Welcoming New Faculty

This​ ​fall​ ​AMEC​ ​welcomed​ ​Dr.​ ​Bill​ ​Cooke​ ​and​ ​Dr.​ ​Karen​ ​Williams​ ​to​ ​the​ ​faculty​ ​team​ ​and congratulated​ ​Dr.​ ​Evan​ ​Peacock​ ​on​ ​his​ ​new​ ​position​ ​as​ ​Interim​ ​Director​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cobb​ ​Institute.​ ​In​ ​this​ ​blog post,​ ​we​ ​hope​ ​to​ ​introduce​ ​these​ ​three​ ​faculty​ ​members​ ​and​ ​to​ ​welcome​ ​them​ ​into​ ​their​ ​new​ ​positions.

Dr.​ ​Bill​ ​Cooke:​ ​Interim​ ​Department​ ​Head

Dr.​ ​Bill​ ​Cooke​ ​is​ ​serving​ ​as​ ​the​ ​interim​ ​Department​ ​Head​ ​for​ ​AMEC.​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke​ ​spent​ ​the​ ​last several​ ​years​ ​as​ ​head​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Geosciences​ ​Department​ ​at​ ​MSU.​ ​His​ ​plan​ ​was​ ​to​ ​step​ ​down​ ​as​ ​department head​ ​of​ ​Geology​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​return​ ​to​ ​research,​ ​teaching,​ ​and​ ​his​ ​work​ ​with​ ​the​ ​extension​ ​service. However,​ ​with​ ​the​ ​departure​ ​of​ ​Dr.​ ​Michael​ ​Galaty​ ​in​ ​the​ ​spring,​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke​ ​was​ ​asked​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Dean​ ​of Arts​ ​and​ ​Sciences​ ​to​ ​fill​ ​the​ ​vacancy.​ ​While​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke​ ​was​ ​greatly​ ​looking​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​getting​ ​back​ ​to teaching​ ​and​ ​research,​ ​he​ ​happily​ ​agreed​ ​to​ ​come​ ​serve​ ​the​ ​AMEC​ ​faculty.​ ​Through​ ​his​ ​previous experience​ ​with​ ​AMEC,​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​he​ ​liked​ ​the​ ​people​ ​here.​ ​AMEC​ ​welcomed​ ​him​ ​with​ ​open​ ​arms and​ ​gave​ ​him​ ​a​ ​tour​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Hester​ ​Site​ ​which​ ​gave​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke​ ​a​ ​chance​ ​to​ ​nerd​ ​out​ ​about​ ​stratigraphy.​ ​As a​ ​lifetime​ ​learner,​ ​he​ ​is​ ​most​ ​excited​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​more​ ​about​ ​the​ ​world​ ​class​ ​research​ ​being​ ​done​ ​by​ ​AMEC faculty.

Dr.​ ​Cooke’s​ ​previous​ ​research​ ​projects​ ​are​ ​too​ ​numerous​ ​to​ ​list​ ​here.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​projects​ ​he talks​ ​most​ ​about​ ​is​ ​predictive​ ​modeling​ ​of​ ​wildfire​ ​locations​ ​considering​ ​human​ ​behavior​ ​as​ ​a​ ​variable​ ​in order​ ​to​ ​predict​ ​locations​ ​susceptible​ ​to​ ​arson.​ ​However,​ ​if​ ​money​ ​was​ ​no​ ​object,​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke​ ​would​ ​most like​ ​to​ ​return​ ​to​ ​his​ ​epidemiological​ ​research​ ​using​ ​geospatial​ ​sciences​ ​to​ ​help​ ​understand​ ​the relationship​ ​between​ ​disease​ ​spread​ ​and​ ​the​ ​environment​ ​(specifically​ ​pollution)​ ​for​ ​predictive modeling.​ ​His​ ​hope​ ​is​ ​that​ ​this​ ​research​ ​will​ ​help​ ​humans​ ​decrease​ ​the​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​ecological​ ​damage​ ​we do​ ​while​ ​mitigating​ ​economical​ ​and​ ​health​ ​concerns​ ​as​ ​well.​ ​It​ ​seems​ ​like​ ​he​ ​will​ ​fit​ ​right​ ​into​ ​the​ ​applied approach​ ​AMEC​ ​is​ ​centered​ ​around.

In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​his​ ​duties​ ​as​ ​department​ ​head,​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke​ ​plays​ ​tennis​ ​and​ ​is​ ​a​ ​member​ ​of​ ​a​ ​local band.​ ​He​ ​considers​ ​himself​ ​equal​ ​parts​ ​academic,​ ​athlete,​ ​and​ ​musician.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​ask​ ​him​ ​which​ ​one​ ​he would​ ​give​ ​up​ ​he​ ​can’t​ ​even​ ​decide.​ ​Each​ ​of​ ​his​ ​passions​ ​feeds​ ​greatly​ ​into​ ​the​ ​others​ ​and​ ​they​ ​have become​ ​inseparable.​ ​For​ ​instance,​ ​being​ ​a​ ​tennis​ ​coach​ ​for​ ​years​ ​before​ ​returning​ ​to​ ​academia​ ​shaped his​ ​classroom​ ​demeanor.​ ​And​ ​his​ ​love​ ​for​ ​creating​ ​music​ ​taught​ ​him​ ​patience,​ ​persistence,​ ​and​ ​the importance​ ​of​ ​having​ ​fun.​ ​In​ ​any​ ​conversation​ ​with​ ​Dr.​ ​Cooke,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​sense​ ​the​ ​sincerity​ ​in​ ​his​ ​voice when​ ​he​ ​talks​ ​about​ ​how​ ​excited​ ​he​ ​is​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​AMEC​ ​and​ ​how​ ​much​ ​he​ ​looks​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​the​ ​next year​ ​here.

Dr.​ ​Evan​ ​Peacock:​ ​Interim​ ​Director​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cobb

Dr.​ ​Evan​ ​Peacock​ ​has​ ​been​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​AMEC​ ​faculty​ ​for​ ​many​ ​years​ ​but​ ​this​ ​year​ ​Dr.​ ​Peacock took​ ​on​ ​a​ ​new​ ​role​ ​as​ ​interim​ ​Director​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cobb​ ​Institute.​ ​He​ ​will​ ​serve​ ​the​ ​Cobb​ ​in​ ​this​ ​position​ ​for two​ ​years​ ​while​ ​a​ ​permanent​ ​director​ ​is​ ​found.

