The TCPA’s response to the US’ Withdrawl from UNESCO

TCPA Statement on UNESCO 101917 


TCPA in 2017: Connecting Past, Present, and Public

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Wrap Up

Phil Hodge
President, Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology

Well, that’s it, folks. Another great “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” is in the books! I want to thank everyone who followed along each day and especially all those who contributed a post. Special appreciation is due to TCPA Board Members Sierra Bow and Andrew Gillreath-Brown who solicited posts, organized the blogfest, and made it happen. Sierra and Andrew reported that the blogfest reached nearly 45,000 people on Facebook, accumulating more than 2,000 reactions, comments, and shares, not to mention more than 5,000 unique visits to the TCPA website! The most viewed posts were Jared Barrett’s on the Battle of Franklin, Mike Moore’s on Tennessee state cemetery laws, and Nathan Shreve’s on his research in the Middle Nolichucky Valley. As they do every year, these numbers speak to the popularity of the blogfest and serve as a good indicator that TCPA is reaching its audience.

Even though most of the leaves have yet to fall, we can already chalk 2017 up as a success for TCPA! We awarded our annual research grant in the spring, reviewed and submitted comments on the state’s social studies standards, and of course, organized and hosted “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology.” At our annual business meeting in January, the Board established two priorities for 2017. The first was to bolster our Legislative Committee to monitor legislative developments that have the potential to affect either archaeological sites or the profession of archaeology. I’m proud to report that the Legislative Committee has been diligent in their charge, having kept the Board aware of developments at state and federal levels and made recommendations for action where needed.

The Board’s second priority was to create opportunities for archaeologists across the state to connect in person, with the hope that new relationships would be formed, old ones would be renewed, and that the professional community in the state would continue to grow and strengthen. To this end, TCPA organized and hosted six “archaeology happy hours” across the state at local breweries. These events have really taken off and archaeologists from a variety of institutions, agencies, and organizations have attended. And, lest we be accused of talking only to ourselves, we also wanted to create and sponsor opportunities for the interested public to engage in Tennessee archaeology. To do so, TCPA’s Events Committee organized our first ever “Archaeology Day”, with the goal of bringing Tennessee archaeology to the public through free events and activities for archaeologists of all ages. Led by Sarah Levithol-Eckhardt, Paige Silcox, and Robert Colson, the Events Committee’s call for volunteers and sponsors was met enthusiastically from archaeologists from across Tennessee and even several surrounding states. Over the course of five hours more than 750 people came to Archaeology Day! The response from visitors was overwhelmingly positive and we hope to make this an annual event, not just in Nashville, but across the state. The success of Archaeology Day wouldn’t have been possible without the support of TCPA members, our partners, and sponsors, a full list of which is given below. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank all of you for making Archaeology Day a success and helping TCPA fulfill its mission to promote archaeological awareness and stewardship of the past.

If you attended Archaeology Day, one of our happy hours, or if you followed the blogfest and like what TCPA is doing, you can help ensure that this work continues and that we continue to expand our outreach efforts by joining or renewing your membership in TCPA today. You can do so anytime by visiting the membership page on our website at You can follow us on Facebook to get current updates on Tennessee archaeology and find out about future events.

On behalf of TCPA’s board, officers, and membership, thank you again for following along through 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology! I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of the professional archaeologists in the state, including your students, employees, and volunteers, who put TCPA’s mission into practice and advocate for professionalism in the best way possible – through your actions. This year has been a great success for TCPA and we hope to build on it in 2018 and beyond. See you at CRITA!


