At their March meeting on the 12th, members and guests of the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society, a Chapter of the SGA, enjoyed hearing about the Singer-Moye Mississippian-period mound-and-village settlement that some Chapter members had visited in June 2012 from Stefan Brannan, a University of Georgia graduate student who was directing a Field School there. Brannan says that Singer-Moye is “the second largest Mississippian period mound center in Georgia that no one has ever heard of.” Brannan’s research has revealed hitherto unknown and important information about this archaeological site.
Tag: archaeological methods
Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA) and the continuing professional education program of the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) are proud to announce that the second AMDA course offering will be April, 19–21, 2013, in Pine Mountain, Georgia. The tuition is $250.00 (16 credits) or $350.00 (24 credits). Seven instructors and additional industry representatives will be present, and we have space for 30 students. Completed registration forms and checks must be received by March 15, 2013.
A 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.
In 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.
The 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.
If 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.
How 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.
Recently, 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.
In 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!
Museums 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.
Prior to the 2011 Fort Daniel Frontier Faire in Gwinnett County, several geophysical surveys had been conducted at the site by Dr. Sheldon Skaggs of Georgia Southern University, the combined results of which suggested the presence of features within the footprint of the fort. We have also previously reported that the footprint of the fort’s palisade walls and corner blockhouses, as determined by archaeological investigations, corresponds precisely to the plan for frontier forts sent by President Washington’s Secretary of War, Henry Knox, to the Governor of Georgia in 1794.
Have 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.
Many 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.
Where was Fort Daniel? This frontier fort was long believed to have been on a ridge-top knoll on Hog Mountain in Gwinnett County. In 2007, the Gwinnett Archaeological Research Society, a Chapter of the SGA, began a research program under the direction of Dr. James D’Angelo to locate physical remains of the fort using two forms of subsurface remote sensing, metal detection and ground penetrating radar. This detailed article reports the happy results of that research.
Kevin Kiernan, Board member of the Society for Georgia Archaeology, will speak about WPA Archaeology on St. Simons Island during the Great Depression. His lecture is this Sunday, September 18, 2011, at 5 p.m. at the Ashantilly Center in Darien, Georgia.
Macon.com contributing writer Jim Gaines featured a story August 30, 2011, regarding the Lamar Institute’s renewal of their 2005 dig at Fort Hawkins. The article mainly addresses the call for volunteers at the site from October 10 through 28, 2011. Lamar Institute President Daniel Elliott is looking for about twenty-four volunteers who can work at least five days, front $150 to cover basics and insurance, and those with field experience.
Melissa Webb discusses her intership experience, spring semester 2010, at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia. This essay is comical, honest, and realistic, as many university students do not know what to expect when they show up to intern. Melissa Webb graduated from Georgia State University with her bachelor degree January 2011. Congratulations, Melissa!
Boy Scouts from Troop 125 in Holly Springs performed some real life science by helping William Phillips, an Eagle Scout from Troop 11 of Gainesville, in early May 2010. Under the supervision of Dr. Jack Wynn, North Georgia College and State University archaeologist and long-time SGA member, the boys visited a prehistoric site that Mr. Phillips had targeted for testing. The scouts helped precisely measure and mark the locations of the new test holes, then worked in supervised groups, making careful notes as they proceeded. At day’s-end, scouts had recovered dozens of pottery fragments, along with a few groundstone artifacts, and the artifacts all had to be cleaned and categorized. The boys learned that science isn’t always done the way it appears to be in the movies.
Linda Lane, member of SGA’s local chapter Golden Isles Archaeological Society (GIAS) wrote an article for Dig magazine titled “It’s Not What You Find-But What You Find Out.” Dig magazine is published for children ages nine and older in partnership with Archaeology magazine. Its main focus is making archaeology, paleontology and earth sciences interesting to children.
Archaeologists 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.
In 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.
Four archaeology students affiliated with Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University, and interning at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, presented the results of substantive research projects to members of the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society (GAAS) and their guests on Tuesday, February 8th, 2011. The students have been working with GAAS President Dennis Blanton on data from a ca. 1540 village site in south Georgia. Read the full story for more information about their findings.