Dr.​ ​Peacock​ ​first​ ​became​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​archaeology​ ​after​ ​finding​ ​an​ ​arrow​ ​head​ ​on​ ​his​ ​family farm​ ​when​ ​he​ ​was​ ​ten.​ ​This​ ​find​ ​prompted​ ​him​ ​to​ ​read​ ​countless​ ​books​ ​and​ ​ask​ ​many​ ​more​ ​questions. He​ ​came​ ​to​ ​MSU​ ​for​ ​his​ ​Bachelor’s​ ​degree​ ​before​ ​earning​ ​both​ ​his​ ​Master’s​ ​and​ ​PhD​ ​from​ ​the​ ​University of​ ​Sheffield​ ​in​ ​England.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​currently​ ​working​ ​on​ ​many​ ​different​ ​research​ ​projects​ ​but​ ​is​ ​so​ ​enthusiastic about​ ​each​ ​one​ ​that​ ​he​ ​is​ ​unwilling​ ​to​ ​contract​ ​his​ ​to-do​ ​list.​ ​His​ ​current​ ​projects​ ​include​ ​writing​ ​a​ ​book about​ ​the​ ​Lyons​ ​Bluff​ ​site,​ ​studying​ ​freshwater​ ​mussels​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Yazoo​ ​Basin,​ ​and​ ​studying​ ​chemical sourcing​ ​of​ ​shell​ ​and​ ​shell​ ​tempered​ ​pottery.​ ​If​ ​he​ ​had​ ​all​ ​the​ ​money​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world​ ​to​ ​dedicate​ ​to​ ​a project​ ​he​ ​would​ ​choose​ ​the​ ​chemical​ ​sourcing​ ​research.​ ​Shells​ ​have​ ​held​ ​a​ ​special​ ​place​ ​in​ ​his​ ​heart since​ ​his​ ​time​ ​as​ ​a​ ​graduate​ ​student.

In​ ​Dr.​ ​Peacock’s​ ​new​ ​position​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Cobb​ ​Institute​ ​he​ ​hopes​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​the​ ​mutually reinforcing​ ​relationship​ ​that​ ​the​ ​Institute​ ​has​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Department​ ​and​ ​looks​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​planning​ ​the Cobb’s​ ​future,​ ​specifically​ ​expanding​ ​the​ ​interdisciplinary​ ​work​ ​already​ ​being​ ​done.​ ​​ ​Although​ ​Dr. Peacock​ ​is​ ​not​ ​new​ ​to​ ​AMEC,​ ​we​ ​congratulate​ ​him​ ​on​ ​his​ ​new​ ​position​ ​and​ ​are​ ​excited​ ​to​ ​see​ ​what​ ​the future​ ​has​ ​in​ ​store.

Dr.​ ​Karen​ ​Williams:​ ​newest​ ​AMEC​ ​professor​ ​of​ ​Cultural​ ​Anthropology

Dr.​ ​Karen​ ​Williams,​ ​a​ ​cultural​ ​anthropologist,​ ​comes​ ​to​ ​us​ ​from​ ​the​ ​City​ ​University​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York (CUNY)​ ​with​ ​a​ ​PhD​ ​in​ ​Anthropology.​ ​But​ ​did​ ​you​ ​know​ ​she​ ​got​ ​her​ ​B.F.​ ​A.​ ​in​ ​Fashion​ ​Design​ ​and Performance​ ​Art​ ​and​ ​her​ ​M.A.​ ​in​ ​Performance​ ​Studies?​ ​However,​ ​Dr.​ ​Williams​ ​explains​ ​that​ ​her background​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Arts​ ​is​ ​not​ ​unrelated​ ​to​ ​her​ ​work​ ​now.​ ​While​ ​the​ ​medium​ ​has​ ​changed,​ ​the​ ​theme​ ​has stayed​ ​the​ ​same​ ​as​ ​she​ ​continues​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​criminal​ ​justice​ ​issues​ ​impacting​ ​our communities.

Her​ ​primary​ ​research​ ​is​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​programs​ ​inside​ ​prisons​ ​that​ ​are​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​help transition​ ​the​ ​formerly​ ​incarcerated​ ​back​ ​into​ ​society.​ ​She​ ​says​ ​that​ ​coming​ ​to​ ​the​ ​South​ ​offers​ ​a​ ​new challenge,​ ​as​ ​she​ ​is​ ​more​ ​familiar​ ​with​ ​the​ ​re-entry​ ​programs​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Midwest.​ ​The differences​ ​are​ ​something​ ​she​ ​is​ ​excited​ ​to​ ​explore,​ ​while​ ​keeping​ ​in​ ​mind​ ​the​ ​ethos​ ​of​ ​the South,​ ​what’s​ ​being​ ​done​ ​here​ ​in​ ​terms​ ​of​ ​reintegration​ ​initiatives,​ ​and​ ​how​ ​the​ ​programs​ ​inside​ ​prisons work.​ ​When​ ​asked​ ​what​ ​she​ ​might​ ​research​ ​beyond​ ​her​ ​current​ ​interests,​ ​given​ ​time​ ​and​ ​money,​ ​Dr. Williams​ ​says​ ​mindfulness​ ​comes​ ​to​ ​mind.​ ​As​ ​a​ ​practitioner​ ​herself,​ ​she’d​ ​like​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​its​ ​impact​ ​on people​ ​of​ ​color​ ​and​ ​athletes.​ ​Perhaps​ ​something​ ​to​ ​look​ ​forward​ ​to!

Dr.​ ​Williams​ ​says​ ​her​ ​passion​ ​started​ ​early​ ​in​ ​her​ ​career,​ ​when​ ​she​ ​was​ ​part​ ​of​ ​Insight Arts,​ ​a​ ​community​ ​arts​ ​organization.​ ​There,​ ​her​ ​performance​ ​art​ ​delved​ ​into​ ​such​ ​topics​ ​as social​ ​inequality,​ ​gentrification,​ ​police​ ​brutality,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​death​ ​penalty.​ ​From​ ​here​ ​her​ ​interests for​ ​these​ ​and​ ​other​ ​social​ ​issues​ ​began.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​further​ ​cemented​ ​when​ ​Dr.​ ​Williams​ ​found herself​ ​at​ ​a​ ​Critical​ ​Resistance​ ​conference​ ​she​ ​attended​ ​in​ ​1998.​ ​Listening​ ​to​ ​activists​ ​at​ ​the conference​ ​blew​ ​her​ ​away​ ​with​ ​the​ ​passion​ ​they​ ​had​ ​working​ ​on​ ​social​ ​issues.​ ​“This​ ​is​ ​it,”​ ​she​ ​recalls feeling.​ ​“This​ ​is​ ​the​ ​work​ ​that​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​do.”​ ​This​ ​conviction​ ​shows​ ​that​ ​we​ ​can​ ​look​ ​forward to​ ​many​ ​great​ ​things​ ​from​ ​Dr.​ ​Williams​ ​in​ ​the​ ​future,​ ​in​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​the​ ​amazing​ ​work​ ​she​ ​has​ ​already accomplished.​ ​We’re​ ​lucky​ ​to​ ​have​ ​her​ ​and​ ​wish​ ​her​ ​the​ ​best​ ​in​ ​all​ ​future​ ​endeavours.