Archaeology Day participants and sponsors:

TRC Environmental Corporation (
Panamerican Consultants, Inc.
New South Associates, Inc.
Amec Foster Wheeler
Tennessee Department of Transportation
Tennessee Division of Archaeology
Tennessee State Museum
Tennessee Historical Commission
Tennessee Valley Authority
Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park
Fort Negley
MTSU Anthropology
Rutherford County Archaeological Society
Sewanee Native Cultigen Project: (
Nick Fielder
Origin Creations
Project Archaeology
Leadership Academy LLC
The Tennessee Ancient Sites Conservancy
African American Cultural Alliance Nashville
Vanderbilt Anthropology Graduate Student Association
The Tennessee Geological Survey and Friends:

Speakers: Jared Barrett, Paul Eubanks, Gabriela Ore, Laura Bartel, and Shannon Hodge

The Bosley Cemetery Removal Project at The Dominican Campus of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, TN

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 30

Jared Barrett
TRC Environmental Corporation

Earlier in the month, State Archaeologist Michael Moore talked about the process of what you should do if you accidently discover a cemetery. This blog post highlights an example of when a cemetery was accidentally discovered and the steps taken in its eventual removal. In August 2016, during the construction of Siena Hall at Aquinas College on The Dominican Campus in Nashville, construction crews accidentally uncovered the remains of the Bosley Cemetery. The Dominican Campus, now owned by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation (St. Cecilia Congregation), had been the site of the Bosley Family home until its purchase by Joseph Warner in 1910. The sisters acquired the property in 1923. One of the most prominent headstones uncovered was that of Charles Bosley Sr. whose family was one of the earliest to settle Davidson County. On behalf of St. Cecilia Congregation, Aquinas College initially contacted the Davidson County Medical examiner who directed them to contact the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA). Historic archaeologist Ben Nance with the TDOA examined the find and identified two grave shafts and advised St. Cecilia Congregation to hire a private consulting firm to continue excavations and identify any remaining graves.


View of all nine uncovered graves after the completion of mechanical stripping of the Bosley Cemetery.

Archaeologist Jared Barrett with TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) was contacted to assist and continue the mechanical stripping of the immediate area of the two graves initially identified by the TDOA. Additional work at the cemetery identified a total of nine graves most of which contained broken tombstones and other monument stones within the grave shaft fill. We also identified the remains of a rock wall along the southern edge of the cemetery. This rock wall would have surrounded the cemetery. After our initial work at the cemetery, Eleanor Whitworth, a Bosley family descendant, informed the St. Cecilia Congregation that the Bosley family had been disinterred and reburied in Mt. Olivet Cemetery on February 18, 1911 on a lot purchased by Mrs. Gertrude Bosley Bowling Whitworth. Today there is a family marker at the Bosley family plot at Mt. Olivet that lists the names of several family members including Charles Bosley Sr. and his wife Eliza.


Overall layout of the Bosley Cemetery.

Additional excavations were needed at the Bosley Cemetery due to the uncertainty of finding headstones and grave shafts and the question of whether or not the family members had been moved to Mt. Olivet. In November 2016, we conducted additional hand excavations in all nine graves to determine whether the graves contained human remains. Based on our excavations, we determined all nine graves were previously excavated during the removal carried out in 1911. Our hand excavations encountered limestone rubble, headstone pieces, machine made brick fragments, coffin hardware and wood throughout the fill of all nine grave shafts. Our additional work also confirmed that all nine graves still contained human remains. Once human remains were encountered during excavations of a grave shaft, work was halted and the grave shaft backfilled.

The St. Cecilia Congregation worked with Ms.Whitworth and weighed all options about the next steps regarding the treatment of the cemetery. After much discussion and due to the documented current condition of the nine graves, the St. Cecilia Congregation, along with Ms. Whitworth, decided that the best option would be to disinter the remaining graves at the Bosley Cemetery and rebury them on two grave plots located immediately adjacent to the Bosley Family plot at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.


Excavation in progress of graves at Bosley Cemetery, facing west.

The St. Cecilia Congregation and Whitworth went to the Davidson County Chancery Court and filed an order to terminate the use of the land of the Bosley Cemetery as a burial ground and to allow for the removal of the remains of the descendants to Mt. Olivet Cemetery. The order contained our approach and methods for the removal of the graves which helped satisfy the legal responsibilities with respect to the treatment of human remains, while providing a professional and respectful exhumation and reburial process. The order was granted on July 14th, 2017.


Broken monument stones encountered in grave fill of Burials 6 and 7.


Crushed metal coffin uncovered at base of Burial 7.

