Eclipse across the Centuries: the 2017 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month Poster

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 19

Shannon Chappell Hodge
Middle Tennessee State University

I am excited to reveal the 2017 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month Poster, celebrating the shared human experience of natural phenomena across centuries and even millennia. In this case, the widely-celebrated total eclipse of August 21, 2017, visible across much of the state, has led archaeologists, historians, and many of the rest of us to wonder how such events were experienced by people in the past. The 2017 poster illuminates this question.

The Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Poster Series was created in 1996 by Dr. Kevin Smith of Middle Tennessee State University. At the time, it commemorated Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Week, but in 2015 the Tennessee State Legislature designated September as Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month . We have continued the tradition of marking Tennessee Archaeology Awareness with a commemorative poster, made possible by steadfast and generous support from public and private donors, particularly the Tennessee Historical Commission. I am pleased to report that we have already secured funding for the 2018 poster, again underwritten by a Tennessee Historical Commission Historic Preservation Grant. This will allow us to produce and print the poster in time for an August rollout in 2018, in order to make copies available to Tennessee fourth grade social studies teachers before the beginning of the school year. The fourth grade Tennessee social studies curriculum begins with a unit on the prehistoric inhabitants of our state, and later in the school year thoroughly covers the historic era in Tennessee. Our goal is to have posters in fourth grade classrooms across the state in time for teachers to incorporate them into their classroom decorations and lesson plans. Future posters will focus on those sites featured in the state curriculum, including the Coats-Hines Site, Pinson Mounds, Old Stone Fort, and the Chucalissa Indian Village.

The 2017 poster explores the shared human experience of eclipse, with its centerpiece a photograph by Jo Fields, featuring spectators viewing the August 21, 2017 total eclipse from the summit of Mound 2 at the Middle Cumberland Mississippian site of Castalian Springs in Sumner County. Created by MTSU Associate Professor of Graphic Design Noel Lorson, the poster design ties together the experience of 2017 eclipse-watchers and the experience of those who would have viewed a total or annular eclipse from the same mound summit on eight occasions during the Mississippian occupation of the site, A.D. 1050 to 1450. How would late prehistoric people have experienced the eclipse in ways similar to and different from those of us in the present day? This year’s TAAM poster presents an opportunity to reflect on natural phenomena experienced by people throughout the ages and how our experiences of these events connect us across millennia.


The 2017 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster, including design, printing, and postage to individual recipients is provided by a historic preservation grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission (Grant No. 32701-02838), with a match from Middle Tennessee State University. The poster features photographs courtesy Jo Fields, Kassandra Hassler, Kevin E. Smith, and Samuel D. Smith. The poster was designed by Noel Lorson, Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Department of Art, Middle Tennessee State University.


Please fill out the form below if you would like a free copy of the 2017 TAAM Poster!