig 10 Hally 1970 CUArchaeology is a comparative science. How can we compare houses cross-culturally? How do houses reflect variable wealth among their owners and residents? How do their size and layout reflect the activities they are designed to accommodate? How does our concept of the house affect how we think about the residential living areas of ancient peoples? These issues are touched on in the full article….

Exploring the Civil War through historic maps

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Atlanta campaign Wikipedia partial CUThe Sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War began this year. The SGA marked this event with this year’s theme of Georgia Archaeology Month, Gone But Not Forgotten: Rediscovering the Civil War Through Archaeology, held in May. You can also rediscover the Civil War through digital maps available online, by matching them to maps and satellite views of the same landscape today. Try it yourself!

In the National Park System, cultural resources “are in serious trouble”

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

State of Americas Natl Parks 2011 cover CUA June 2011 report called The State of America’s National Parks warns on page 25 “that cultural resources in the National Park System—considered the most important to our country’s heritage—are in serious trouble. In fact, these places and collections are being maintained in a condition well below the level that the National Park Service itself has deemed appropriate.” The report concludes on page 27 that the reason this has happened is that “[t]here simply aren’t enough qualified and trained people overseeing the parks’ cultural heritage.” Given the many National Park System properties with an historic or archaeological slant in Georgia (e.g., Ocmulgee National Monument and the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site), are you surprised at this situation?

Learning from the past: where people lived changed over time

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

TWC Georgia regions CURead “Examining Variation in the Human Settlement of Prehistoric Georgia,” by John A. Turck, Mark Williams, and John F. Chamblee in the Spring 2011 issue of Early Georgia (included in membership in the SGA) and you will better understand changes and continuities in the prehistoric occupation across the landscape of the area we now call Georgia. The trio apply statistical methods to the treasure trove of data stored at the Georgia Archaeological Site File in Athens to fine-tune our understanding of where people lived when in the past, and of how those patterns changed over time.

Fire-fighting can threaten archaeological resources

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Georgia tmo 2011164 wildfire cropped CUOne consequence of wildfires is that they not only threaten homes, but they can also threaten archaeological resources. Buried features may be protected by the soil above them, but many archaeological features extend above the soil. This is true for hundreds of archaeological sites currently threatened by fires in New Mexico and Arizona. This is also true for Georgia sites now threatened by fires near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Consider how we can effectively fight fires and at the same time provide protection for irreplaceable archaeological resources—is it possible?

Pondering the SGA…and you

Remember that the Society for Georgia Archaeology produces this website, and is a volunteer organization. So, if you are fascinated by Georgia’s archaeology, including stories you read on this website, join the SGA! Then, volunteer to help SGA accomplish its mission and goals! And have fun with other interesting people who also care about Georgia’s archaeology.

Food storage is linked to horticulture

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

When people began to save food for longer than several days, they had to develop ways of storing it that would be safe from predators ranging from other humans to bacteria. Look around a typical Georgia kitchen today, and you probably will see a refrigerator and freezer, cupboards, perhaps a pantry, breadbox, and cookie jar—all for storing food. What strategies did ancient peoples use to store their food? This article uses an example from the Neolithic period in what is now Jordan to investigate how ancient peoples solved the problem of food storage.

Study Georgia’s natural environment using 1978 volume

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Wharton 1978 Natural Environments cover CUTo understand our human past, archaeologists study many kinds of information, for example, the natural environment. Charles H. Wharton’s The Natural Environments of Georgia (1978) remains a useful resource for understanding our state. 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.

Natural disasters and history

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

When we consider the long tale of our human past, how important are major disasters? Consider the recent earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Consider the impact of the 2005 hurricane season on the Gulf of Mexico, especially Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. Also, consider a hinterland place like Georgia’s own Sapelo Island, and the hurricane of 1898. What choices do people face after a disaster? What are their options if they emigrate? What must they do to stay?

Consequences of travel to human history

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Crowds walking Broadway NYC 2010 CUDo you think that, as a species, people are mobile, and move around? What are the consequences to history of being more mobile or more sedentary? Consider the economic and religious motivations to being mobile—or not—and the implications for our human past—and future.

Understanding the Mississippian past by uniting archaeology and history

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hudson 1997 Knights and Warriors cover CUArchaeologists call the period when explorers from the Iberian peninsula first wandered through Georgia the Mississippian period. Charles Hudson, in Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun (1997), describes the clash of the two cultures that resulted, focusing on Hernando de Soto and the group of hundreds of soldiers, craftsmen, and hangers-on who traveled with him in the 1700s, and the people living in the towns they visited. What makes his book truly special is that he weaves together information from Spanish chroniclers with archaeological data, to produce a well-rounded tale of this poorly documented period in Georgia’s past.

HPD uses online survey and public discussions to frame 5-year plan

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

HPD_Preserv_Plan_to_2011_cover_CU.jpgFrom mid-2010 to early 2011, Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division sought public input on what HPD should emphasize in their programs over the coming five years. The current State Historic Preservation Plan will be replaced by a new plan by the end of 2011. In general, archaeological resources take a back seat to historical resources, especially standing buildings and historic districts.

Archaeological remains of weddings?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

William Katherine engagement photo CUWhat archaeological remains do weddings leave? Obviously, even what constitutes a wedding varies greatly cross-culturally. What will be the archaeological remains of the huge, well-attended wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? What are the archaeological remains of weddings in your community or that you’ve attended? What about weddings in other cultures?

LR Binford on cultural evolution

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

In April 2011, archaeologist Lewis R. Binford (b. 1931) died. His 2001 book Constructing Frames of Reference presents cross-cultural data on hunting-and-gathering peoples who lived similar to Paleoindian peoples of Georgia. One issue commonly discussed in archaeology and addressed by Dr. Binford in his book is the transition away from hunting and gathering to more sedentary ways of life.

