We find ourselves at the mid-point of AMEC’s 2016 archaeological survey field school, which provides a good opportunity for a progress report. Our efforts during the field school have focused on training students in the methods of archaeological survey routinely employed in the southeastern U.S.
After a little over two weeks of survey in the Big Black River valley of central Mississippi we have identified 20 prehistoric archaeological sites and two historic sites. We have also visited two sites that had been previously recorded as “Indian mounds,” and were able to confirm that neither of these sites are prehistoric mounds. The “mounds” are simply erosional remnants that represent geological, rather than cultural, features. These efforts have provided students with a broad exposure to the prehistoric and historic material culture of the region (some of which you can see in the photos below), and introduced them to the methods used to identify the locations of previously unrecorded archaeological sites. Of equal importance is the understanding students are receiving of how past settlement of the region correlates with environmental variables, and how modern land management practices have affected, and continue to affect, the archaeological record. We have surveyed in a variety of settings including agricultural fields, pastures, pine plantations, and mixed pine-hardwood forests, which provides students with invaluable lessons about how to adapt field methods to these different environments.
We are eternally grateful for the generosity of the landowners who have so far allowed us to perform survey on their land. At present, these include Joseph Guess and Tommy Garrett. We are also indebted to our archaeological colleague, Cliff Jenkins, who is a MSU alumnus, and currently an archaeologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through his connections to farmers in the region, Cliff has arranged for all of the land access we have thus far been granted. Without his generous assistance it’s unlikely we would have been able to make the connections we have made to landowners in the region.
Stay tuned as next week one of the field school students will submit a report on the field school providing a student’s perspective on the experience thus far!
– Jeffrey Alvey
Cobb Institute of Archaeology, CRM Program Manager