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


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


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


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


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


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?


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


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!


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


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.


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.



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.


Doing it Like a Boas: Anthropological Fieldwork in Jordan (Summer ‘17)

By: Caitlin Ostrowski

The “Lookout” in Amman

What does an archaeologist and this anthropologist have in common? For one, we surveyed during the first season, hoping to find something that or someone who will aid in our research. Then, we returned the next season, the next summer eager to gather our data—to locate those objects that or those people who will inevitably form the basis of our research. Be it objects or people, an archeologist and this anthropologist had to do some intense digging to find what they were looking for.

Over the last twelve days, I have been conducting interviews and doing participant observation in Amman, Jordan. Of course my fieldwork, though, started when I arrived on June 1st. On most days, I can be found fully engaging in Jordanian culture: walking to the markets downtown in 90 degrees to purchase fruits and vegetables while fasting in public, walking up and down 288 steps, and passing out upon arrival to my apartment in order prepare a meal with my roommate for iftar. On other days, I eat iftar with friends’ families in Irbid or Amman, enjoying authentic Jordanian and Palestinian dishes and the cultural experience of multiple rounds of post-iftar drinks and sweets. During nights, I go out with friends to shisha cafes and drive around Amman trying to find new places to eat Arabic desserts and drink fruit cocktails before 4 am.

Eating iftar at Hashem restaurant

On other days, I go to this local restaurant/café/soon to be pub, to do participant observation where I do some deep hanging out with informants for multiple hours who openly discuss their dating lives often speaking in both English and Arabic. As many of you know, my research is on same-sex desires and societal influences among same-sex desiring women in Amman. So far, I have done two interviews a day over the course of four days. Sometimes I plan for the interview and sometimes, out of nowhere, I get a text asking if we can meet up now. So I run to wherever we are meeting and we talk for a couple hours. During that time, the interview is conducted and I find out much needed and very interesting information. Because of the nature of my research, I can’t say too much, but I’ll just say that examining questions about how people conceptualize their sexual desires and how they navigate societal pressures with regards to their sexuality, has led to some quite publicly taboo discussions, which, of course, are the best!

Downtown market selling fruits, vegetables, spices, and more

Before I was able to start conducting interviews, I had some time to travel to Israel/Palestine for a few days to see some colleagues. We explored Jerusalem and then I had the opportunity to try some archaeology! I enjoyed my experience there very much (except the part where we had to wake up at 4 am to head to the field site).

Trying some archaeology in Israel

With one week left, I have about eight interviews now and I am hoping to talk to at least two more same-sex desiring women. After Eid, clubs will be open again and people will return to their pre and post Ramadan lives. Data collection will start again and continue for a few more days as people will be available after having spent a couple of days with their families.

I’ve discovered that fieldwork is somewhat draining, emotionally. After speaking with two women a day, I feel such a great responsibility to record absolutely everything they tell me immediately following our talk. With great fieldwork comes great responsibility. Fieldwork is difficult, especially this kind of fieldwork. I cannot simply walk up to a woman and ask if she is attracted to women, get to know her well enough to ask for an interview, and build enough trust for her to talk to me. I must find women to speak with by knowing people who know people whom I can speak with. With social fieldwork comes social anxiety. Just the other night I was going to introduce myself to an owner of a well-known “LGBT” café. After having a few wardrobe malfunctions in the café and having to run to the bathroom three times, I made my way upstairs to introduce myself and to discuss my research with the hopes of making a good impression for him to want to put me in contact with research subjects. The key to this type of fieldwork is to work smart, not hard, on making positive and appropriate connections.

To collect my data, I really have had to use the right tools to do some intense digging this summer.

At Jerash ruins of Jordan



Taposhshik Nittak

By: Victoria Marshall

It was a sunny Saturday morning in Philadelphia, MS and long plastic tables line the small plaza outside the Chahta Immi Cultural Center. This sunny Saturday was Taposhshik Nittak, which is Choctaw for Basket Day. Basket Day is a day dedicated to the art of basket making. On Basket Day, basket makers from the surrounding Mississippi Choctaw communities gather at the cultural center to sell their baskets.