Archaeology and chronology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Early Georgia logo B W 100 highArchaeologists seek to understand past ways of life. The science of archaeology is about far more than objects (aka artifacts, including arrowheads, pottery, metal scraps, and the like)—and it’s definitely not about finding treasure. Read more about the goals of archaeologists in the full story.

Book review: Archaeological Encounters with Georgia’s Spanish Period, 1526-1700

Submitted by Kelly Woodard (kelly@thesga.org)

Recently, members of the SGA received Archaeological Encounters in Georgia’s Spanish Period, 1526-1700: New Findings and Perspectives, edited by Dennis B. Blanton and Robert A. DeVillar. The SGA used the book to raise awareness of special topics in Georgia archaeology as well as reward its membership with the opportunity to receive special publications. Currently, all available copies have been distributed to the SGA membership and institutional members of SGA, such as libraries. If you are looking for this particular book, these libraries should have an available copy.

Ca. 1800 Georgia illuminated in Creek ethnohistory

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Ethridge Creek Country title page CUEthnohistorian Robbie Ethridge, in Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World (2003: University of North Carolina Press) describes “a distant, lost world—the world of the Creek Indians at the close of the eighteenth century.” She unites archaeological and historical data to illuminate this largely overlooked period. Read Dr. Ethridge’s book and you will understand Georgia’s early history anew.

No cell phone: how do you communicate long-distance?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

North Wales Chester area terrain CUConsider this…you live in a world without cell phones, without cars, or even bicycles or horses to ride. You walk if you want to go somewhere. People living in the places you know about live in scattered, small villages and hamlets. So, if you want to communicate with someone who lives several villages distant, how do you do it? Think about this and then click over to the full story.

Making money may not be a long-term solution

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Confederate bill NYTimes CUHow do you make money? How does a nation make money? Often, countries “make” money by printing it. The full story discusses a recent article by Ben Tarnoff in the New York Times online that reviews the decisions made from 1861 on by the Confederacy’s money managers to fund the war. The discussion goes on to consider short-term solutions that do not solve long-term problems.

“Big things” in archaeology: cliodynamics and chiefdoms

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Gavritlets and2 2010 fig 1Archaeologists consider little things and big things. A little thing would be studying the soot on the outside of a pottery fragment to discover what species of firewood was used—and little things do have big implications. Cliodynamics is a new field that generates mathematical models of long-term social processes. The full story briefly examines cliodynamical modeling of late prehistoric Native American political units before the arrival of Europeans.

Archaeological vandalism: Two stories

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Leptis Magna Google Maps satellite CUWhy are archaeological resources vandalized? Consider the two examples in the full story, one from the Macon area, and login and tell us your thoughts.

Visit Harvard’s Peabody Museum collection online

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Peabody Museum artifact 86 22 1039054 CUIn the March 2011 issue of American Anthropologist, Meg Gaillard reviews the website of the online collections of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Take a look at the review and the online collection and see pictures of artifacts from Georgia, and some information about the conditions under which they came into the collection. The article considers a “groundstone bowl fragment” as an example of this useful online collection.

Are archaeology and civic engagement interlinked?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

NPS_logo_from_website_CU.jpgConsiderable archaeological data and information are held in the public trust—because archaeological resources are on public lands, because public money funds research, and because some archaeological research is conducted because of public policy and laws. Thus, this story examines the relationship between archaeology and civic engagement using a 2008 National Park Service Technical Brief that’s available online as a basis for the discussion.

Rituals and archaeology: MLK’s two burial places

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

MLK Coretta mausoleum King Center Atlanta CUDid you know that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remains have been buried twice? At his funeral in 1968, they were buried at South-View Cemetery on the south side of Atlanta. Then, in 1977, Dr. King’s remains were moved to the famous marble tomb at the King Center that is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. These events were accompanied by important rituals. Rituals are important components of cultural behavior, but they preserve poorly—and at best incompletely—in archaeological contexts. What are the implications of this for reconstructions of the past based on archaeological data?

Historic preservation is good for Georgia’s economy

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Recently, Georgia DNR’s Historic Preservation Division released Good News in Tough Times: Historic Preservation and the Georgia Economy, a report on the impact of historic preservation on the state’s economy. The report is downloadable and gives figures on some benefits to the state’s bottom line. Note that individual property owners have invested $560,000,000 in historic buildings over the decade beginning in 2000.

Archaeologists use iPads during excavations at Pompeii

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

iPad_use_at_Pompeii_apple_website_CU.jpgA recent story on the Apple website describes how archaeologists working at the famous site of Pompeii, near Naples in central Italy, have been using iPads to record detailed excavation data, using “off-the-shelf” software. While using the iPads in the field reduces post-fieldwork data-entry time, this story asks you to consider the potential drawbacks of using a tablet computer in the field instead of pencils, erasers, and graph paper.

Pillar carpentry

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Some historic buildings are known for their white columns. How did traditional carpenters make those columns? When they are standing in position and painted, it’s difficult to tell how they might have been made, even if you examine them closely. However, when a house is under renovation, construction secrets may be revealed.

Atlanta Beltline and the Old Fourth Ward

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Beltline_NE_map_CU_2011_Jan_FP.jpgThe city of Atlanta has undertaken a visionary project to improve the transportation network for pedestrians. Under construction is the Atlanta Beltline project, which includes a 22-mile loop of pedestrian-friendly rail transit, almost 1300 acres of new parkland, and 33-miles of foot trails. Such projects are examples of changes in land use that affect historic and archaeological preservation.