Help us welcome these three to their new postitions in AMEC! For more information on these and other AMEC faculty visit our website (http://www.amec.msstate.edu/people/faculty/)

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Returning home – My summer excavting in Albania

By: Erina Baci

The date today is August 2nd. I am currently somewhere over the Atlantic, 10,000 meters above the ground, flying back to Canada. For the past two months, I have been living in Albania. I have been fortunate enough to study in the country that I was born, after living outside for nearly 17 years. Flying into Tirana International Airport on July 2nd felt like I was coming home. As part of the internship requirement for the Master’s program at Mississippi State, I worked as an archaeological intern with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). My internship with TAP this summer was two-fold, consisting of 6 weeks of fieldwork and 2 weeks of archival research. Before I dive into my experience this summer, I want to thank several people for making this opportunity possible for me;   Dr. Lorenc Bejko and Dr. Michael Galaty for organizing the internship. Gjergj Vinjajhu, Arber Kadia and Nevilla Molla for acting as my guides and point people in the field, and to the numerous TAP staff, from archaeologists to administrators, to drivers to engineers, for making my experience in Albania truly a memorable one.

My summer in Albania has been a whirlwind experience. I rarely found myself staying in one place too long and now understand the phrase “to live out of a duffle bag.” After parking my clunky luggage at a cousin’s house in Tirana, I was on my to Korce where an archeological site had been discovered during the trenching process for the pipeline. Upon arriving in Korce, I found myself a member of the camp based in Floq. The camp housed about 500 TAP personnel from all over the world, ranging from archaeologists to welders, to chemists and everything in between. The camp was like a city of its own, enclosed within its guarded gate were two canteens, coffee rooms, a café/bar, a gym, a volleyball court, a health center, offices and of course, living quarters.

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The Camp in Floq.

The site where I worked at consisted of multiple components and spanned three periods: Neolithic, Iron, and Medieval.  I found myself falling into a routine rather quickly upon my arrival. My day began at 6 am when I woke up and donned by steeled toes boots, hard hat and safety vest and headed to the canteen for breakfast. Because we were excavating in an active construction site, these parameters were a necessity. In fact, we were also required to wear gloves, safety goggles, and long sleeves at all times when on site. The work day on site began at 8 am and lasted until 5 pm. Lunch was at 12 pm. The best part about lunch was the coffee which we had brought to site each day – you cannot believe how much a necessity that dose of caffeine becomes. Although to be honest, I still can’t comprehend how fast the hours would slip by, and before I knew it, my car was on site to pick me up and the work day was done.  After returning to my cabin and washing away the dirt that had accumulated throughout the day, it would be 7 o’clock; dinner time.  Dinner was always an interesting experience. The canteen was always full and you could hear a mixture of at least five different leagues at any one moment. The cuisine ranged from traditional Albanian meals to Asian stir-fries to Indian curries.

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Returning home covered in dirt.Fridays were by far my favorite days as on Friday evenings the archeologists would get together and go into the city and explore. Korce is truly beautiful, little cobble-paved alleyways run throughout the city. The buildings are all level, rarely going more than 3 or 4 stories. In the center of the ci, y there is a great plaza with a beautiful cathedral in the middle. A stone-throw away from the cathedral is the “Pazar I

Fridays were by far my favorite days as on Friday evenings the archeologists would get together and go into the city and explore. Korce is truly beautiful, little cobble-paved alleyways run throughout the city. The buildings are all level, rarely going more than 3 or 4 stories. In the center of the city there is a great plaza with a beautiful cathedral in the middle. A stone-throw away from the cathedral is the “Pazar I vjeter” or old shopping district of Korce. This little nook is like a time capsule back in time, again, paved in cobble stones, the Pazar features an open plaza like lay out, encircled with beautiful little cafes and bars.

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The Cathedral.

 

Coffee at the Pazar with some friends from Starkville! It’s a small world.

Not to sound entirely romantic, but there was something magical about excavating in Korce this summer. Maybe it was the fact that I was digging in my home country, and that this had been my dream since I was a little girl. But every now and then I would look up and see the green fields that ran in every direction encircled by the mountains in the distance and I would be in disbelief that I was there.

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The view from the “office”

Over my internship this summer, we removed 170 graves that fell within the pipeline trench. This was my first experience excavating graves, and I found myself a little timid at first. But under the guidance of my supervisors and collogues, I learned quickly and found myself quite at home. Now maybe only other archeologists will relate to this – but there is something so gratifying about excavating a grave from start to finish. From the moment that you find the sarcophagus or grave cut to the moment that you close the wooden create that wall house the bones. I think for myself it’s the fact that each skeleton we discover comes with a biography that we can later piece together. They are not just skeletons, they were people, the lived and hey laughed and they loved and they died – and now, centuries later, here we are literally unearthing their story. We can learn so much from the bones of an individual for example, when they died, maybe how they died, what type of life they may have had. Were they local serfs tied to the land, or maybe a foreigner raised elsewhere who by some fate found themselves in a strange new place.

 

Making friends on site.

And just like that 6 weeks in Korce flew by and I found myself back in Tirana at the Academy of Sciences rummaging through countless academic articles, conducting research for my thesis. Here too, I quickly settled into a routine. Luckily in Tirana could sleep in and only had to wake up at 7 am each day. Upon waking up I would head down to a local “burektore” or pie shop near the bus stop and buy two bureks for my lunch later in the day, as well as a large water bottle, which I would carry around in my backpack. If my accent didn’t tip people off to my foreign-ness, the water bottle surely did. I would then board the bus or “urban” as the Albanians call it and pay the 40 cents fare to the faturino who came around to collect the fare. The academy was about 10 minutes by bus, and of course, it was encircled by a gate and guarded. My first day at the academy I had to explain to the guard why I was trying to get in. The following days, he would laugh and ask me “you’re still not done with your reading?”