I arrived at the cultural center around 10 o’clock to meet the woman who extended the Basket Day invitation to me. I walked around the plaza looking at the long tables covered in handcrafted beaded jewelry. The Choctaw Indians are known for their beautiful beaded medallions, jewelry, and collars. Table after table, beaded earrings, necklaces, and key chains with various college logos were set out in pairs. At the end of the plaza, there was barbecue set up for the event. Beside the barbecue, a pile of green swamp cane, 8 or 9 feet long, lay on the ground awaiting the local basket makers.

The woman who invited me to Basket Day met me inside the cultural center’s gift shop. Shelves are lined with various Choctaw baskets, all assorted sizes. Some have dyed pieces, purple and red, others no colors at all. Books on Choctaw culture and Southeast Archaeology sit on shelves and beaded earrings and bracelets hang on displays beside pieces of Choctaw history and culture.

My contact from the cultural center told me that the basket makers were running late, but there was one basket maker from the Conehatta community. She had a table at the end of the plaza where she would be demonstrating basket weaving a little later.

Next to the cultural center entrance was the table of the basket collectors. These basket collectors have baskets from Mississippi Choctaw, Louisiana Choctaw, and various Chickasaw. As I took pictures of the various baskets, one of the collectors told me that baskets made before the 1880s had natural dyes unlike baskets made today which have man-made dyes which are easier to use.

After snapping a couple pictures of the baskets, I made my way over to where the basket makers were set up. One weaver had a pile of cane strips and a large plastic Folger’s coffee container filled with water. With a small knife in hand, the basket maker cut the cane strip dunked the strip in the bucket of water, and began to weave it into the inside of the small double weave basket. The basket she was making was barely bigger than my fist but the intricacy of the weaving was fascinating. The basket maker was making a double weave basket. The basket is made by weaving the cane strips in a diagonal style to form an inside and outside, which makes the sides and bottom thicker than a single-weave basket. She told me that this style is more difficult and takes more time than a single-weave basket.

The other basket maker took her seat next to the bundle of cane the cultural center got specially for this demonstration. There was probably about 40-50 cane in the bundle, each cane about 8-9 feet in length and as big around as a quarter.

I sat next to the basket maker, mesmerized as she began to split cane. She was using a knife about 7 inches long to strip the cane in half. She expertly made quick work of the bundle. While we split, we talked about where she learned about the basket weaving, what she hoped the basket weaving would do for Choctaw culture, and what was it like to go hunting for cane.

“I could sit here watching you all day,” I said. “You’re really good at that! How did you learn to split cane like that?”

“I learned from my mother,” she said as she dragged the knife through the cane. “I cut myself a lot splitting cane.”

At that moment, she began splitting a cane piece. Her blade split the cane two feet when ants began to spill out of the cane. As she brushed the ants away from her hands and legs, she smiled at me.

“That happens a lot. I’ll just finish this one later.” She calmly set the cane aside and picked up another piece.

I asked her what were other dangers involved in collecting and splitting cane.

“If the canes get big enough, little bigger than these,” she held a new cane piece. “Sometimes there’s snakes inside.”

I couldn’t help the shudder. She smiled at me.

“Snakes?” I asked. “Inside the cane?”

“Yeah, they like to go in there for some reason.” She said. “I try to stay away from snakes.”

She got through splitting about half of the cane bundle then set down the long knife. She reached down into her bag and pulled out a smaller knife, about the size of your average kitchen paring knife. The handle was wooden and the blade had some wear and tear.

“You need to have a very sharp knife for cutting cane,” she told me. “This one isn’t very sharp.” She gestured to the knife in her hand. “You want to make long strips, as long as the cane.”

She pointed to the length of the cane bundle in front of her. I sat there watching as she held the cane against the heel of her palm and slowly pulled the knife towards her. The cane strip came away in a thin sliver.

“Who taught you how to strip the cane and make baskets?” I asked.

“My grandmother taught my mother and my uncles,” she said. “My mother taught me, and I try to teach my children and grandchildren.” The sun was high in the sky. We were both sweating by the time she took a break for lunch.

“Are you making baskets for the Choctaw Fair?” I asked.