In August 2017, we returned to the Bosley Cemetery and began to remove the graves. According to the Bosley family bible, the following people were buried at the cemetery: Charles Bosley, Sr.; his wife Mrs. Eliza A. Bosley; Mary Bosley, child of Charles and Eliza Bosley; Henry Bosley, child of Charles and Eliza Bosley; Mary Eliza Bosley, child of Charles and Eliza Bosley; Infant daughter of Martha Ann and Charles Bosley, Jr.; Martha Ann (Carden) Bosley, wife of Charles Bosley, Jr.; Charles Bosley, Jr., son of Charles and Eliza Bosley; and Gertrude Bosley Bowling, granddaughter of Charles and Eliza Bosley and wife of Powhattan Bowlinig. The earliest burial in the cemetery dates to 1825 with the latest burial dating to 1873. We uncovered the remains of seven broken tombstones within the grave fill for all those listed in the bible except for the stones of Gertrude Bosley Bowling and Eliza Bosley. Based on the headstones recovered, items recovered from the burials, and human remains, we were able to determine the layout of the cemetery and who was buried in which grave. Most of the excavated graves had small amounts of human remains that were left behind during the initial grave removal in 1911. One grave had only been partially removed with the lower leg, mid section including their arms, ribs, and spine and lower jaw left behind. Another grave contained the crushed remains of a tin coffin at its base with small amounts of foot bones (phalanges and metatarsals) mixed within the fill.


Overview of the broken headstones recovered from the grave shaft fill at the Bosley Cemetery.


Overview of broken monument stones recovered from the grave shaft fill at the Bosley Cemetery

We also continued to find large amounts of broken monument stones and the rectangular bases of monuments dumped into the grave shaft fill. We also found limestone rubble and blocks from the stone wall that once surrounded the cemetery. It appears the people who removed the graves in 1911 took the monument stones and the stone from the wall and used it as backfill for the nine graves.  This made excavations difficult at times and we had to use heavy machinery to lift out the larger pieces of stones from the grave shafts.

Now that the graves have been removed, the plan is to reinter them at Mt. Olivet Cemetery within a layout that closely matches the original layout of the Bosley Cemetery. The uncovered headstones will be restored and will remain on The Dominican Campus. The restored headstones will be incorporated into a historic display on campus and will highlight the history of the Bosley family.

Continued Dog Burial Research in Tennessee.

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 29

Meagan Dennison
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

In 2014, I blogged about indigenous dogs from Tennessee for TCPA’s inaugural 30 Days of Archaeology, just as I was getting started with my dissertation research on dog burials. These days, I am deeply entrenched in data collection on dog burials from prehistoric and Historic Cherokee archaeological sites in the Tennessee River Valley, and nearby areas – I am even writing this from my hotel while out on a research trip. Through skeletal and dietary analyses, I am finding out how dogs and people coexisted in the past, and how this relationship changed through time.

Dog burials are common from the Tennessee River Valley, and Tennessee in general (see Lacey Fleming’s 2015 TCPA blogpost for discussions of several dog burials from Middle Tennessee). As part of my data collection efforts, I have noted at least 120 dog burials from just the Tennessee River Valley in Tennessee alone. Around 150 additional dog burials have been uncovered from the section of the Tennessee River which runs through Northern Alabama.

For me, the dogs I find most fascinating are the Archaic dogs from the Tennessee River Valley in West Tennessee. I spent many weekends of my childhood at my grandparents’ river house near Lick Creek, which feeds into the Tennessee River just south of I-40. I distinctly remember once wading out into the water to swim and stepping on something that felt quite different from the other rocks. Back then, I called it an “arrowhead.” It was only after I started studying archaeology in college that I learned the full extent of the prehistory in this region. During the Middle and Late Archaic Periods (ca. 8,000-3,500 years ago), mobile groups of foragers occupied this portion of the Tennessee River Valley, moving from base camp to base camp, where they created large trash middens composed of mainly fresh-water mussel shell, but also lithic artifacts, animal bone, and plant remains. These middens, often referred to as “shell middens” or “shell mounds,” accumulated gradually over time, and were also used as cemeteries for both people and dogs. Archaeologists Madeline Kneberg and Tom Lewis focused primarily on excavating these shell midden sites during the 1940s, prior to TVA dam construction and subsequent inundation.