Changes over time across the landscape

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hurt_plantation_historical_marker_in_ATL_CU.jpgHuman beings are a busy species. We often change the landscape around us. We build homes and roads, we establish fields and dam up creeks. Over time, land use of a particular spot can change quite a bit. This story examines the land use of one hill about two miles east-northeast of downtown Atlanta. Land use change can be considered layers of history….

Water as a window on the world: Gwinnett County case study

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Go on a road trip and visit the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, near Buford. We all know that for Earth’s living things, water is life. And the Center’s displays focus on water as a way to link science, culture, and history. Archaeology, of course, sheds light on these interrelationships.

Early historic Native American world view presented in fiction

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hudson_Conversations_title_pg_cu.jpgCharles Hudson, in his 2003 novel, Conversations with the High Priest of Coosa (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press), relies in part on archaeology to inform his presentation of imagined conversations between a Native American leader and a Spanish visitor in the early 1500s. Hudson used archaeological information along with archival materials to imagine the world views, or belief systems, of these two men from such different places and cultures. Coosa was a 16th-century chiefdom based in northwest Georgia. Consider how novelists have used archaeology to inform their stories….

Archaeology’s greatest challenge in the media

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Indiana_Jones_promotion_image_2010_CU.jpgLook into your crystal ball. What do you think the greatest challenge is to archaeology in the media? Zachary Nelson argues in the November 2010 issue of The SAA Archaeological Record, the newsletter of the Society for American Archaeology, that the profession’s greatest challenge is…read the full article and see!

Interpreting broken pottery: Exploring rim diameters

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

DIA_small_vessel_example_CU.jpgArchaeologists often find large assortments of broken pottery—dating to either historic or prehistoric periods. Rim sherds, from the opening or mouth of the vessel, can be quite informative. This article leads the reader to consider what the implications of different vessel rim diameter assortments may be.

History of Atlanta combines text and images

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Burns_Atlanta_Yesterday_and_Tomorrow_CU.jpgRebecca Burns uses photographs and archival information to tell the history of Atlanta in her 2010 book Atlanta: Yesterday & Today. The author tells Atlanta’s story by neighborhood, with thematic sections, rather than through a single chronological storyline. The lively text is augmented by historical and modern images to convey “the character, moxie, and extraordinary history that combined to earn Atlanta its status as the capital of the New South.” Consider how the order and organization of a history may affect how the reader perceives the places and times discussed.

CW Ceram on archaeology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Gods_Graves_Scholars_Ceram_cover_CU.jpgCW Ceram’s Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology is a famous but dated book on archaeology, that for years was one of the few serious books on the subject that many people had read. Ceram thought that the practice of archaeology was both romantic and scholarly. In fact he wrote, “Yet in truth no science is more adventurous than archaeology…”. Contemplate this and more that Ceram wrote….

Archaeologists’ commitment to the public

Submitted by Kelly Woodard (kelly@thesga.org)

As archaeologists, we are the first to enjoy many pristine places and are able to contemplate how to bring them to life within communities. It is not in our blood to hide the past from the public. We preserve our findings and think of ways the public can best enjoy it. As true archaeologists, we do not stand selfishly by enjoying our priceless artifacts deep in the basement of our houses, hidden from the public. Instead, we tell the world about it, study it, and dedicate our lives to its interpretation.

Warfare and the protection of archaeological resources

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Republican_Palace_Baghdad_Iraq_Wikimedia_Commons_CU.jpgThe destruction inherent in modern warfare—for example, bombing, high-powered artillery, defensive construction by heavy equipment—is counter to the preservation of archaeological resources. The September 2010 issue of the newsletter of the Society for American Archaeology includes three articles in a section titled Antiquities in Warfare. More articles discuss Conflict Archaeology.

Cemeteries are constructed for the deceased but hold insights into the beliefs of the living

Submitted by Kelly Woodard (kelly@thesga.org)

The Flat Rock Cemetery in Lithonia displays the widespread rural African-American custom of burying the dead with simple fieldstones placed at the head and foot of the interment. Belief did not place significant importance on elaborate decoration of gravestones, as seen in formal cemeteries generally associated with white populations; but, instead placed emphasis on being buried in the cemetery as a community member and simple grave markers were used as a symbol of mutual aid reflected within the community.

Preserving the last remaining school house on St. Simons Island

Submitted by Rawson Gordon

Harrington_School_before_conservation_CU.jpgPreservation of aging buildings can offer knotty problems. Indeed, preservationists are often first faced with difficulties in purchasing the land a building sits on. Since 2004, preservationists have been working to purchase a 12-acre tract that includes the parcel on which the last remaining African American school house on St. Simons Island stands, called the Harrington Tract. The full story recounts where efforts stand as of Fall 2010.

Road trip: Scull Shoals

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Scull_Shoals_window_frame_CU.jpgBy the Oconee River between Athens and Greensboro are the ruins of a fascinating historic industrial complex—with a captivating name: Scull Shoals. Plan a road trip to this interesting place, and bring a picnic!

Three-dimensional human images from the past

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Thomas_figures_stone_sculpture_face_CU.jpgTake a look at the black-and-white images in Cyrus Thomas’s famous book Introduction to the Study of North American Archaeology, which was published over a century ago (you can download it for free). Thomas includes images of stone sculptures recovered from archaeological sites in Tennessee. Study these figures, and consider other sculptures of human images. What can you learn from these comparisons?

Cave Spring hotel found to have log walls

Cave_Spring_hotel_log_reveal_RN-T_photo_CU.jpgThe Cave Spring Historical Society is seeking to restore the town’s old hotel, which has two-story squared-log walls that were long obscured by blue siding.