The January 2011 newsletter of the Society for American Archaeology, The SAA Archaeological Record, is now available free online. The issue includes a Special Forum titled “Digital Communication and Collaboration: Perspectives from Zooarchaeology,” and includes ten articles and many examples of data-sharing among zooarchaeologists.
A 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.
The Coastal Georgia Archaeological Society is sponsoring a speaker on Sunday, February 6, at 2:00 pm at the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum, 681 Fort Argyle Road (Route 204), Savannah, as part of Super Museum Sunday. The speaker is P.T Ashlock, and the presentation is titled, “Archaeology of Ebenezer: How the Method of Ground Penetrating Radar Helped Reveal a Fort from the American Revolution”.
Archaeologists 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.
The report GPR Survey at Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simmons Island, Georgia presents the findings of the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey conducted during the SGA’s 2010 fall meeting. GPR survey of a portion of Gascoigne Bluff on St. Simons Island was performed on October 16, 2010, and report author Dan Elliott was assisted by SGA members in completing the survey. This project was a joint public outreach and research effort by the LAMAR Institute, the Society for Georgia Archaeology, and the Cassina Garden Club.
When Melissa Scharffenberg, a graduate student in archaeology at Georgia State University began contemplating thesis topics she was approached by the curator of the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. The curator asked if she would interpret the Lacy Hotel collection housed at the museum which she had previously researched and analyzed as an intern in 2007. Melissa thought her familiarity with the artifacts and history of the Lacy Hotel would make for a great thesis topic and provided the opportunity to start The Lacy Hotel Project which uses the combination of archaeological and historical data to document civilian life during the Civil War.
This story asks YOU to figure out what an object is. The clues are all in a single photograph.
The 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.
In 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.
This 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!
The Society for Georgia Archaeology proudly presents this year’s lesson plan for teachers and other interested parties! The theme SGA has chosen for Georgia Archaeology Month 2010 is Making the Past Come to Life! Exploring Ancient Techniques. We hope that the readers of this lesson plan will become familiar with a range of skills and techniques used by the early inhabitants of Georgia, and perhaps better understand the dynamic interaction between the natural environment and humans and their culture.
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.
Lately, the Society for American Archaeology has included an Electronic Symposium as part of its annual meeting. This year’s Electronic Symposium is “The Canvas of Space: Method and Theory of Spatial Investigations in the 21st Century.” Eleven papers are posted online, which means that anyone who can get online can download and read them.
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.
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.
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.
The Society for American Archaeology recently announced that their newsletter, published five times each year, is available in a new format for reading online beginning with the 2010 issues, and also is downloadable.
Historical 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.
An international working group called INTCAL has announced an updated radiocarbon calibration curve based on cross-checking thousands of tree-ring samples with raw radiocarbon dates. The new curve is available online.
Read 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.
On 27 December 2009, the online version of Charleston’s Post and Courier published a fascinating story by Tony Bartelme titled “Research on Hunley spurs new discoveries.” The new discoveries relate to faster methods for preserving metal artifacts, like the H.L. Hunley Confederate Civil War submarine, which sunk near Charleston in February 1864.
Archaeologists, 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.]
Researchers at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah identified two historic-period cemeteries. One had been buried beneath a parking lot for over fifty years; it had thirty-seven graves. A second cemetery was identified from an 1889 map as a “Negro Cemetery,” and had well over three hundred burials. All human remains and artifacts were carefully excavated and respectfully moved to Belmont Cemetery, and the Installation’s Garrison Commander and Chaplain participated in a rededication ceremony in conjunction with African-American History Month in February 2009. Article includes photographs of selected grave goods.
The Bigger Picture: Using Landscape Archaeology to Better Understand Two Late Archaic Shell Rings on St. Catherines Island
Archaeological crews from the American Museum of Natural History have been excavating on St. Catherines Island for over 30 years. Research this fall focused on the McQueen Shell Ring. Data suggests that the ring was the only substantial Late Archaic presence in this section of St. Catherines Island. (The full story may be slow to load due to a large figure.)
The National Park Service’s 2010 workshop on archaeological prospection techniques entitled “Current Archaeological Prospection Advances for Non-Destructive Investigations in the 21st Century” will be held May 24–28, 2010, at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton, North Dakota. Registration is $475. The full story has a link to the application form and more information.