Upon arriving I would get settled into my desk in one of the many reading rooms at the academy and begin digging, this time figuratively, through journals. Out of habit, at noon I would take my lunch break outside on a bench by the fountain that was in front of the building. Of course, after lunch followed coffee, which I would have by myself at a cafe across the academy. The act of having coffee alone is a bit of an enigma in Albania. Coffee is more of a social act than a beverage, one does not have coffee alone. If my accent and backpack with a massive water bottle on the side did not tip off people to my foreign-ness, then the act of drinking coffee by myself at 12:15 every day surely did. After my noon coffee, I would return to the academy and work until closing – much to the dismay of the librarians who likely hoped to close early some days, but had to stay because of me – sorry.

 

The Academy.

 

Yesterday I returned to the Coin Towner – where the TAP head offices in Tirana are, to return by personal protection equipment; my hardhat my steel toed boots, and my safety vest. Again, I found myself in disbelief at how fast two months had flown by. It seemed like it was only yesterday that I was nervously looking at my google maps app on my phone trying to find the Coin Tower so I could pick up my PPE and figure out the logistics of my assistantship. Here I was two months later walking through a city that was now so familiar, with earphones in my ear, barely even thinking about where I was going – my feet knew the way themselves. In two months, I excavated in Korce, went mountain hiking in Floq, went row boating in Pogradec, saw the amphitheater of Durres, attended a traditional Albanian wedding, conducted research for my thesis, and even got to explore Macedonia for a day. This summer really was a wonderful experience, professionally as an archaeologist, I have learned so much and gained some much-valued experience in the field.  Personally, it was so wonderful to emerge myself entirely in my culture again. To speak my language, to see family I hadn’t seen in years. Now more than ever I am convinced that I have chosen the right field for myself and I hope that one day I can make a positive contribution the archeology of my home country.

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Lunch breaks, waiting for the coffee to arrive.

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Hiking in Floq.

 

Days off in Pogradec.

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The amphitheater of Durres.

 

Tirana.

 

Traditional Albanian wedding featuring traditional Albanian folk dancing, throwing copious amounts of cash at the bride and groom, burning of the “bachelorhood” and a surprise birthday serenade to yours truly at midnight.

 

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia.

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Last, but not least, a group pic, taken on our last day.

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A Summer to Remember

By: Lydia Buckner

This summer, I returned to Israel to work with Dr. Hardin at Khirbet Summeily. It was a wonderful season! The weather was unusually cool at the site and one day it even rained…okay, it really misted; but we’ll take what we can get at this point! We had a solid dig crew too, and that always makes for smooth sailing.  This year marked my third dig season at Summeily. I arrived just as excited as I was my first season and with preconceived expectations based on my past experiences. Pottery, rocks, dirt, iced coffee, more pottery- those expectations were well met. One thing about this year was different, and I had no clue just how much more it would enrich my experience in the Middle East. That thing was the Fulbright Hays program. When I arrived in Israel in late May to continue my work with Dr. Hardin in Ruhama, things were normal for the first few weeks. We prepared the site, gathered supplies, and awaited the arrival of the rest of the team. Once they arrived, we began excavations.

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On June 10th a group of educators and a few college students from Starkville arrived as part of the Fulbright Hays International Grant program. This program entailed a cultural and historical tour of Israel and Jordan that lasted 5 weeks. I do not exaggerate when I say that this was the trip of a lifetime. I could write a book on the events that took place this summer and maybe one day I will, but for now I’ll stick to the high points. The rest of the Fulbright crew arrived as strangers, but by the end of our trip we were all family. Together we broke the Ramadan fast in the Old City of Jerusalem with a shop owner friend. We went for a night swim in the Sea of Galilee, and again in the Dead Sea. At that point we thought we’d never seen more beautiful stars, but little did we know… We visited Masada and Herodian; Jericho and Megiddo; Bethlehem, Capernaum, Qumran and so many more sites across Israel all in the span of 14 days. Just when we thought we had reached our sensory capacity, we crossed into Jordan.

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We camped with Bedouins in Wadi Rum where we saw a star filled sky more spectacular than anything I have ever seen in my entire life. Only one word comes to mind when I think of that sky..splendor, pure raw splendor. We hiked for 3 days in Petra through ancient sandstone buildings that made you long for a revival of their beautiful architecture.  (I also may or may not have ridden a camel in front of the Petra treasury).

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I even had the chance to spend the afternoon with a Bedouin family in Dana drinking tea under their goat hair tent, watching them bake bread, and listening to their stories of marriage traditions and local springs with miraculous healing powers. We spent the remainder of our trip at ACOR in Amman with Dr. McClellan where we visited archaeological sites, museums, local businesses, and even took a Jordanian cooking class. As a student of archaeology, I enjoyed this opportunity to view Israel and Jordan from both a cultural anthropological and archaeological perspective; as well as the opportunity for one on one interaction with so many interesting people.  It’s safe to say that I will still be processing this summer adventures for years to come…

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Mining for Meaning in a New England Historical Preserve

By: Jason Ervin

The Upshot

This summer, I am working as an Archaeological Technician at the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.  The work entails doing survey across the unit ahead of a number of management projects.  It’s a plum job, I think.  It closes the gap a little between myself and a GS-9 permanent position.  The location is pretty fantastic.  The Whites are a network of forested, highland ridges in northern Appalachia.  They have a face with a view, and an intriguing history.  In addition to survey,  I’m doing background research, and writing reports too, things they like to ask about on job applications.  And, I get to learn about a new place.  What I like about a field job is one of the things I like about Archaeology generally.  You get to get your hands dirty.  What a great way to immerse yourself in the real culture of a place: to beat the hills with the soles of your feet, and train your eyes to see the fading marks of history.  And yet, as I say this, a little dialog plays in my head.  What will I find out there?  Only what you take with you.  Let me relate a little of what I’ve found.

 

The Team

Sarah, the Forest Archaeologist, is my supervisor, and specializes in historic buildings.  There’s Jonathan, Heritage Program Manager, who’s always stopping by to ask how it’s going, what we’re up to, and to tell us first this, then that, about Archaeology on the White. Eric is my fellow seasonal. He builds boats for a hobby (like real sea- and lake-going wooden boats, from scratch).  He’ll also build you a wooden paddle board, if you’re willing to make it worth his while.  Eric is locating and documenting sites in the Pemigewassett Wilderness.  His work often calls for him to spend several days on end in the field, camping out (which he sees as a plus).

The Forest Service is a really open place.  Even the Forest Supervisor is right down the hall, with his door open.  And, you won’t walk past his deputy’s (Claire) office without being greeted.   From top to bottom, you can interact with every person at just about any time they’re around.