She nodded.

“Would you be interested in talking with me about basket weaving after the Fair?” I asked nervously. “So I can interview you for my research?”

“Yes that should be fine,” she said and she gave me her contact information.

I wished her good luck with the Choctaw Fair. She nodded her thanks and then went off to find some lunch.

I walked around the plaza one more time, looking at all the Choctaw art laid out for people to admire. I stopped by the basket collectors’ table and thanked them for the history lesson of Choctaw baskets. I can’t wait to return to Choctaw land for the Fair to glimpse more into this beautiful historical art form that continues to carry a small image of Choctaw history for the future generations.



By: Lauren Bailey, Mark Clemente, and Simon Sherman III.

May 15th Jeffery Alvey and Lauren, the teaching assistant, left Mississippi State’s curation facility with a group of 12 students bound for Poverty Point for the annual survey field school. Poverty Point is a UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. This designation allows Poverty Point to spread its history throughout the world with a greater understanding of the Native American population.

Poverty Point is a site in Northeastern Louisiana outside of the town of Epps. The town of Epps, as well as the site, are located along the Macon Bayou, a terrace overlooking the floodplain of the Mississippi River. Poverty Point dates between 1650 to 700 BCE, which is commonly considered to be between the Late Archaic to Early Woodland culture periods. The original purpose of Poverty Point is unclear to archaeologists; however, the construction of the mounds and earthworks signifies the importance of Poverty Point as a society and the poverty point culture. Diagnostic of the material culture of Poverty Point are the Poverty Point Objects (PPO’s) which contain; the small projectile points known as microliths, cooking rocks, and hematite plummets whose use is still unknown. While finding these artifacts would be exciting and astounding the goal of the survey field school is to better understand the extent of Poverty Point outside the plaza area. Providing an opportunity to employ these new survey methods and practices at a world heritage site.

Screening test pits.

Archaeological survey employs a sampling method that is specific to the environment that survey is completed in. For the first day of field work, the students were separated in a grid pattern with 30-meter spacing between each transect, line of holes. If a hole proved to be positive for either prehistoric or historic artifacts, the distance between holes was shortened to 10-meters until two consecutive negative holes were dug. This method for conducting survey allows the archaeologists to better understand the extent of the site being studied. To identify positive holes, the students sifted the dirt through a 1/8” mesh screen and what was not able to be sifted was then put in a bucket to be water screened back at the lab by students. These methods were supported with the assistance of employees of Poverty Point: Alesha Marcum-Heiman and Dean “Hurricane” Nones. A methodological lecture was also completed by Jeffrey Alvey prior to fieldwork, as well as an introductory lecture about Poverty Point by Dr. Diana Greenlee.

The crew screening dirt from test pits.

Throughout the field school, we were plagued by rain. Fortunately, there was always plenty of work to occupy us in the lab on the days when it was too wet to dig. The head of the lab [Lisa] had us perform a variety of tasks while working in the lab. These included water screening, artifact identification, and sorting collections from past projects. Each day three students were designated to work in the lab, and on inclement weather days, the effort was collective. Luckily the rain didn’t damper our learning opportunities. Our group had the opportunity to take the afternoon to explore the greater Poverty Point ‘site’ as well as tour the museum, and take a ride on the tram around the site. On a different rainy afternoon, we visited Natchez, Mississippi. While there the group visited both prehistoric and historic locations, taking a tour of both the Grand Village of the Natchez and of the historic city.

Halfway through our time at Poverty Point, we were joined by a group of graduate students from Binghamton University who were led by Dr. Tim de Smet, Dr. Matt Sanger, and Dr. Carl Lipo. Two former MSU Master’s students, Tiffany Raymond and Sarah Gilleland, were also part of the Binghamton group. Each day, an MSU student joined one of the teams from Binghamton and were able to gain experience using several remote sensing techniques such as ground penetrating radar, magnetometry, electromagnetic interpolator, and resistivity. Data was collected using these techniques in several locations at the site such as Mound A, Mound B, south of Mound E and on the northern ridges. A lecture was given by Dr. Virginie Renson on artifact sourcing using isotopic signatures. This lecture enhanced student understanding of different lab techniques that could be used in collaboration with archaeological methods to better understand the movement of various artifacts across space and time.

