30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2016, Day 1
President, Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology
Tennessee Department of Transportation
On behalf of the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology, let me be the first to welcome you to Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month 2016 and to the 3rd annual “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” blogfest! The blogfest is TCPA’s signature event celebrating TAAM. Each day in September an archaeologist working or conducting research in Tennessee will contribute a short blog post on current research, their latest discoveries, or how new technologies are changing our understanding of Tennessee’s past.
This year has been a year of anniversaries. Not only does 2016 mark the 20th anniversary of Tennessee Archaeology Awareness, but there are also several other important anniversaries this year – the National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 and the NPS’ Southeast Archaeological Center (SEAC) turns 50, as does the National Historic Preservation Act. TCPA is recognizing these important milestones by partnering with SEAC and Middle Tennessee State University to produce the annual Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster. SEAC is working this year with state archaeological organizations to produce archaeology month posters based on National Park Service units in each state. The Tennessee poster will be revealed later this month. I would be remiss without extending special thanks to the Tennessee Historical Commission for funding the printing and mailing of the poster!
This year is also an important personal anniversary, as 2016 marks the end of my second decade working as a professional archaeologist in Tennessee. I first discovered archaeology at the public library in my hometown of Lebanon, Tennessee when I was seven years old. I found a giant coffee table book in the stacks with beautiful, full color photos of Egyptian pyramids, Greek temples, ruins of Roman aqueducts, and Near Eastern tells. I always imagined visiting these places, and wondered who built them, who lived there, and why. These sites were on the other side of the world, but they might as well have been on the moon. I thought for a long time that if you wanted to find and study archaeological sites you had to travel to far off places with names you couldn’t pronounce. Of course, I later learned there are plenty of archaeological sites here at home and lots of opportunities to participate in exciting and meaningful research. At a very basic level this has been the most important thing I’ve learned – that archaeological sites are everywhere and can everywhere contribute to important questions about our shared past no matter where we are in the world.
Over the next 30 days, you’ll see that Tennessee is no exception. You’ll hear from archaeologists conducting cutting edge research on Tennessee archaeology from universities, state and federal agencies, and private archaeological firms. You’ll learn about archaeological sites in every part of the state from Bristol to Memphis and everywhere in between. You’ll learn about the latest research on the first people to inhabit Tennessee more than 8,000 years ago; you’ll learn about ancient mound builders in West Tennessee, Cherokee in Upper East Tennessee, a Civil War-era cotton gin in Franklin, as well as excavations at an urban archaeological site in downtown Knoxville, and many others. You’ll hear about research on specific kinds of artifacts like bone tools and textiles, as well as technologies that are changing our understanding of Tennessee’s past and leading to new questions altogether. And, since this is the 20th anniversary of Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month, there will be several retrospective posts on the recent history of Tennessee archaeology and archaeologists. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll see several examples of the ways archaeologists in our state are working to preserve archaeological sites for future generations and share what we know about the past with the public.
More than anything else I hope you get a sense of the breadth and diversity of Tennessee’s archaeological record, the settings in which professional archaeologists work in the state, and the important roles their institutions, agencies, and firms play in documenting and preserving archaeological sites in our great state. So be sure to check in each day for a new post. You can read each post on our blog or you can follow us on Facebook to get each post in your daily news feed. We encourage you to share each post on social media and to reach out to the authors if you have questions or would like more information about a specific topic. Also be sure to check out our event calendar where you’ll find a comprehensive list of archaeological activities, lectures, and other events across the state celebrating Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month. I’ll check back in at the end of the month to recap the blogfest and let you know what TCPA has in store for the rest of the year. Until then, welcome to Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month and let the blogfest begin!