 

The Job

My biggest project is a very large timber sale.  I’m to locate known sites in the area, update and flesh out their records, find and document new sites, and flag out a buffer around all of the sites so loggers know where they shouldn’t go.  I’m also entering the site information into the newly launched, online Forest Service resource database.

I have several smaller projects.  There is a TSI (Timber Stand Improvement): a very localized cutting designed to improve the health of the stand by decreasing the population (tree population, I mean) and eliminating diseased trees that could spread illness to the others.  I’m also covering several trail relocations/rejuvenations.

A particularly noteworthy trail is the Crawford Path: a route to the top of Mount Washington, touted as the oldest continuously used footpath in the country (native footpaths excepted). Crawford Path’s 200 year anniversary will be celebrated in 2019, and REI has granted a large sum of money to the Forest to help commemorate the occasion. They plan to use the money to carry out much-needed maintenance (and some interpretation, which I’m taking a hand in).

My assigned question: how is all this going to impact the “historic character” of the Crawford Path.  My answer, I think, is decently archaeological.  The trail, I decide, is well conceived of as a uniquely long record of trail building, maintenance and use practices that have and continue to proceed from and in turn, influence the role that trails play in American life and culture.  I cannot say at the moment where and how this record is physically manifested along the Crawford Path, but I think that’s a useful question to be asking.

One of the great things about this job is the different kinds of sites that I get to work with.  In addition to the Crawford Path, I am looking at the historic Warren-to-Woodstock road (blazed 1830’s footpath turned 1890’s carriage road), the crash site of a B-18 Bomber (1942), and an old cemetery (j.t.f.d  Jason temporarily forgot the date).  These last two are considered Priority Heritage Assets (PHA’s), a concept you met in a previous blog post. All of these pose their own unique puzzles when you’re trying to work out what their value is, and how they might be (or are being) impacted.

 

The History

The sites I deal with are almost exclusively historic, and they fall (with the exception of those mentioned above) into two broad categories (so far).  There are 19th century farmsteads, and there are old logging camps.  People moved into the mountains in the early 1800’s, and started moving out around the time of the Civil War.   That’s when the loggers came in.  Today, the forest service controls logging to not only generate economic energy, but to create, over time, healthy and sustainable forests.  They are stewards of the public lands.  A noble calling, my neighbor, Jane, says.  Noble indeed.  The old loggers didn’t know anything about healthy and sustainable forests.  The big dogs were there to get rich, and the little guy was there to make a living.  In a few short decades, uninformed logging practices produced epic floods and wildfires that were an environmental and economic catastrophe.  In stepped Congress and the U.S. Forest Service, to which the land has since been entrusted.   Thus, in a nutshell, I relate the history of the White Mountains.

 

Prehistory and Predicaments

Prehistory is another matter.  Prehistoric sites are a real challenge, because limited time, staffing and resources make sub-surface sampling on a large scale basically impossible.  The probable nature of mountain settlement adds to the difficulty.  It is hypothesized (partially on the basis of historically documented native groups) that activities in the mountains were seasonal, dispersed, and temporary, and thus left a much lighter footprint.

There is, however, a prehistoric presence on the Forest.  The White has a Paleoindian rock shelter.  And, there have been some light scatterings of flakes found at upland ponds.  For now, Sarah has asked me to keep an eye open for places that show good potential for prehistoric sites.  It may be necessary to come in later, and do some subsurface sampling at those places.  We’ve really just now started talking about this issue, so I’m still working out in my head the best way to do this.

We will actually be doing some digging very soon.  In the first week of August, the entire Heritage team will be in the field together.  The forest is going to sell some land.  That’s an undertaking, with impacts.  We’re going to establish a subsurface sampling grid over the area.  We’re taking all of the “Para’s” we can get together as well.  Para’s, or Paraprofessionals, are Forest Service employees who have had sufficient training to do archaeological work under the supervision of a professional archaeologist.  If they get sufficient training, they can do survey on their own.

 

“Public” Archaeology

As every Archaeologist knows, the question of how to engage the public about Archaeology can be a little weird.  As stewards of cultural resources on public lands, Forest Service Archaeologists manage places and things of cultural and historical value ostensibly on behalf of the public.  These things belong to the public.  It’s their history.  And yet, we cannot reveal to people where these things are located.  We don’t even tell other forest service personnel where sites are.  The resource is too valuable and too vulnerable.   The answer I guess is pretty obvious.  Actively engage in a serious dialog with the public about the value of the archaeological record.  That’s dialog (as in two-way communication).  And, actually, there’s plenty of people out there who’s classification of archaeological material goes beyond ‘cool’, ‘bank’ and ‘trash’.

Informally, I’ve had a few opportunities to talk with people about archaeology while in New Hampshire.  One day, I was talking to a fellow FS employee.

“That stuff [artifacts] is worth money”, he says.  “I mean, that’s the value isn’t it”.

“Well, if it’s …”

“Well, if it’s old,” he finishes my sentence. ” Like 50 years or something.”

“Well, whether it’s very old or not as old, what we really want to know is if it’s interpretable.  Can we learn something from it?  That’s what we’re really interested in.”

Seems he got in trouble once for setting a tool down on a metal bucket.

Later I’m talking to my neighbor.  He mentions the ruins of an old water powered mill that he knows about.  I know it too.  Sarah took us there our first week.  In fact, it’s part of an archaeological district: an entire 19th-century town, that was abandoned and remains intact.  There are the foundations of houses, a school, a church.  There’s a cemetery, and the mill.  Whether or not I trust my neighbor about the mill is irrelevant.  He knows where it is.  He has a friend with land abutting the area.  He can go there now, if he wants.

Another time, I talk to a man who is running a backhoe.  A road I was using had been totally washed away by a colossal rain storm. The residents tell me the brook lept over its banks, and the road temporarily became a new brook. The man is repairing the road so that people can get out.  He asks me if I know “Peeling”.  That was the name of the town of Woodstock (where I’m living) until the late 1800’s.  It’s commonly used to refer to an abandoned part of the town.  I know it, I tell him.  I was just there.  “I have land up there”, he says.  “We’ve got some cellar holes.”  He’s curious to learn more about it. Unfortunately, I don’t know much.  There’s so much to learn about, and so little time.  I realize that I’m not practiced talking to the public.  I spend most of my days walking through the woods talking to myself and feeling old (as in 19 century old!).

You don’t have to talk to people to know that they make it out to these sites.  It’s not unusual to find modern day trash on a 19th century farmstead, especially if it’s in the more accessible areas.  Leaving one such site to head back toward the truck, I don’t make it maybe 50 meters before a mounted deer stand looms in my face.  The public knows about these places.