Walk inside a building and look up

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

mystery_painted_ceiling_CU.jpgAre you inquisitive enough to look up when most people don’t? You can often spot something interesting if you look up in public buildings with high ceilings. The full story discusses a mural painted on a ceiling in…wait, take a look and remember if you’ve seen it in real life!

Road trip: Russell Cave

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Russell_Cave_reconstruction_CU.jpgTime to plan a road trip to Russell Cave. You’ll see mountains, navigate woodsy trails, and experience the strange change to sound that happens when you are in a cave. What a great place to think about what it’d have been like to live a thousand years ago—or more!

What is this?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammysmith@thesga.org)

US_Coast_and_Geodetic_CU.jpgThis story asks YOU to figure out what an object is. The clues are all in a single photograph.

How do we decode the past?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Tybee_sun_with_pier_CU.jpgThe long version of this story introduces a multipage online presentation by the Smithsonian Institution called “Decoding the Past: The Work of Archaeologists” (with lesson plans). This raises issues of how to envision the past so that you can reveal patterns, rhythms, and cycles that it encompasses. French historian Fernand Braudel’s tri-partite division of the rhythms of the past are introduced.

Necessities of life

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

pot_well-lit_CU.jpgThe Internet provides great resources for those researching and learning about archaeology. Finding the really good stuff, however, can be difficult. Here’s some help: the Arkansas Archeological Survey has posted some really good stuff!

Archaeo-Volunteers

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Many archaeological projects are only possible because of the hours and energy that volunteers contribute. The same is true for your SGA. Please think about what you can do to help the SGA.

Of moose and men

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

moose_on_Isle_Royale_G_Desort_CU.jpgBelieve it or not a study of moose bones is illuminating about the incidence of osteoarthritis in humans. Bioarchaeologist Clark Spencer Larsen believes that moose data from Isle Royale in northern Michigan helps understand osteoarthritis rates in 16th-century native peoples from Georgia.

Linguistics is archaeology’s cousin

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Love_in_English_CU.jpgArchaeology is a sub-field of anthropology. So is linguistics. Just what is linguistics and how does it relate to anthropology? Why is language so important to anthropologists? And just how is language important to our human species? Do you agree with Roy Rappaport that: “Flexibility is central to adaptive processes, and the enormous flexibility of the human species rests, of course, largely upon a property universal to and unique to humanity, namely language”?

North American megafaunal extinctions considered

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Firestone_2007_Fig_3_CU.jpgAre you familiar with the hypothesis that an extraterrestrial impact lead to the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna in North America? This hypothesis has been raised in opposition to hypotheses that posit that Paleoindians and/or climate did in the megafauna. This story introduces the basic ideas of these arguments, and includes links so you can read the paper that introduced the impact idea, and one which scientifically tested that model. Then, you can login and tell us your opinion!

Read a free history book

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Bonner_book_record_download_CU.jpgThe University of Georgia Press has partnered with the Digital Library of Georgia to offer out-of-print history books free online. Take a look at the selection and read about Georgia’s past—for free!

New henge detected near Stonehenge

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

newhenge_reconstruction_image_CU.jpgIn summer 2010 archaeologists began the field research for a three-year study of the lands around Stonehenge, on the Salisbury plain west-southwest of London. Almost immediately they made a game-changing find—the remains of another henge-like construction a mere one-thousand yards from Stonehenge itself! The full story has an artist’s reconstruction and satellite images of the new find.

Picnic foods are from…where?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

picnic_grilling_CU.jpgThink about your favorite picnic foods, or the ones you’re most likely to see on plates at a family reunion. Chicken, green beans, cornbread…(are you getting hungry?)…. From around the globe, where are these foods native to? North America?

Touring a ziggurat almost a century ago

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

ur_ziggurat_Google_Earth_CU.jpg What is Atlanta’s Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum’s connection to the ancient site of Ur in Mesopotamia? What was Ur’s famous temple, the ziggurat, like nearly a century ago? Read the accounts of two men who traveled with an expedition to Egypt and the Middle East and visited that Babylonian/Sumerian city in 1920. How are their accounts similar and how do they differ?

Examining the built environment

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

mandir_2010_feb_CU.jpgIn ancient times, humans lived their lives in the outdoors, although perhaps they spent some time in a cave or rockshelter. Now, the majority of people live in towns and cities. This process of urbanization has myriad implications for archaeologists. This Weekly Ponder considers the concept of the built environment.

Current SAA Archaeological Record thought-provoking

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

saa_logo_cuThe May 2010 issue of The SAA Archaeological Record, which is published by the Society for American Archaeology, includes several articles discussing how archaeologists deal with race. As the editors note, “The premise of this thematic volume is based on an ever-growing consensus in anthropology that the concept of race is best described as an expression of cultural ideology and not a biological reality” (page 3).

Road trip: Chief Vann’s house

Consider visiting the Chief Vann house, built over two hundred years ago just west of Chatsworth. It was the first brick home in the Cherokee nation. The house overlooks James Vann’s land, called Spring Place Plantation, and what we now call the Old Federal Road. This route followed an earlier foot trail and lead from east-central Georgia to the northwest, eventually crossing into Tennessee. What advantages did Vann, a Cherokee leader and businessman, have that contributed to his wealth and influence?

Website usage based on pageviews

Did you know this website hosts, on average, around three hundred pageviews per day? Did you know that visitors to our website have come from over 100 countries so far in 2010? Did you know that over eight percent of our visitors visit, on average, multiple times each month? Check out the full story for data on how our website’s use has grown since it was revamped in early 2009.

Metrics on this website’s “size”

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

How “big” is this website? How has it “grown” over the last year? We could measure it in megabytes, but a simple page count makes more sense. Our page count statistics show steady growth, and thesga.org now can proudly boast some 630 pages (or “stories”)!