The last full week of field school culminated in the continuing work with the Binghamton crew, as well as the discovery of two bears. One bear was approximately 10-meters from student workers in a remote location of the survey area and the other bear was close to the dorm, where more survey was being completed. This last full week was also a celebratory event because it was the 21st birthday of Cody Oscarson on Wednesday. The final hole of this day ended with 10 individuals digging and sifting to complete the day at a reasonable hour. With the Binghamton crew no longer working at the field site, the students completed their radials around the dormitory and past locations surveyed throughout the previous 4 weeks. While we cannot speak for the other students involved in the field school, the three of us each came away from this experience with new methods, tools, and friendships which will serve us well in our future endeavors. This experience proved to be beneficial for those in it. Two students Kevin McLeod, and Safaa Siddiqui were offered positions at the UNESCO site beginning at the end of the class. Also, numerous students will be taking the tools from this field school and employing them for 3-4 weeks in Laurel, Mississippi beginning the 19th of June.

Lauren and Simon cataloging a find.


Night at the Museum (Well, day actually)

To fulfill my commitment to the University of Cincinnati Linear B project begun last summer, I spent three weeks at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.  I used AMEC’s portable X-Ray fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometer to determine the chemical make-up of the clays from which the Linear B tablets and sealings were fashioned.  While there, I worked with Dr. Dimitri Nakassis, who is the project director, and Dr. Joann Gulizio, who determined the fabric type of each tablet.

Before I began at the museum, I spent the last week of the excavation season at the Iklaina Archaeological Project (IKAP) near Pylos, in the Peloponnese.  My purpose there was to take pXRF readings on sherds that had previously been analyzed by ICP-MS.  These analyses will be compared in an effort to determine the accuracy of pXRF technology and its feasibility in making quick and accurate non-destructive assays.  Analyzing a sherd is shown below:


While working at the lab, based in Pylos, I also analyzed figurines and building materials discovered at Iklaina.  I toured the Iklaina site (below) while the President of Greece visited.  Dr. Michael Cosmopoulos is the director of the project.


I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Sharon Stocker at the museum in Hora.  She had lithic samples that she needed to make determinations of as to whether they were chert or obsidian.  This required two days, but with the correct settings and calibration, the analyses were made.

The Palace of Nestor site has been closed for two years while the cover was replaced.  The site was opened just in time for me to tour it before leaving for Athens.  The Archives Complex rooms where most of the tablets were found are shown in the photo:



I was very fortunate to have Dr. Cynthia Shelmerdine as my tour guide.

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is home to the tablets and sealings that were recovered during the excavations at the Palace site near Pylos.  During the three-week project at the museum, I analyzed over 500 of the remaining tablets that were not analyzed last summer.  In addition, I analyzed another hundred or so with a different calibration that checks heavier elements.  The following photos show samples of the page-shaped and leaf-shaped tablets and the sealings.

We were visited in the museum basement by the Minister of Culture, who was very interested in the scientific methods we were using.  In this photo, Dr. Nakassis is explaining our equipment to a museum official and to the Minister.


As interesting as the work was, not all was work.  I took the opportunity to visit the island of Hydra, below:


Billy Wilemon

Archaeology MA student


“It Gon Rain!”: CRM in Mississippi

For my internship this summer I participated in a cemetery removal near Jackson, Mississippi. At the beginning of the project, it was estimated that there were approximately 70 marked and unmarked burials to be removed. After doing both ground penetrating radar and magnetometry surveys on the area, the project directors realized that there were over 300 burials at the site. The entire site was excavated over a three-month period. The cemetery dated from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s and was being moved for a construction project.


We started each day by meeting in the parking lot at 5:45am and then proceeding to site. This meant that we could avoid working during the hottest part of the day: very important during a summer in southern Mississippi. There was also frequent rain that caused some flooding issues, and caused us to be unable to work for several days. On average, we worked for 10 hours a day for six days a week in order to remove the entire cemetery in the allotted time.