Would you recognize the face of a “looter”?  One day, Eric tells me that a Forest Service trail-head volunteer caught someone carrying material from a logging camp out of the wilderness.  Eric happened to be on hand.  “Did you call the LEO (Law Enforcement Officer)”, I ask.  “Well, she was twelve.”  He decided this had more the flavor of a teaching moment than an ARPA violation.  I agreed.  Eric took the stuff back.

And then there’s the Forest Service concept of “multiple use”.  The historic road for which I’ll soon be conducting a 5-year monitoring assessment is also being used, for much of its route, as a snowmobile trail.  It’s a cultural resource, and it’s a recreational resource.  The inherent contradiction in those two uses has to be somehow resolved.

 

The Conclusion

In brief then, since being in New Hampshire, I’ve found a beautiful area, full of history, and full of people who live, work and play in among the marks of that history.  The National Forest really is an archaeological and historical preserve.  And one that, perhaps more than any other, presents an opportunity to work out the role that archeological material has to play in our lives.  That’s because the concept of multiple use forces the issue.  With that, I’ll conclude the formal part of our program.  But feel free to wander at will about our interpretative photo trail (below) at your leisure.  Thanks for reading!

The Self-Guided Tour

Where the Research Happens

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Before I go into an area to survey, I check these big books of USGS topo maps.  On them is marked every known site.  And, on plastic overlays, every survey on record is demarcated.  That way, you have an idea going in what’s there, and some notion of what areas have already been covered.  Details on every site and survey (some more detailed than others) can be found in the file drawers.  There is an online database as well.  The Forest Service is making a nationwide transition to a new resource database that articulates with GIS.  Much of the information in the drawers is on that database (ported over from it’s predecessor).  But the digital records are incomplete.  Helping to flesh those out are one of mine and Eric’s responsibilities.  Of course, I’ve got my own GIS map going that has a lot of this information as well.

Apple Grove at a 19th-Century Farmstead Site

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This grove of apple trees surrounds what is left of a home place dating at least as far back as the 1860’s.  We know that because an early atlas indicates a structure at this spot.  Forest biologists maintain a number of such groves for wildlife.  This one has not been maintained, as maybe you can tell (though there is talk of revitalizing it).  In fact, it’s so grown up here that you could trip over the barn foundations nearby and not realize what you had found.  Jonathan tells me that the CCC were also in the business of planting apples groves.  That’s a hemlock on the left, a Beech on the right, and a young Maple sapling growing in the center.  The chimerical curves of the apple trunks, along with their relatively delicate leaves and flaky bark, help them to stand out.

Ervin’s First Find

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This isn’t the best photo of a cellar hole (actually, photographing them takes a little more thought than snapping a vacation picture).  But, I was totally going to include this cellar hole, because it’s the first one I located that wasn’t in our records.  It isn’t situated next to any road either.  At least, no road is shown on any map (historic or otherwise), and no road is readily discernible on the ground.  That’s a little unusual for farmsteads.  They are almost always along roads.  That’s how most of them have been found.  This one, however, I found thanks to the brand new LiDAR coverage that the forest had just made available.  The area is just too big for one person working alone to cover in its entirety, and still stop and map and flag and do research and reporting, and attend meetings and do public outreach, etc.  (all of the other cool and valuable experiences included in this job).  The forest is not quite fully LiDAR covered.  Eric can’t use it, because the wilderness has no coverage.  Just where his coverage starts, LiDAR stops.  I guess I should stop turning to him and exclaiming, “Guess what I just found on LiDAR!”  Don’t say that word.  What word?  I cannot say!  How can I not say the word, if you won’t tell me what it is …

Getting the coverage is a little tricky, says Andy (the Forest soil scientist, whose efforts are largely responsible for the LiDAR coverage).  It’s obtained from low altitude overhead flights.  But, you have to do it when there are no leaves AND there is no snow.   In New Hampshire, that can leave a short time window.

Historic Road with Several Farmsteads Along It

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You might not be able to tell from the photo, but on the ground, this road clearly stands out.  It appears on an 1860 map.  It hasn’t been used in some time, and large sections appear to be missing.  You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s lined by stone walls on both sides.

Following a LiDAR Track with my Garmin

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Once I digitize what might be a road on the LiDAR image, I can then download it to the GPS device and try to follow it.  Things can be a little off.  I don’t think the LiDAR’s the problem (it has sub-meter accuracy).  But the GPS is less precise, especially if you’re on the move (such as when you’re trying to follow a road).  Hopefully, the road (once found) is discernible enough to follow without a GPS.  But, they have a way of playing out on you, and then popping back up again.

 

Archaeology of a Logging Camp

I’ll sing you a song

Of saws and sardine cans,

Of can dumps and ax heads,

An old wood-burning stove.

A tipped over pail.

Throw in an empty bottle of lager.

And there you have the leavings of a New England logger.

My very first new find was what is probably an old logging camp.  What’s that?  Very good!  Yes, there is a road involved.  An old road that runs to this camp, or away from it, depending on your point of view.  It runs all over the place.  That is, it had me running all over the place.  And a hot day for running it was.

What is This?

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This contraption sports a set of opposing leaf springs, such as you might find on the undercarriage of a cart.  It apparently had a frame that is missing.  I still haven’t figured what exactly it was.

Another angle

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Stuff I Wish I had Photographs For

If you’ve never take a little tour of old farming equipment, do that sometime, and you’ll gain a new perspective on why people might have abandoned the family farm.  Those people worked hard.

I also found what I think is a old boiler for a small steam engine(at a different spot).  Sorry, I left the photo at work.  Just another teaser.

One day I found what seemed like half of a house foundation at the base of a fairly steep slope.  There was a pile of homemade bricks (a hearth, I think) in the middle, and taking up at least half of that. I pondered and puzzled and paced.  You know, said my dad (who seems to understand everything instantly), people sometimes built houses onto a slope.  They’d prop up the low end.  Jonathan added the next day.  Yes, I’ve seen this.  They would excavate out of the hill, and use the soil and rocks to build up the low part.  You can even do it such a way as to leave a hole for a stone-lined cellar, the whole thing being constructed in layers.  It can be easier than digging down into a flat surface.  Well, I’ll be dogged.  Don’t I feel uneducated, uncultured and incompetent.  Does this stuff have information potential?  Umm.  Yes.  Knowledge ain’t butter on a biscuit.  It’s unevenly distributed.

 

Watch Your Step!

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Many New Hampshire farmsteaders dug shallow wells, often just a meter or two from the house.  I think I measured one at about 3 meters deep.  There is generally a perched water table that the settlers could tap into.  They would line the hole with stones to keep it from collapsing.  Many have filled in over time, but there are a number that are still pretty pristine, like this one.