WPA/TVA Archaeology Photographs, 1930s-1940s

Figure 1: Dog burial from the Eva Site, Benton County, TN. Photo courtesy of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture and University of Tennessee Libraries WPA/TVA Archaeological Photographs.

Kneberg and Lewis, and their field crews, uncovered a total of 51 dog burials from seven of these Middle and Late Archaic sites in West Tennessee, including Big Sandy, Cherry, Eva, Kays Landing, Ledbetter Landing, McDaniel, and Oak View Landing (Bissett 2014; Lewis and Kneberg 1947, 1959; Lewis and Lewis 1961). Only 10 of these dogs were associated with human burials, while the rest were buried in their own graves. Dogs were purposefully placed in a curled up, or flexed, position (see Figure 1), indicating that they were buried soon after death, and with care. People buried in these shell middens were also commonly interred in a flexed position. These dogs were small in size, only about the size of a beagle (Worthington 2008), yet their skeletons display numerous pathologies, especially on their heads, legs and spines (Warren 2004). The high frequency of pathologies may indicate that dogs were not merely pets or commensals, but were involved in more strenuous activities.

Pathologies on the spinous processes of dog vertebrae, particularly healed fractures result in an overtly curved shape (see Figure 2), may be the result of pack-carrying. Although small in stature, the Archaic dogs may have served as beasts of burden for mobile, foraging Archaic groups (Walker et al. 2005; Warren 2004). Eighteen of the 51 dogs mentioned above have these characteristic curved spinous processes on one or more of their vertebrae (Warren 2004). Even though dogs were small, if a dog carried 10 pounds of resources or belongings, they could unburden a person from having to carry this weight. Of course, we don’t know how heavy dogs’ packs were, or how many dogs groups of people maintained at one time, or even how far they would have traveled while carrying packs. However, given the consistency of these pathologies, and the careful burial treatment, the Archaic in West Tennessee were likely an integral part of the society and a great aid to a mobile lifestyle. Aside from pack carrying, these dogs may have also served as hunting companions, pets, camp ‘garbage disposers,’ bed-warmers, or as guards (Manwell and Baker 1984). Dog burials continued in the Tennessee River Valley in West Tennessee well into the Woodland and Mississippian Periods.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Pathological spinous process of dog from the Eva Site.

This past Spring, I received funding from the TCPA Research Award, and the Patricia Black Fund from the Anthropology Department at the University of Tennessee to carry out dental micro-wear texture analysis for 39 of the dogs in my dissertation sample, including dogs from Big Sandy, Cherry, Eva, and McDaniel. Dental micro-wear texture analysis uses confocal light microscopy and specialized computing software to characterize the wear patterns on teeth, which are produced by different types of foods in an individual’s diet (DeSantis 2016). Wear is detected as either a pit or scratch in the surface of enamel. High frequencies of pits indicate a hard diet, while high frequencies of scratches and few pits indicate a softer diet. For dogs, differences in pits and scratches may indicate if dogs were doing a lot of bone crushing, or eating more meaty portions of animals, or more processed plant foods.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Dental mold making of archaeological dog teeth.

Teeth from the 39 dogs were first cleaned with acetone, and then a dental mold impression was made with the same dental molding materials used by dentists (Figure 3). High-resolution casts were created from the dental molds and scanned for wear patterns. Just last week, I spent nearly 20 hours scanning dental casts from these 39 dogs at Vanderbilt University’s Dietary Reconstruction and Ecological Assessments of Mammals Laboratory with help from Dr. Larisa DeSantis and her graduate students. While some dogs were too old or too young to preserve micro-wear, others were more forthcoming (Figure 4). Once a tooth surface is scanned, the computer software translates the surface topography into numbers which represent frequency of pits, frequency of scratches, depth of pits and alignment of scratches. The entire process is labor intensive and time consuming, but the results will provide a fresh look at dogs from the Southeast, as well as paleo-diet of Southeastern peoples. The results of these analyses are forthcoming, and will be included in my dissertation, and presented at the Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology meeting in January 2018. The combination of skeletal and dietary analyses will hopefully reveal more about how dog populations were managed in the past and the roles they played in past societies. Much more to come!