Flooded drainage pit


Most of the work involved monitoring our large excavator to identify burials as they became visible and excavating the burials as their locations were identified. Each group was in charge of removing one burial per day. We exposed each burial, recorded them, and collected all remains and artifacts for analysis and later reburial. For well-preserved burials, this pace was a struggle and required lots of teamwork.


The human remains were poorly preserved, but many artifacts were well preserved. A number of individuals were buried with glass bottles, ceramics, jewelry, dentures, and hair accessories. While all of these things were interesting, the iron caskets were the most fascinating. Most of the iron caskets that were found were still sealed. In those cases, the caskets were documented and then sent for immediate reburial.

Working on a large phase 3 CRM project was an incredibly enlightening experience and affirmed for me that CRM is the career path that I want to enter. I enjoyed the fast pace, creative solutions to the problems that arose every day, and working with like-minded people.

Natalie Patience

Bioarchaeology MA student


Internship at Nantahala National Forest

I headed to Murphy, North Carolina for an 8-week internship with the Forest service at the Nantahala National Forest immediately following field school in South Carolina. Needless to say I was a little nervous about this endeavor, but the sights on the drive through east Tennessee and into western North Carolina was enough to alleviate my apprehension. I have never been to this part of the southeast and seen the Appalachians, so, naturally I looked like a tourist the first week or so that I was here. I arrived early, so I was able to familiarize myself with the Murphy area before starting the internship. Luckily enough, I was able to rent a place at the Cherokee Hills Golf Club, which is only about a five minute drive to the Tusquitee ranger station.


View from Albert Mountain

The first week I spent a lot of time getting to know different areas of the forest. At a little over 530,000 acres, that’s a lot of forest. Nantahala is divided into 3 ranger districts: Tusquitee, Cheoah, and Nantahala. Andrew Triplett, my supervisor, is the zone archaeologist for the Nantahala and gave me a “tour” of the forest, but also introduced me to Forest Service personnel that I would be working with during the next 8 weeks. It was interesting to learn that most of the Forest Service personnel are involved with fire management. It’s kind of like the Army’s “infantry first, then specialization.” I knew going into the internship that there is a lot of archaeology and Cherokee history in the region. I also knew I would be working on a survey project for a future timber sale, and the background work started on Wednesday of my first week. However, due to some ARPA-related incidents that occurred on Forest service land prior to my arrival, the survey was not going to be at the forefront of my internship for now. I was given the locations of the timber units and was responsible for finding out if there had been any previous surveys in the vicinity of the proposed units and if there were any protected sites in or near our units. If so, these sites would need to be located and visited prior to our work to ensure they have not been disturbed. I was able to identify around 70 sites near our units. In addition to identifying sites, I also had to figure out what tracts of land within the forest our units would be within and look into the land acquisitions for those tracts. The last thing we want to do is destroy or impact potentially significant archaeological sites or existing structures if any are within our proposed project area. This work would continue intermittently over the next several weeks and will be included in the survey report.


Gathering background info

I also found out the first week that the survey project was not the only thing I would be working on this summer. I would also be working on an Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) violation. About 26 miles of the Trail of Tears runs through Nantahala National Forest. In addition to the 1,500-foot buffer that the Forest service manages around the trail, there is also a larger, congressionally mandated buffer for further protection. These two buffers, along with the Trail of Tears, make up the Trail of Tears corridor. The week before my arrival it was discovered that looting was occurring at a protected site within the Trail of Tears corridor. So, for now, the Forest Service’s attention will focus on this matter. We also went out the first week to assess the damage caused, map the area, and to get some photos. We also found several artifacts on the surface at the location which were mapped, photographed, and taken back to the work center.

Week two involved site monitoring. Andrew gave me a list of sites that needed to be monitored to make sure there was no damage or disturbance and sent me off to take photos, and for practice, to map the sites. Needless to say this was awesome! Several of the sites I have monitored are well off the beaten path and quite a hike to get to. This allowed for some great hiking and scenery. Others were well-known sites such as the Wilson Lick ranger station that was used back during the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) days, or historic fire towers such as Wayah Bald, Wesser Bald, and Panther Top Towers. The Forest Service also gets reports from landowners and locals regarding landmarks and features that the Forest Service might not have known existed. I was sent out one day with a rough map and a GPS unit to find an area where there were reportedly civil war ambush pits that Andrew was notified about to map/photo them. Earlier in the week I was sent to find the grave of a local woman who had perished in 1852 when her lean-to shelter fell in. Without too much trouble I was able to find and record both. Andrew also showed me an area where there was a possible mica quarry as well as some other areas that offered fantastic photos.