 

The Granite State

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Granite is an igneous rock that crystallizes deep in the Earth’s crust, and it’s the most common type of rock found in the Whites.  Granite is a mixture of several constituents.  The gray-appearing stuff is quartz.  Potassium feldspars are responsible for the pink.  Biotite is a kind of mica that provides the black part of the characteristic ‘salt and pepper’ appearance.  Metallic, sparkling mica is also very common in the area.

 

Raw Material

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Large chunks of crystalline quartz are common.  Quartz is believed to have been the most commonly used raw material for making stone tools.  Thus, a significant outcropping of quartz might signal that an area is a good place to look for prehistoric sites.

 

My Survey Area

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An overview of the area where the big timber sale will take place.  Most of it is beyond the line of hills.

Bald Knob

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There’s no trail going to the top of Bald Knob.  But the bushwhack is worth it.

A More Impressive Cellar Hole

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This house was substantially larger than the one pictured earlier.  That’s a hearth in the center.

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2017 MSU Excavation Field School: The Hester Site (22MO569)

By: James Strawn

My relationship with Hester began as a research paper when I was an undergraduate about 2 ½ years ago, and it is now the site on which my graduate thesis will be written. For four weeks in June and July, off a little dirt road in backwoods Mississippi near the town of Amory in Monroe County, Dr. Miller directed a crew of graduates, undergraduates, and volunteers during the MSU excavation field school at the Hester Site. The excavations this summer were two-fold: Undergraduates and graduates get to participate in a field school and gain valuable experience and the data collection for my graduate thesis was also be collected. The last fieldwork that was conducted at Hester was in 1978, and we were glad to be able to get the opportunity to continue what Sam Brookes, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) archaeologist, and his crew started back in the 1970’s.

Work actually began several months prior to the beginning of the field school. At the conclusion of the 1970’s excavations at Hester, the site datum was removed, so, to get her back on a grid, we went out and placed new datums for the site. Our good friends from the school up north (The University of Mississippi), Dr. Tony Boudreaux and Stephen Harris, graciously offered their time and brought out a magnetometer, as well as ground penetrating radar, to help us locate a trench and block that had been excavated in the 70’s. Success! Their work allowed us to decide where exactly we wanted to place the excavation units for the field school. Dr. Stephen Carmody (below) came out the last week and took some float columns from the block. Can’t wait to see the results!

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Over the course of the field school, June 14 – July 14, fourteen 1×1 meter excavation units were opened at Hester and excavated in 5 cm arbitrary levels. The sandy soil at Hester was then screened through 1/8” mesh, with any artifacts measuring 2 cm or greater being pedestaled and piece-plotted with the total station. While sand is easy to dig in, it also presented challenges. Needless to say, the walls of the excavation units were…fragile. Below are just some of the diagnostic artifacts recovered during excavations.

 

Each day of the week had its own “theme”, as far as dress code is concerned, and the smooth melodies of songs such as Toto’s Africa and Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street graced our ears…Almost non-stop. Tuesday was Tropical Tuesday, Wednesday was Wolf Wednesday, and of course Friday was Maroon Friday. Hail State! Below, graduates and undergraduates, as well as Sam Brookes (Tropical Tuesday photo), show off their attire for Tropical Tuesday and Wolf Wednesday.

 

The daily schedule was pretty simple. Arrive at the site around 8 am. Excavate until noon. Take lunch. Excavate until 4 pm. Go home and repeat. The weather was quite kind to us considering it was the middle of summer in Mississippi. It’s not uncommon for thunderstorms to pop up and ruin an otherwise fine afternoon this time of year. However, we just popped the old “Jimbrella” (another story for another day). All around us the rain fell on quite a number of days, but never on that little blue dot on the radar where we were excavating. Somehow the storms diminished before reaching us, or just bypassed us altogether. No complaints here! The wildlife, or lack thereof, was also kind. Other than a few arachnids in the units when we peeled off the unit covers every morning, snakes were elusive. The last couple of days we did have a visit from a raccoon on several occasions.

We had quite a few visitor to the site over the course of the excavation. Whether having a brief visit, or volunteering their time to give us a hand with the excavations, it was enjoyable getting to discuss how remarkable of a site the Hester Site is and their efforts are truly appreciated.

As a TA and field supervisor for the field school, I personally learned a great deal. First and foremost, it was interesting to see how plans change in the field. More specifically, it was the number of units opened and their layout with respect to what was originally in my draft proposal that changed. Second, it was very difficult for me to not be in a unit, but I now have a deep appreciation for that as I was able to know everything that was going on with each of the fourteen units during the course of the field school. Something that will hopefully make life a little easier at 3 a.m. in the months ahead. I did get to dig a little here and there over the course of the field school.

Over the next couple of days a few undergraduate volunteers are helping get the last of the units down to where we need them to be. Once that’s all finished up, we’ll be heading back to Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State to get the lab work started.

I want to thank everyone that got the Hester field school rolling, to include all the knowledge about the site going into the field school, permissions to excavate at Hester, and especially the staff, undergraduates, and graduate students involved. The summer heat in Mississippi is torturous, but it didn’t slow this crew down one bit. This is certainly an experience that I will not soon forget.

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A Summer in the Nantahala National Forest

By: William A. Joseph

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First, I want to thank Andrew Triplett (a Mississippi State Alumnus) for hiring me on as a Forest Service Intern.  Before I arrived in Murphy, North Carolina, Andrew had already started his detail in Vermont and left me a list of projects to do over the summer. While he was beating the heat up north, I really got the hands-on experience I was looking for as a Forest Service employee in the Tusquitee District of the Nantahala National Forest. In addition to the fieldwork, I also had to participate in all of the project meetings.  While the conference room setting took some getting used to, it showed me the value of the interdisciplinary effort of the Forest Service as an agency.  I enjoyed talking with other specialists about their work and going out in the field with the forest’s botanist.

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My first task was to assess 15 of the 21 Priority Heritage Asset (PHA) sites that require monitoring every five years. These sites are a fraction of the 1559 sites that have already been discovered in the Nantahala National Forest.  A site is designated as a PHA when it contains components that are deemed a cultural resource with, “distinct public value,” that is now in need of maintenance or already has a management plan.

The Wilson Lick Ranger Station is a great example of a historic site that has the potential to deteriorate if it’s not closely monitored and maintained.  This cabin was built in 1916, and served as the first ranger station for the newly formed Nantahala National Forest.