Maps and mapping: Georgia’s coast in 1562

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

1562_Gutierrez_map_Brit_Mus_stamp.jpgIn a simple operation, you can use Google Earth software (free!) to overlay historic maps with the modern landscape. Here we demonstrate how informative this operation can be using the British Library’s online copy of a 1562 historic map by Spanish cartographer Diego Gutiérrez. We just examine North America’s southern Atlantic coastline, including the Georgia bight.

Models in archaeology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Google_Earth_Georgia_clip_CU.jpgArchaeologists use models in their work. These models are simplifications of reality—not well-dressed, beautiful people! Scientific models simplify reality, yet accomodate known data. Maps are models. Social scientists model human relationships and other behavioral situations. One well-known model is of cultural evolution sometimes called the band-tribe-chiefdom-state model. This model has four stages, and each stage is itself a model! Read the full story to explore this fascinating topic.

Tools of the trade

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

shovel_in_sun_CU.jpgThis story explores one particular hand tool that archaeologists frequently use: the shovel. Did you know that the field archaeologist in Georgia usually uses only two types of shovels? And that they are used for specific activities? And that they are usually sharpened so they cut the soil? Read all about it in the full story!

Casa Grande: the USA’s first archaeological reserve

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Casa_Grande_model_cutaway_CU.jpgThe archaeological remains near modern Coolidge, Arizona, now known as Casa Grande Ruins National Monument became the USA’s first archaeological reserve in 1892. The roof protecting the large three-story ruin known as Casa Grande was built in the 1930s. The ruin is constructed of locally available caliche. Read more about the architecture at this stunning site, and of the remains that spread beyond the limits of the preserved area.

What’s in a name?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

retaining_wall_for_road_CU.jpgHumans habitually categorize things they think about. This includes time, which we divide into segments such as pre- and post-war, the Mississippian period, etc. Several geologists argue that we should refer to the Epoch we’re living in now as the Anthropocene, to highlight the changes the world is undergoing that are introduced and exacerbated by human behavior.

Casting a critical eye on historical research

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

library_with_researcher_CU.jpg

Archaeologists do historical research. They don’t just dig in the soil, they dig into dusty book collections—and more! Read the full story and learn about primary and secondary document sources. Also learn about how to structure an archival research project.

Thinking roads

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

World-traveler Ted Conover argues in his new book that roads are our most extensive human artifact on earth. Travel routes can persist for centuries. Judging by historic footpaths, Georgia’s prehistoric peoples tended to follow ridges, avoiding swamps and stream crossings. We know from the asssortment of artifacts found that ancient peoples traveled to places far away or traded with people who came from far away (like the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, and deep in the continental interior). What do we know of those travel routes and footpaths? How, for example, did peoples of the Leake Site, in northwest Georgia, cross the terrain and interact with peoples of far-flung places where Swift Creek-style decorated ceramics have also been found?

Must-have book: Hudson’s Southeastern Indians

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hudson_SE_Indians_cover_CU.jpgCharles Hudson’s book The Southeastern Indians, originally published in 1976, remains a must-have book for the library of anyone seriously interested in Georgia’s past. This book, with its maps and black-and-white photographic plates, is an excellent place to learn about the native peoples who lived in Georgia. It remains available in paperback at a reasonable cost.

Botanical lesson: Osage orange tree

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Across the Southeast, before Europeans arrived, Native Peoples prized the wood of a tree that inhabited only a small portion of the vast interior of the North American continent. The tree is commonly known as the osage orange. The fruit of this tree looks like a lumpy bright green to yellow-green softball. The tree is thorny, too. Read the full story to learn why North American archaeologists ponder this strange species.

Terminology: What do archaeologists mean by “symbol”?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has acquired a ubiquitous modern symbol: the @ symbol. Consider what makes a symbol a symbol and what symbols you are familiar with in the modern world, and what symbols you have seen in books or museum displays. Go to the full story for a lengthier discussion….

Rice-farming in Georgia, briefly

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Rice was an extremely important commercial crop in antebellum coastal Georgia. Yet, today, there’s very little rice grown in that area. This Weekly Ponder briefly considers the economic history of rice-growing along the Southeastern Coast, and looks at modern rice-farming in the USA a bit, too.

Blue jeans and radiocarbon dating

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Blue jeans, what do blue jeans have to do with radiocarbon dating? Click on the headline to go to the full story and discover the answer! In the process read about relative and absolute dating, calibration curves, and more! This wandering Ponder began with explaining the notation “cal BP,” which you may encounter in archaeological reporting.

Mysteries of prehistoric turkey domestication

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Among the world’s major regions, ancient North America is not known for having many domesticated animals. In an article free online, Camilla F. Speller and her colleagues examined the DNA of modern and ancient turkeys and argue that there were at least two places were turkeys were domesticated: in Southern Mexico and a second time with Rio Grande/Eastern wild turkey populations. Read details in the full story.

Archaeogenetics summarized in Current Biology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Global Genetic History of Homo sapiens is the title of a new special issue of Current Biology, with eight papers available free online. This topic is also called archaeogenetics. There’s an introductory and a summary article, which bracket six articles that focus on human migration in specific geographic areas, including the New World.

Artifacts and context

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

This Weekly Ponder considers artifacts and context, defining and discussing how archaeologists use these terms and what that means for interpretation of artifacts—and sites. The Ponder goes on to consider the context of the Shroud of Turin, which will be on display in spring 2010, in Turin, Italy.

Stallings Island stewardship is difficult, important

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

The Archaeological Conservancy owns Stallings Island, and has partnered with the Augusta Archaeological Society to monitor and help protect this significant site, which is difficult to access and protect. Unfortunately, looters have returned. We all lose when our hidden heritage is destroyed and thus important information is lost.

