30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 14

The 2014 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month Poster!

Tanya M. Peres, PhD, RPA
President, Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology
Director, Rutherford County Archaeology Research Program
www.mtsurcarp.wordpress.com

We are so excited to unveil the 2014 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster!

The first TAAW poster (1996; Designed and printed by MTSU Publications and Graphics and Ambrose Printing Co.)

The first TAAW poster (1996; Designed and printed by MTSU Publications and Graphics and Ambrose Printing Co.)

The first Tennessee Archaeology Awareness (TAA) poster was created in 1996 by Dr. Kevin Smith of Middle Tennessee State University. That poster was created to commemorate the first official TAA Week and featured a map of Tennessee on which numerous archaeological sites and finds were highlighted. The poster was submitted to the Archaeology Week/Month Poster contest held annually by the Society for American Archaeology, and was chosen as the FIRST PLACE winner at the SAA conference in the spring of 1997!

Posters were created for a number of subsequent years, often funded by the Tennessee Historical Commission and Middle Tennessee State University; however, Tennessee has not had an Archaeology Awareness poster in several years. This year, the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology is happy to revive the poster tradition with several notable changes:

  • We are celebrating an entire MONTH of Tennessee Archaeology this year! There are so many great events taking place, they could not all fit into one week. Since TAA Week fell in September, and because many Tennessee schoolchildren are learning about the prehistory of Tennessee this month as part of the new statewide Social Studies standards, TCPA Board members decided to keep September as the month to celebrate Tennessee Archaeology.
  • The poster was designed by Noel Lorson, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at MTSU. We worked together on conceptual ideas, and Aaron Deter-Wolf and I took Noel to see the Mound Bottom and Mace Bluff sites first hand. The idea was to give the poster a fresh, modern, artsy feel, while compelling viewers to learn more about Tennessee’s amazing archaeological sources and cultural history. This year’s poster does all of that and more.
  • In addition to the posters, which will be distributed to the public free of charge, we created postcards that can be used in a more traditional way (i.e., mailed to a friend or family member) or displayed as a piece of art in one’s home or office.
  • We are grateful for the Tennessee Historical Commission’s generous funding of this project. Steve Rogers at the THC and the staff of the Office of Research Services at MTSU worked to insure we would have the TAAM poster in time for this year’s celebrations.

We are so excited to share the 2014 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster featuring Mace Bluff & Mound Bottom!

2014_taam_poster

The 2014 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month 2014 poster. Design by Noel Lorsen.

Mace Bluff and Mound Bottom are both within the Harpeth River State Park. These two sites are geographically and temporally intertwined, and represent different ways Native Americans who lived during the Mississippian Period (AD 1000-1450) in Middle Tennessee left their mark on the landscape. The background image on the poster is a topographic map of Mound Bottom from the 1974-1975 investigations by the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, showing the elevations and placement of the mounds. Mound A, the largest and most prominent of the mounds, is located to the lower left of the poster. The central image of the mace is based on a the petroglyph at Mace Bluff, a rock art site along the bluff line overlooking the Harpeth River and Mound Bottom.

Historical marker for Mace Bluff along the trail to the site.

Historical marker for Mace Bluff along the trail to the site.

The image incised on Mace Bluff is of an artifact known as mace, or scepter, that served as symbol of authority, leadership, and ideological belief during the Mississippian period. Maces appear in Mississippian art from throughout the Southeastern US and greater Mississippian sphere, where they are typically associated with the supernatural character known as Morning Star or the Birdman.  Examples of the mace appear on a marine shell gorget from the Castalian Springs site in Sumner County, Tennessee, the copper Rogan Plate from Etowah, Georgia, and on rock art in Missouri and Tennessee. A number of complete stone maces have been recovered from Tennessee, as well as from sites like Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma.

The Mace Bluff petroglyph. The mace is considered to be a symbol of authority and restricted to ceremonial uses.

The Mace Bluff petroglyph. The mace is considered to be a symbol of authority and restricted to ceremonial uses.

The view of Mound Bottom from Mace Bluff allows one the opportunity to reflect on the people that built this town and ceremonial center approximately 1,000 years ago. You can read about the history of investigations and interest in Mound Bottom, as well as a summary of what is known about its archaeological components in yesterday’s blog post by Aaron Deter-Wolf.

View from Mace Bluff of the Mound Bottom site across the Harpeth River.

View from Mace Bluff of the Mound Bottom site across the Harpeth River.

The grass covered earthen mounds at Mound Bottom are a testament to the builders’ architectural ingenuity, the location highlights their concern with access to transportation and trade routes, and the layout, including the palisade wall that is no longer visible above the surface, gives us insight into their sense of urban planning and community safety. The petroglyph at Mace Bluff ties into these themes, and shows a dedication to their spiritual beliefs and heritage.

To find out where you can get a Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster or postcard, email us at Tennessee.Archaeology@gmail.com, or use the contact form below. Please include your full address when you contact us, and note that quantities are limited.

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