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Inside the cabin, leaves, acorns, nests, and any trash has to be removed in order to allow the wood to dry. It was great to be able to see the interior of this structure, which is normally locked to the public.

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Another interesting PHA was the Hawkins Rockhouse.  It is a rockshelter complex with at least eight habitable rockshelters and several adjacent landforms that could contain multiple episodes of prehistoric and historic period use.  It has been recommended that the area be surveyed to determine the boundaries of these sites, and the subsurface impacts from recreational use.  In addition, several test units should be excavated in order to assess the presence (or absence) of any artifacts, and the extent of known looter damages by rock hounds and pot hunters.

My second task was to begin surveying an area that was eventually going to be harvested for timber.  Building maps using ArcGIS online, I was able to highlight the areas that needed to be surveyed and come up with strategies for reaching the more remote places.  In the mountainous environment that needed to be surveyed, my project area was defined by slope data.  Places with less than 20% slope, within the stands being harvested, needed shovel testing on a 15 meter grid.  Sites were delineated at 5m intervals.

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More procedural information on surveying can be seen in several other posts on the AMEC blog.

Although this internship was my primary reason for being in the Nantahala, working was only one aspect of the summer. An added bonus to working in the Nantahala was being able to take advantage of the area’s numerous trails, rivers, and lakes in my free time. This post only captures a small portion of my summer experience.  There were many other sites, many other shovel tests, and many other adventures that I had this summer.

 

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Summer Internship with the US Fish and Wildlife Service

By: William Harris

Since June 1, in fulfillment of a requirement as an MSU AMEC graduate student, I have been holding an internship position for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeastern cultural resources division, based out of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge on the South Carolina/Georgia border. The division consists of Rick Kanaski, William Brant, James Kevin “Chappy” Chapman (who is a Department of the Interior employee), and myself for this summer. Rick, William, and Chappy are the individuals overseeing the management of archaeological and other cultural resources on all USFWS properties in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, and all U.S. Caribbean territories.

will pic 1My boss, Rick Kanaski of the USFWS, hard at work.

The USFWS actively manages and alters the landscape for the propagation of threatened wildlife, and as a federal agency, has a legal imperative to assess and protect its cultural resources during these projects. My job has been to update the site files that the division has on hand so that they may have accurate records to assess the damage potential from any USFWS undertaking. My work has included making/updating site maps, collecting and curating reports and other Cultural Resource Management (CRM) literature, and updating the division’s collection of individual site data. Occasionally I’ll be tasked to proofread and comment on draft reports and proposals sent in to Rick as part of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) project certification process.

My living space is a very pleasant, and extremely large, two-unit hunting cabin on the north end of Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 30 miles east of where I work. The refuges where I live and work are mesmerizingly beautiful. Much of the landscape surrounding my cabin is a picturesque representation of the hot and humid Deep South, complete with live oak trees, pines, and tall palms, all draped heavily with Spanish moss. I am also located right next to the tidal salt marsh that surrounds the entire island and covers much of the coast of this region.

will pic 2Some coastal marshland at ebb tide with oyster beds exposed, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Preserve, South Carolina.

There is almost no internet, and I don’t watch TV, so I play guitar, read books on Southeastern Coastal and Caribbean archaeology that Rick assigns me, and take walks in the forest and into the marsh. There is wildlife everywhere. Pinckney Island has two large rookeries for coastal bird species, every time one passes by them, you can see hundreds or even thousands of birds nesting in trees located in the middle of a pond. Alligators and armadillos are also everywhere, and I have photographed many of them. The alligators live in the water underneath the rookery, eating wayward chicks that have fallen from nests, in turn, the alligators also keep away egg-eaters like opossums and raccoons, so the birds and the alligators have a relationship that is commensal, mutualistic and parasitic all at the same time.

will pic 3A young alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) resting beside the driveway of my cabin, Pinckney Island.

Armadillos, because of their inedible scaly armor, have no consistent predators on the island, not even alligators. Since tourists are commonly hiking on the island, they have lost much of their fear of humans and will walk up to your feet, just like the one in this photograph did.

will pic 4Large nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novencinctus) rooting in the grass for insects, Pinckney Island NWR.

I also spend many evenings going crabbing on the south end of the island. The process is simple, get a saltwater license, as I have, go to a public dock, and drop ready-made hoop-nets (pots) baited with chicken gizzards into the water at low tide, wait for a few minutes, then pull up the traps as quickly as possible so the crabs can’t swim out. The other day, I caught seven blue crabs in one evening, almost all females. Other crabs that live on the island include small species of fiddler crab. Fiddler crabs cover the marshes in the millions and are no larger than, and look like, medium-sized spiders.

 

will pic 5Two female Atlantic blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) I caught with a drop-net and chicken gizzards.

Surrounding the island, and almost everywhere else in the area, prehistoric shoreline oyster middens can be seen easily by even the most passive observer. One prominently visible midden that I know of has been partly excavated and has revealed artifacts that date from about the Middle Woodland period (200 B.C. – 500 A.D.) onwards.

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Not the site mentioned in the text, but a portion of one of the many prehistoric saltwater shellfish-middens scattered across the coastal landscape.

The Spanish colonized and missionized the area here and southwards between the 1560’s and 1680’s, ultimately abandoning the region due to overwhelming attacks from Indians revolting against Spanish cruelty. Parris Island, which I can see across the marsh from my cabin, was the site of the Santa Elena colony and its forts, founded in 1566 to expand Spanish Florida northwards. The doomed Juan Pardo expeditions into the Carolina interior began from this settlement. Ultimately, the colony failed after a few decades. British colonization saw the importation of large numbers of African slaves for the establishment of plantations along the coast. By using irrigation systems that used tides to push more buoyant freshwater into converted fields, rice became the most important crop in the region until the Reconstruction era. Rice trunks, or hand-made wooden sluices that were opened or closed depending on the tide, are common historic features near the coast. Gullah, an African-American Creole English dialect that emerged during the Antebellum period, is still spoken in parts of the Black community here. The presence of still-active groups of Gullah-speaking residents with their own traditions, such as sweetgrass basketry, has been a focus of many cultural anthropologists and historians in the area.

I’ll leave here by noting that I lost my glasses in the ocean on Hilton Head Island, which is immediately adjacent to Pinckney. Because I couldn’t see, I had to use Uber to get around until the next day, when I was forced to spend my paycheck on an eye exam and my first new set of glasses in seven years. That was a bad two days, but otherwise, all’s well, this area is beautiful, and my work experience has been invaluable.

will pic 7Pinckney Island interior marshland during a drought, a few days and a storm later, this was all underwater at high tide.

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