Figure 4

Figure 4: Photo simulation of surface wear on dog tooth from a Mississippian site in East Tennessee.



References Cited
Bissett, Thaddeus Geoffrey (2014) The Western Tennessee Shell Mound Archaic: Prehistoric Occupation in the Lower Tennessee River Valley between 9000 and 2500 cal yr BP, Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
DeSantis, Larisa, R. G. (2016) Dental Microwear Textures: Reconstructing Diets of Fossil Mammals. Surface Topography: Metrology and Properties 4(2):023002.
Lewis, Thomas M. and Madeline Kneberg (1947)The Archaic Horizon in Western Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Record Extension Series Vol. 23, No. 4, Knoxville.
(1959) The Archaic Culture in the Middle South. American Antiquity 25(2):161-183.
Lewis, Thomas M. and Madeline Kneberg Lewis (1961) Eva, An Archaic Site. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Manwell, C.  and C. M. Ann Baker (1984) Domestication of the Dog: Hunter, Food, Bed-Warmer, or Emotional Object. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 101:241-256.
Walker, Renee B., Darcy F. Morey and John H. Relethford (2005) Early and Mid-Holocene Dogs in Southeastern North America: Examples from Dust Cave. Southeastern Archaeology 24(1):83-92.
Warren, Diane M. (2004) Skeletal Biology and Paleopathology of Domestic Dogs from Prehistoric Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Worthington, Brian E. (2008) An Osteometric Analysis of Southeastern Prehistoric Domestic Dogs. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Florida State University.

Hiwassee Island: Partnering with Tribes to Ground Truth Geophysical Studies

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 28

Erin Pritchard
Tennessee Valley Authority

Hiwassee Island, located at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers in Meigs County, Tennessee contains a rich history dating back many thousands of years.   The island is now owned in fee by the U.S. Government under the stewardship of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and is under easement with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) for the management of wildlife (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Hiwassee Island

Prior to the inundation of Chickamauga Reservoir, numerous archaeological excavations occurred on Hiwassee Island and the true extent of intact deposits remaining was unknown. In 2016 (Previous Blog ) we reported on TVA’s efforts to document these remaining deposits through geophysical survey (Figure 2). This survey produced outstanding results indicating that the Mississippian village located on the island still retained significant integrity with as many as seven palisade features. Only one palisade feature had initially been identified on the island from previous excavations. The island was recently determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places using data collected from this as well as the many other studies conducted on the island.


Figure 2. Shawn Patch (New South Associates) working with Gano Perez (Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma) during the geophysical field school on Hiwassee Island.

In 2017 TVA continued its research efforts on the island by conducting limited test excavations to ground truth the results of this previous study and to collect radiocarbon dates from the newly identified palisade features. The following results highlight some of the more interesting findings for this project.

The scope of work for the test excavation was limited as the agency did not wish to damage more features than was necessary to collect sufficient carbon samples. Fieldwork was limited to one week and eight test units (measuring 1m by 50cm, 1m by 1m, or 1m by 2m depending on the anomaly being tested). The research design for the project sought to identify a sequence for the palisade construction through the radiocarbon dates as well to examine differences in construction methodology for each of the five palisades that were investigated.

TVA partnered with federally recognized tribes to provide an archaeological field school opportunity for non-archaeological staff and to provide training for tribal monitors. Eight tribal participants from five tribes (Chickasaw Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma, and the United Keetoowah Band) participated in the excavations along with TVA staff and managers, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and volunteers from TVA’s Thousand Eyes Archaeological Site Stewardship Program (Figures 3a-c).