“…iron gall ink on parchment”

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

What is iron gall ink? Parchment is a common term, but what is that ink? Colonial-period documents were commonly written in iron gall ink. Georgia’s copy of the Declaration of Independence was. Even Bach and Da Vinci used it! Read more about this ink in the full story. Find out how many kinds of trees it takes to make the ink, too!

Are historical records true?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Thompkins_bear_hunt_1901_CUHistorical archaeologists can use data from archival records, which are unavailable to archaeologists working with prehistoric data. How does that make a difference? This issue is examined using notes made by French historian Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 in a letter to his mother, which has only recently been published in English translation.

Weekly Ponder: One year and counting

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

This story marks the first year of Weekly Ponder posts! Yes, it’s been a full year of 5am Friday postings of thought-provoking articles to this website. Indeed, the very first Weekly Ponder was posted on 26 January 2009.

Stiff fines for site looting handed down in Burke County

Submitted by Tom Gresham (searcheo@aol.com)

Burke County State Court Judge Jerry Daniel in January handed down heavy fines on four east Georgia men who pled guilty to multiple counts related to looting a Late Archaic, Stallings culture shell midden site on the Ogeechee River in southern Burke County. The four men were apprehended on private land by Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger First Class Jeff Billips and Ranger First Class Grant Matherly in late September 2009.

A bit of US military history…

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Ft_Hartsuff_fence_bldg_CUQuick: what is the only installation built by the United States military during the settling of the interior of the continent to protect Indians from Indians (rather than settlers from Native Americans)?

Weeds can be helpful: indirect evidence and archaeological analysis

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Sheffield_dept_CURead the full story for one example of how archaeologists use indirect data to aid in generating a more complex and detailed understanding of the past. In this example, archaeologists from the University of Sheffield report on their successes using data on weeds to assist in their understanding of crop husbandry on a few archaeological sites in the Middle East.

Federal historic preservation grants announced

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

In mid-December 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the National Park Service is awarding $46.5 million in historic preservation grants to 59 states and U.S. territories. However, nine states will receive more than $1 million each, leaving just under $35 million for the other states and non-states. Georgia’s piece of this historic preservation pie? Read the full story for more details.

How important was cooking in human evolution?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

campfire_at_night_CUPublished in spring 2009, Richard Wrangham’s book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Basic Books) argues that the ability to use fire for cooking foodstuffs allowed the changes that have made humans a distinct species. What do you think of this argument? Read more about the book and Wrangham’s hypothesis in the full story.

Greenspace is good for archaeology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

MNP_sign_Lenox_Road_CUGreenspace projects involve lands set aside to remain undeveloped. In cities, publicly owned greenspace is often in parks. The central purpose of greenspace is to assure that some terrain remains protected from construction, paving, and other development. In short, it will remain “green.” Preservation of greenspace often means the preservation of archaeological sites. How does that happen?

What is “Old Europe”?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

figure_Romania_c5K_BC_NYTArchaeologists, like specialists of all persuasions, employ jargon, or a specialized vocabulary. Sometimes the jargon clarifies matters, and sometimes it conveys a particular bias. Those not familiar with the jargon may not recognize the implied meaning inherent in certain terms. This story examines the phrase “Old Europe,” recently used to title an exhibit at New York University. [Photo by Marius Amarie and published by the New York Times here. Figure is referred to as ‘Thinker’ and came from Hamangia, Cernavodă, and dates to 5000-4600 B.C. Its curation number is 15906 at the National History Museum of Romania in Bucharest.]

Leake Site update, 2009

Submitted by Scot Keith (asymmie@yahoo.com)

Leake_1938_aerial_CUArchaeologist Scot Keith reports on the Leake site, which is west of Cartersville in Bartow County not far from the Etowah Mounds site, and partly within the right-of-way of Highways 61/113. The site has been named to the 2010 Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Places in Peril listing, which will aid Keith and others to raise money to protect the remaining portions of this important Woodland and Mississippian site. The full story includes excellent aerial photographs.

Building better climate change models

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Ranasinghe_art_title_CUSGA members are concerned about predictions of global increases in sea level because Georgia’s coast has many archaeological sites, including shell mounds and historic buildings, that are right at sea level or only a few feet above sea level. Therefore, changes in water levels will damage fragile archaeological resources. The full story examines some of the factors involved in generating a good model of the coming changes in sea level.

How did climate change affect Pleistocene megafauna?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Mastadon_by_Barry_Roal_Carlsen_wisc_edu_CURead the full story for a discussion about what recent ecological reconstructions based on fossil pollen, charcoal and dung fungus spores tell us about the end of the Ice Age in interior North America.

Ownership of antiquities and the international art market…

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Nefertiti_bust_NYT_-Knosowski_CUWho owns antiquities that have been removed beyond the borders of the modern nation where they were found? This topic is explored in the full article.

Leake Site on Georgia Trust’s 2010 Places in Peril list

ga_trust_cuOn November 4th 2009, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation announced its list of Georgia’s top ten Places in Peril, which includes the Leake Archaeological Site, a rich Middle Woodland and Late Mississippian-period prehistoric settlement on the outskirts of Cartersville. Scot Keith, an archaeologist who lead recent excavations at the Leake Site, notes, “with help from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and numerous volunteers, we will be conducting many activities in the next year (and beyond) to foster public awareness of the site and its important place in history. This will include public education days at the site, community meetings, interviews, articles, partnerships and grants, research and fieldwork, and regular website updates.”

