The 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!
To 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.
Looking for digital access to early twentieth century soil maps of Georgia? The University of Alabama’s Historical Map Archive includes them, but only if you use the free Mr SID plugin, which is only available for Windows XP or Vista.
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.
Archaeologists 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.
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?
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.)
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.
The 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.
The Digital Library of Georgia website includes a page of links titled “Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842” that you may find useful. Links include the official websites of Southeastern tribes, and some museums, archives, and libraries, etc.
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.