Figure 3a-c: a: (upper left) Shawn Patch excavates a unit while Corain Lowe-Zepeda (Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma) and Jason Jackson (Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency) screen for artifacts; b (bottom left): Matt Girty (United Keetoowah Band) excavates as Karen Loven (Thousand Eyes Volunteer), Jamie McCabe (New South Associates, Inc.) and Michaelyn Harle (TVA) screen for artifacts; c (right)  Corain Lowe-Zepeda excavates as Benny Wallace and Catie Hamilton (both from the Chickasaw Nation) observe her findings.

Results of the excavations (Table 1) confirmed our initial interpretation of feature type in all but one of the units. Radiocarbon dates collected suggest that the village expanded over time reaching its peak during the later Mississippian Dallas Phase. While additional radiocarbon dates would be needed to fully support this hypothesis, these initial results confirm that the information potential of this island is still extensive further supporting its eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.


Table 1.  Radiocarbon results from each of the excavated units.

The one surprising result was found in Test Unit 1 where the thick linear anomaly was initially hypnotized to be a late Mississippian wall surrounding what was once a large platform mound excavated during the 1930s Works Progress Administration work which is believed to have been the center of the village.   Excavation of the feature now suggests that this feature is actually a ditch of unknown origin. Based on the content of the feature, we believe it was filled during the later portion of the Hiwassee Island Phase (Figure 4).


Figure 4.  Test Unit 1 profile showing fill placed in the feature.

While not all features ended up being what we initially hypothesized, it was clear the technology is very effective for identifying archaeological features and TVA was able to obtain radiocarbon dates to further hypothesize on the expansion and/or contraction of the village. Results of these limited excavations confirmed that this non-invasive technology can be an effective approach to collecting data from known archaeological sites in order to evaluate potential significance and provide the agency with sufficient data to properly manage archaeological sites on its federal lands.

More importantly, the experience TVA had with inclusion of Federally recognized tribes in the field work was extremely rewarding. What started out as a field school for the tribal reps ended up being a learning opportunity for all of the participants in the project (Figure 5). Similar projects are already planned for the future and staff is very excited for the opportunity to work with tribes to learn more about their rich history in the Tennessee Valley.


Figure 5. Participants in the Hiwassee Island field school.

Bringing Back a Special Place: The Rutherford County Archaeological Society’s Old City Cemetery Project

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 27

Laura Bartel, M.A.,
Adjunct Instructor of Anthropology, Motlow State Community College
President Rutherford County Archaeological Society

The Rutherford County Archaeological Society (RCAS), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit association based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee will be three years old this November. 0A4290FD-65BE-48D1-ACE0-33BD052CA103We are a diverse group of varying ages and backgrounds, bringing together local professional archaeologists and community members to share, explore, and experience prehistoric and historic archaeology of the county and beyond. We serve to inform the public about the value of archaeology and the importance of archaeological research. We work together to promote stewardship and preservation of our historic and prehistoric archaeological resources and the cultural heritage that we all share.

Our monthly meetings are open to the public and feature a guest speaker. We host a yearly Archaeology Activity Day with displays and hands-on activities. We also participate in other middle Tennessee archaeology and history-related events and educational outreach programs.

This past year we have expanded our presence and engaged community volunteers with two new projects: our Conservation, Restoration, and Development of Public Programs for Murfreesboro’s Old City Cemetery project, and our short term Civil War battlefield cultural resource management mapping and recovery mission, the Trust Point Hospital Expansion Archaeological Survey and Salvage Project. This blog covers our cemetery project. We will be sharing information about the TrustPoint project when we complete our analysis.

The Old City Cemetery Site
The 3.5-acre site known as Murfreesboro’s “Old City Cemetery” encompasses the buried archaeological remains of the 1820 Old First Presbyterian Church, the church’s original burying ground, and the city’s first public cemetery, added on in 1837. The church was partially excavated in 2003 by Dr. Kevin E. Smith and because of his research and efforts, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was Dr. Smith who suggested to me that we consider adopting the Old City Cemetery for a community project.


The front entrance to the Old City Cemetery site. The 40×60 church stood to the right of the entrance and faced the street. 