Data from geophysical survey can reveal important insights without excavation

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Venta_Icenorum_Sue_White_Univ_Nottingham_CURecent data from a geophysical survey of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum, in Norfolk, England, directed by researchers from the University of Nottingham, reveals that this walled town was less densely settled than previously thought. Geophysical surveys do not disturb buried archaeological remains and can reveal important data, using less expensive and repeatable research methods.

Browse rare maps online at UGA’s Hargrett Library

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hargrett_1796_Tanner_map_CUThe University of Georgia Libraries have a special section called the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which offers research materials in digital form online. This map, dated 1796, offers insights into the encroachment of Euroamericans into the interior of what is now Georgia, which was then held by Native American groups.

Visit Georgia’s Virtual Vault—online!

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Georgia_Virtual_Vault_Clayton_farm_CUDo some research online and save fuel! Georgia’s Secretary of State’s website includes the Virtual Vault, which contains historical documents, records, maps, etc., dating back to 1733, as well as recent photographs.

Maritime and inland transportation networks over time

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Cunliffe_cover_CUExamination of the regions of the world shows that not all are similarly easy to traverse on foot or via waterways—and coastlines—as ancient peoples would. Yet, people exchanged goods and information via networks that spanned great distances. Compare the European and Southeastern North American regions with these concepts in mind.

Why do people build tall structures? The Astoria Column

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Astoria_column_CUEven a cursory examination of cross-cultural data indicates that around the globe, in many societies, peoples with many belief systems have built structures important to them on high places. In addition, the structures are often unusually tall when compared to residential buildings. Indeed, important buildings are often tall, large, or both. Why?

Jekyll Island and the telephone

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

transcontinental_call_CUAn important event in the history of the telephone happened on Jekyll Island. If you wander around the historic area south of the Jekyll Island Clubhouse, now the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, you will find a plexiglass box encompassing an old telephone. Do you know what this commemorates?

Tasty tidbits versus wild fruit

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

cultures_of_habitat_CUIn Cultures of Habitat: On Nature, Culture, and Story (Counterpoint, 1997) ethnobotanist and essayist Gary Paul Nabhan argues that modern peoples tend not to have opportunities for discovery in the natural world, and that this distance from our environment means we don’t grasp the complexity of the world and of ecology. Do you agree?

Reconstructing archaeological ruins

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Chichen_Itza_Castillo_03_CU One thing we have to consider when reconstructing ruins of any sort, including historic and ancient buildings, is the period or date to make the reconstruction match.

Weekly Ponder considers this important issue.

Construction crew at UGA unearths artifacts

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

New_College_construction_onlineAthens_CUAn August 18th article published by onlineAthens.com, notes that construction workers on the crew renovating New College, one of the University of Georgia’s oldest buildings, have been recovering artifacts from beneath the building.

Canada geese

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

canada_goose_stepping_cuZooarchaeological studies seek to determine, among other things, what species of creatures the people who lived at a particular archaeological site ate and used. How important were migratory waterfowl in the diet of prehistoric peoples living in what is now the state of Georgia?

Blood Mountain shelter

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

blood_mountain_shelter_cuThe Blood Mountain shelter on the Appalachian Trail provokes thoughts about the network of prehistoric footpaths that criss-crossed Georgia.

Granite from Elberton

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

granite_souvenir_cuElberton’s famous subterranean granite deposit drew Italian stoneworkers in the early twentieth century, making Elberton’s demographics different from most rural Georgia communities today.

Considering taxonomies in the twenty-first century

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Deptford_Ch_St_UGA_CUArchaeologists use and develop taxonomies, or systems for classifying artifacts, etc. That fewer people are proficient in taxonomic classification these days is alleged in a recent article. Read more about classification systems in general, and generalized categories, e.g., for bushes, trees, and vines, that are common in multiple cultures.

Archived records of lands taken through eminent domain

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Natl_Archives_logo_cuYour tax dollars support many governmental programs. One is archives of historic information. The Southeast Region Archives building is just south of Atlanta, in Jonesboro. Among the many resources there, I recently examined some pictures of farms that were bought by the US government and flooded to make TVA reservoirs that still make hydropower we use today.

What’s your perspective?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

NAm_W_up_CUExamine an image of the North American continent where north is not “up.” Paying attention to perspectives is important when analyzing geography, as well as when formulating research questions. You may find it most disconcerting when you look at the image and a cardinal direction is not “up.”

Blueberries for…all?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

blueberries_green_cuBlueberries are a tasty wild food native to North America. Prehistoric Native Americans enjoyed blueberries, including in a dried meat mixture called pemmican. This leads the Ponderer to consider about how people stored foodstuff “in the old days.”

Paddle-stamped pottery: The paddles

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

cherokee_pottery_paddles_cuHave you ever wondered what the paddles Native Americans made to stamp decorations on the outside of pottery looked like? W.H. Holmes included a plate illustrating three paddles made by Cherokees probably in the late nineteenth century in his report “Aboriginal Pottery of the Eastern United States,” which was published in 1903. This report is downloadable from the Internet Archive.

Use Google Earth to overlay historic maps

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

CW_map_overlay_CUGoogle offers free software that delivers satellite images to your computer (if you have a fairly fast broadband connection and video card). This powerful software allows you to “fly” over the landscape (and the ocean!), and even to overlay historic maps over the modern terrain. Google offers instructional videos to teach you how to use their software. We examine a Civil War map “draped” over modern downtown Atlanta.

Buried chemical clues to our human past

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Science_mag_logo_CUUndisturbed archaeological sediments and remains include invisible chemical and physical clues to the past. Scientists studying ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland have analyzed the oxygen isotopes in small air bubbles contained in ice cores from ice that was formed thousands of years ago. They have found that the Earth underwent abrupt climate change between 14,700 and 14,500 years ago.