SGA 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.
The Savannah River Archaeological Research Program is seeking information about prehistoric metavolcanic stone quarries in the Carolina Slate Belt Region in South Carolina. As this map shows, the Carolina Slate Belt Region is prominent in the Carolinas, and extends southward into Georgia.
A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Cameron McWhirter discusses the application of modern technologies to Civil War archaeological sites in the Atlanta area. Most of the article stems from an interview with SGA member Garrett Silliman, and also mentions SGA member Dan Elliott.
Read 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.
What insights into our current agricultural and food production dilemmas can we get from prehistoric Native American practices? Check out David J. Minderhout and Andrea T. Franz’s article, “Native American Horticulture in the Northeast,” discussed here.
Recent 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.
Sgt. Ronald Peters, a geospatial analyst whose hometown is Fort Lewis, Washington, with Multi-National Corps – Iraq C-7, has been mapping the archaeological sites of Iraq in his spare time.
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.
An 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.
The Blood Mountain shelter on the Appalachian Trail provokes thoughts about the network of prehistoric footpaths that criss-crossed Georgia.
Archaeologists 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.
Examine 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.”
Glass bottles are quite common on historic sites, and we can often find interesting specimens at flea markets or in antique stores. This website, sponsored by the Society for Historical Archaeology and the Bureau of Land Management, provides detailed information about bottles made in the USA (and some from Canada) between about 1800 through the 1950s.
Google 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.
Archaeologists 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.
Humans 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?
In 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).
What 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?
Read William Bartram’s Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians, published in 1791, right here on the internet. You will miss the experience of turning aging pages, but you can read every word, and see some pictures, too!
Archaeological laboratory methods for gluing broken pieces of pottery together is useful in everyday life.
After 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.
Do you have any idea what 10YR5/4 means? Read about it by clicking [More] below.
Identify 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….
Archaeology 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.
Long time SGA member and primitive technology researcher Scott Jones has just published a book that is a compilation of his articles from the past decade related to primitive technology and experimental archaeology. Scott has practiced primitive technology for two decades and now makes a living presenting the subject to the general public (always with [...]
Wiley Publishing has just issued Archaeology for Dummies ($21.95) by SGA member Nancy White. The book tells how archaeology is detective work and traces over 2 million years of prehistoric human cultures. It demonstrates how archaeology uncovers things about historic times that history can’t, and shows how archaeological knowledge is useful for modern issues like [...]
We 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.
The wooden building known as Gum Creek Courthouse is over a century old, and can be viewed in northern Newton County.
Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society and SGA member Terry Hynes recently “directed” a small project in the famous Valley of the Kings in the Theban Hills in Egypt’s Nile Valley. Terry also toured Luxor and boated on the Nile during her trip-of-a-lifetime in early January.
Look for signs attached to buildings, statues, and the like, that note when it was built. Essentially, their messages record a moment in time.
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 [...]
Many of the archeological phase names currently used for northwest Georgia are directly attributable to the work of Joseph Caldwell in Allatoona Reservoir more than fifty years ago (Caldwell 1950, 1957). While terminology has changed over the years, most of the designations used by Caldwell remain in use today. For instance, the old term “Kellogg [...]
In September 2006, Leake Site Principal Investigators Scot Keith and Dean Wood took a trip to Indiana in order to conduct research into the Mann site, a Middle Woodland Hopewell site located in southwestern Indiana. This site is notable due to the presence (and abundance) of Swift Creek complicated stamped pottery, as well as sand [...]
Archaeologists seeking to reconstruct past lifeways rely for their interpretations on the timeworn remains of ancient cultures for guidance; here in our humid Georgia climate, we are further disadvantaged since often only the inorganic residues of prehistoric culture remain. The study of stone tools, sherds of pottery, and the scant remnants of organic items and [...]
The 1990 issue of Early Georgia (volume 18) featured Thomas H. Gresham’s article “Historic Patterns of Rock Piling and the Rock Pile Problems.” In the introduction, Mr. Gresham notes: Rock piles, a term that can be broadly applied to a wide array of prehistoric and historic features, have long been of interest to the archaeologist [...]