This special place and hallowed ground represents the early days of “Murfreesborough” and Tennessee. The church was the location of significant social and political events and later Civil War-related activities.  Murfreesboro served as the capital of Tennessee from 1818-1826. The TN legislature met at the church in 1822, as the log county courthouse had burned down. In attendance were James K. Polk, David “Davy” Crockett, Aaron Venable Brown, and several other notable Tennesseans.  At this meeting, Andrew Jackson was nominated for his first run for president in 1824. (He later won in 1828).  During the Civil War, the church served as a field hospital, storehouse, encampment, and perhaps a stable. The church was destroyed by Union soldiers and its remains are now one of the best preserved historic archaeological sites in Tennessee.

Degradation of the Cemetery
There are close to 300 standing gravestones in the church burying ground and cemetery. Many more are partially buried or completely underground. Founding families and early leaders of Murfreesboro, as well as soldiers, enslaved, and other local citizens are buried here.  Hundreds of soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies were buried here temporarily or permanently during the Civil War.  We do not know the location of many of these burials.

The city-owned cemetery is fenced and closed. The Parks and Recreation Department maintains the property by regular mowing of the grass, but the site is in dire need of attention.  Gravestones are deteriorating from lack of care, many are damaged, and broken stones and box tombs lie about the property. There are sunken areas throughout. In 2008, the Tennessee Preservation Trust named the cemetery as one of the state’s most endangered historic places, noting that the gravestones were suffering from “neglect and improper care.” This special place has been forgotten. Its historic significance is not being shared with the community, school children, or heritage tourists.


The stones have been neglected and some have been damaged by caustic solutions such as bleach, have fallen over, and are partially buried. Several broken box tombs lie about the cemetery.

Our Project in Brief
In March 2017, with approval and a use agreement from the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, we began our revitalization project. RCAS and other community volunteers are helping to bring back this special place. I direct the project, Matthew Whitten serves as our cemetery fieldwork crew chief and GPS/GIS coordinator, Dan Allen is our professional cemetery conservationist, who is donating his time and materials for repairs, and Peggy Paulson serves as our prime genealogy researcher.

We have many objectives and have begun with non-damaging gravestone cleaning, repair and conservation of the stones, and advising the city on grounds maintenance. We will be conducting a re-survey of the stones, monuments, and other features and map their location with a high-resolution GPS to create a GIS data file. We will digitize existing maps and records and new information. Our public interpretation objectives include staffing open days, providing presentations and tours, erecting signage, and creating a brochure and a map for self-guided tours.


(Left) Cleaning day at the Maney-Murfree family plot. We use the safe and effective biocide, D/2.  (Right) Dan Allen and Matt Whitten repairing and re-setting a broken obelisk.

Other important objectives are planned and include having geophysical research done to determine the location of buried gravestones, unmarked graves, and empty burial shafts. We also want to erect a visual representation of the Old First Presbyterian Church, ideally with a “ghost structure” which resembles a basic frame. An advantage of this type of representation is that the bottom area is open, allowing for any future excavations.


Erecting a ghost structure over the archaeological site of the Old First Presbyterian Church, like this example from Old Salem, North Carolina, would have tremendous benefits for public interpretation, education, and heritage tourism.

Although we have many plans for this site, our first and foremost goal is to rescue it from further degradation. We accept the responsibility of preserving and protecting this special place and to remember and honor those who are buried there.  By providing the community with a public history and archaeology hands-on experience, promoting stewardship and preservation of local sites, and by providing a place where history can be experienced, we hope to make a meaningful difference. With the dedicated efforts of the members of RCAS, community volunteers, and support from the public, this earliest piece of Murfreesboro – a forgotten treasure in our midst – will become a place of which the city, state, and country can be proud.

Battle of Franklin Federal Forward Line near Carter House

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 26

Jared Barrett
TRC Environmental Corporation

In 2016, the two properties located south of the Carter House known collectively as the Lovell properties were purchased in efforts to preserve the center of the Battle of Franklin. One of the groups that was part of this effort was The Battle of Franklin Trust (BOFT). The BOFT is a Tennessee nonprofit corporation that manages two historic sites in Franklin, the Carter House and Carnton. Before they could begin their preservation efforts, they needed to determine if any intact remnants of the main Federal fortification line remained on either property.