Climate change and Georgia’s archaeological resources

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

palm_top_cuThis week our federal government released a report on global climate change that says in part, “Likely future changes for the United States and surrounding coastal waters include more intense hurricanes with related increases in wind, rain, and storm surges (but not necessarily an increase in the number of these storms that make landfall), as well as drier conditions in the Southwest and Caribbean.” These changes will affect Georgia’s archaeological heritage.

Skillet Blue Cornbread

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

iron_skillet_cuFood preferences and language (e.g., terms, structure, named concepts) contribute to the idiosyncrasies of cultures of all kinds. Here’s a recipe for cornbread made using blue cornmeal rather than yellow.

Criel Mound, South Charleston, West Virginia

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

criel_mound_cuPeoples with material culture common across the North American Southeast lived even farther north than the area around Criel Mound, in western West Virginia. Even if you’re most interested in Georgia’s archaeological past, you can best understand it in a regional context….

UGA Lab

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

uga_lab_upstairs_thumbFor decades, the University of Georgia had two archaeology laboratories in Baldwin Hall (Athens).

Superposition

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

piedmont_park_planter_cuArchaeologists conducting excavations are always trying to determine whether objects and features dated to the same period, or whether they were separated in time. Superposition is a big word that refers to locating one thing atop another thing. Archaeological researchers discover superpositioned objects all the time. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine just when the superpositioning occurred—whether the two objects were abandoned more or less simultaneously, or whether they were left during events hundreds of years apart.

Lookout Mountain

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

lookout_overlook_cuHumans are humans; we tend to like some of the same places on the landscape no matter who we are and when we are alive. This means that some of the same places were occupied over and over. What makes a location more—or less—attractive to human visitors or inhabitants?

Outliers and rare events

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

data_plot_example_b_swan_cuIn a data set, an outlier is a point or value that is far different from expectations. You don’t have to be a statistician to consider the impact of true outliers, especially in archaeological radiocarbon data sets, for example. This Weekly Ponder broaches the subject of outliers, as discussed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007, Random House).

Who made the “LACLEDE KING” brick: The answer

Submitted by Dick Brunelle (rfbdick@yahoo.com)

laclede-brick-co-1854_cuDick Brunelle has revealed the answer to the challenge he posed to readers almost two months ago, since no one logged in and submitted the answer. He asked people who made a brick he saw in LaGrange with “LACLEDE KING” stamped on it. As a tease, he noted: The brick is more closely related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, than it is to covered bridges in Georgia. Ed. note: You must read the full story; it’s wonderful!

Old money

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

ocmulgee_five_cuIn the nineteenth century, banks around the USA commonly issued their own currency, like this five-dollar note from Ocmulgee Bank of Macon. Banking standards affect capitalization of projects and the economy in general. Read more about the Panic of 1857 by clicking [More].

What to curate?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

apple_floppy_disc_cuWhat standards do curators use to decide to keep objects in their limited museum space? After all, space is limited, in museums just as in your closet. So, how do curators decide what to keep and what not to keep?

Mending ceramics

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

coffee_cup_broken_cuArchaeological laboratory methods for gluing broken pieces of pottery together is useful in everyday life.

You can’t “duck” invasive species!

duck_foreign_type_cuThis duck lives in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, but it is not native to North America, although it is native to the New World. It’s a non-migratory species commonly called a Muscovy duck. Read more and decide if this Muscovy duck is an introduced species or an invasive species.

Archaeologists think about worms—really!

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

earthworm_cuAfter archaeological sites and artifacts are abandoned, various natural processes begin to change them. Earthworms, for example, churn soil and affect archaeological deposits. The fancy word for this and other natural processes that affect archaeological materials after they are abandoned is bioturbation.

How do you describe a color?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

munsell_chart_pageDo you have any idea what 10YR5/4 means? Read about it by clicking [More] below.

Who made this brick?

Submitted by Dick Brunelle (rfbdick@yahoo.com)

hills_dales_cuIdentify the maker of a brick GAAS and SGA member Dick Brunelle found and photographed at Hills and Dales, the Callaway family plantation near LaGrange, and shown in the picture to the left.

Dick even gives two hints to make this puzzle easier….

What do those little dots mean?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

dripline_thumbArchaeology is a destructive science. Therefore, when archaeologists excavate, they look not only for artifacts, but for faint differences in the soil—variations in color and texture, for example—among other significant but barely perceptible evidence left behind.

Drip lines are one kind of faint evidence a careful excavator might find. This evidence may be data that is otherwise unavailable. Read more to learn about drip lines, what makes them, and what they might mean.

Choctaw dictionary

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

choctaw_ahe_wordsWe are fortunate to have dictionaries of some of the languages of Native Americans Southeastern North America recorded in the early nineteenth century and even earlier, before much of that information was lost.

Consider downloading a digital copy of this 1915 volume A Dictionary of the Choctaw Language, available free from the Internet Archive.

Keep your eyes peeled: old buildings

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

gum_creek_courthouseThe wooden building known as Gum Creek Courthouse is over a century old, and can be viewed in northern Newton County.

History underfoot

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

copeland_inglis_brickManufacturer’s names on products like bricks allow us to reconstruct trade relationships across regions like Southeastern North America.

Keep your eyes peeled: plaques

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Look for signs attached to buildings, statues, and the like, that note when it was built. Essentially, their messages record a moment in time.

Motel of the Mysteries

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

David Macaulay is an author and illustrator who has written many interesting books. One of my favorites is Motel of the Mysteries, published in 1979 by Houghton Mifflin (Boston). The book is now out of print, so I always look for a copy at yard sales and flea markets—and every once in a while I’m […]