By week 3, the ARPA case had slowed down a little bit and we once again focused our attention on the timber sale survey. The week mostly consisted of going out and locating the protected sites I had found near our survey areas and noting any damage or disturbances. I had already consulted the forest quadrangle maps to find out how to get into these locations. This task definitely aided me in familiarizing myself with the forest. Thankfully the sites were found (though some took longer to find than others) and they were not disturbed. This was also one of the more tedious tasks because not all of the sites are located on the map I was referencing from previous surveys in the area. There was quite a bit of digging, so to speak, through files of previous survey projects. I was able to finish most of the background info for the timber survey and began organizing my notes and the info I had obtained for the survey report.

Week 4 once again brought the survey work to a halt. Andrew had received news a few weeks back that there were now five additional areas within the Trail of Tears corridor that had potentially been damaged. In fact, they had potentially been plowed. Whether or not they were related to the previous incidents would have to be determined, but in either case we went out to asses the areas. We found that all five had been extensively damaged by plowing. Of these five areas, three had been previously surveyed. Two of them were found to contain sites during the survey, while one did not. We identified artifacts exposed on the surface in only one of these areas. It was the area that had not been previously surveyed. The two remaining areas had not been previously surveyed either. However, there were artifacts exposed on the surface in these two areas. Below are photos of the areas we are dealing with and some of the artifacts recovered. Interestingly enough, most of the prehistoric lithic artifacts we are recovering are made of quartz. There is no shortage of quartz material in/near the numerous waterways throughout the forest. Several Morrow Mountain and Guilford projectile points have been recovered on the surface at these sites we’ve been working at as well as some pitted stones recovered at one of the larger sites. We have recovered only small flakes of Knox chert and rhyolite material. As mentioned earlier, mica is also readily available in many areas we have visited as well and in the next few weeks Andrew is going to take me to an area where there is a steatite quarry. While we have recovered a few pieces of historic ceramics, we have not recovered any prehistoric pottery.



This week we continued working on getting damage assessments completed so we could present them to the forest archaeologist, Rodney Snedeker, and the forest supervisor, Allen Nicholas in Asheville, NC. We went out and dug a few slit trenches to get a profile of the disturbances. We also measured the sites and collected/recorded/photographed any exposed surface artifacts to have Rodney take a look at. We determined that 600 yds3 of soil disturbance was done between these three sites. The estimated cost of mitigating the damage is astronomical. Rodney determined that the two previously unknown sites are Early/Middle Archaic sites while the third was already a protected Middle Archaic site. I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting with the forest archaeologist. We hashed out a research plan going forward for the disturbed areas, but those projects may or may not be started before I leave. The icing on the cake for the visit to Ashville was this beauty…


I have about 3 ½ weeks left here at Nantahala. The internship has so far been an awesome experience. While it is unfortunate, it has been good to see how the Forest service, but more specifically the archaeologist, handles an ARPA case and how the information flows between the various agencies involved. It has also taught me that digging, while probably the more visible aspect of archaeology, is only one part of the job. It wasn’t until about a month into the internship that I put a shovel in the ground. Also, I have been able to work on skills such as mapping sites, site monitoring, recording, etc. The weekends are great and I have been doing A LOT of fishing in the many rivers and tributaries that wind through the forest as well as hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail. I have been fortunate to see a lot of places on the forest that the general public don’t have the chance to see that offer some pretty stunning scenery. To me, nothing beats having early morning breakfast down at the Nantahala Outdoor Center where the temperature is so cool that my morning coffee can be seen steaming and there is actually a chill in the air. There is still a lot of work to be done as far as the damaged areas go and hopefully we’ll be able to get the survey going before I leave on August 4th.

-James Strawn

Archaeology MA student