Figure 1. Overall map of excavations carried out by TRC in 2017 at the Federal fortification line.

In 2016, The Battle of Franklin Trust contacted TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) to assist with this effort. In May 2017, TRC staff led by Jared Barrett picked up where they left off in 2009, 2014, and 2015 and conducted archaeological investigations focused on a search for the precise location of the Federal fortification lines associated with the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864). You can read about our previous work at the Battle of Franklin in a previous “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” blog post.

The effort focused on an area south of downtown Franklin in what is recognized as the general location of the center of the Battle of Franklin west of Columbia Pike and north of Strahl Street (Figure 1). Previous work carried out by TRC in 2009 west of this area searched for and found intact remnants of the Federal fortification lines. The 2017 excavations were guided by the results of the 2009 investigation, along with continued consultations with local experts and documentary sources on the Civil War in Franklin (Figure 2). The 2017 investigations were successful in finding and documenting well-preserved sections of the Federal fortification lines.


Figure 2. Moscow Carter 1897 map of the Battle of Franklin showing the Carter House, Federal Fortification line (1864), and areas excavated by TRC.

The remnants of the line discovered in 2017 appear to match up with its location on the Moscow Carter map. Our excavations did find the turn in the line is more gradual than the sharp turn portrayed on Carter’s map. These remains consist of an apparently continuous ditch line of varying depths running east-west approximately 246 feet south of the Carter House, then curving to the northwest and ending where TRC found the line in 2009 (Figure 3). Mechanical excavation across the area exposed the top of the ditch in three sections. The TRC team carried out hand excavation of 16 Test Units (TU) within the three sections of the ditch feature.


Figure 3. Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2017 located south of the Carter House (yellow flags outline fortification line).

The profile of the fortification line generally follows a shallow U shape with a relatively wide flat floor and general sloping sides (Figure 4). In some areas along the line there appears to have been a narrow step or ledge intentionally created near the top edges of the ditch (see Figure 4). Also uncovered along some areas of the line at its base appears to be a narrow drainage ditch feature. This feature was not found during our excavations of the line in 2009, 2014, or 2015.


Figure 4. Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2017 shows it in profile and planview along with the step up feature and possible drainage ditch.

Most of these excavated segments yielded a scatter of fired and unfired (“dropped”) small arms ammunition and other military artifacts on the distinct hard-packed floor of the feature, reminiscent of finds within the fortification ditch excavated by TRC in 2009, 2014, and 2015. Two TUs excavated within one of the sections of the Federal fortification line excavated south of the Carter House recovered a canteen, a US cartridge buckle, buckles, and dropped ammunition on the floor of the trench feature (Figure 5).


Figure 5. Canteen, US Cartridge buckle, buckles, and dropped ammunition uncovered at the base of the Federal fortification line south of the Carter House.

There is a notable difference in the number of fired vs dropped ammunition recovered from the three sections excavated in 2017. Excavations in Sections 1 and 2 recovered a greater number of fired ammunition than dropped ammunition. Excavations in Section 3 recovered a relatively even number of fired vs dropped ammunition. This difference in recovered fired vs dropped ammunition from these three sections of the ditch may be evidence of how quickly the fortification line in Sections 1 and 2 was overrun by the advancing Confederate Army at the beginning of the battle. The Union forces on either side and in back of the line would have naturally concentrated their fire on this position which may account for the higher number of recovered fired rounds of ammunition.

The multiple sections of a ditch feature with associated military artifacts discovered during the 2017 investigation is clearly a remnant of the Federal fortification line associated with the Battle of Franklin. The excavation results provide clear confirmation of the location and route of the line and helps fill in the gap between Columbia Pike and where TRC found the line 2009. Because of our excavations in 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2017, there is now an approximately 875 foot section of the center of the main defensive line preserved south of downtown Franklin.

Now that the Federal fortification line has been located, the plan is to leave the remaining unexcavated segments of the Federal fortification line and preserve it from future development. The preserved location will now be used to help tell the overall story of the Battle of Franklin.