The ETSU Valleybrook Archaeological Education and Curation Center

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 24

Lauren Woelkers and Jay D. Franklin
East Tennessee State University

The ETSU Valleybrook Campus was donated to East Tennessee State University in 2010 by Eastman Chemical Company. Situated on 144 acres of land, it features 102,000 square feet of office and research space used by ETSU students and faculty from various academic disciplines. The Archaeological Education and Curation Center was established at the facility in 2013 as a part of an MOA between Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and ETSU, in which ETSU agreed to curate TDOT archaeological collections at the Valleybrook Center.

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Above: Student operating the pXRF instrument. Bellow: Lithic and Raw Material Comparative Collections.

These artifacts are not only curated at the Valleybrook Center, they also serve as teaching and research collections. ETSU students gain valuable experience working directly with these collections; they conduct artifact analyses as a part of research projects, write Student-Faculty Collaborative Grant proposals to acquire funding for their research, and present their work at professional archaeological conferences. As a part of their research, students use resources such as a Portable X-ray Fluorescence (PXRF) instrument, a flotation tank, comparative prehistoric and historic artifact collections, and the Stanley A. Ahler Archaeology Library. Additionally, students gain experience using professional applications such as ArcGIS and ARTAX Spectra software. These opportunities for research and collaboration on a professional level are both rare and rewarding for undergraduate students.

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The Stanley A. Ahler Archaeology Library.

Students are actively engaged in experimental archaeology such as flint-knapping demonstrations and pottery replication at the Valleybrook Center (ETSU students have participated in pottery workshops with Joel Queen, a world-renowned 7th generation EBCI potter toward this end). In 2016 and 2017, archaeological exhibits were constructed by ETSU students and placed in the Banner House Museum in Banner Elk, North Carolina and three Tennessee museums: The ETSU Natural History Museum in Gray, Sycamore Shoals Historic Park, and The Pickett State Park Archaeology Museum & ETSU Archaeological Research Station, which Travis Bow  discussed in an earlier blog. Archaeological workshops and seminars are offered at Valleybrook and open to students, faculty, and the public. Additionally, the facility is used as a satellite campus location where courses are offered in curation, cultural resource management, and analyses of ceramic and lithic artifacts.

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Main Curation Room at Valleybrook.

Archaeologists are aware that, on a regional scale, we are approaching a curation crisis, if we are not already there. For the foreseeable future, we can provide space for collections, particularly those from CRM projects. However, a critical issue related to the curation crisis involves funding. There is often a lack of associated funding to house archaeological collections long-term. This is particularly true of old collections. We believe this represents a crisis in the archaeological community. For the time being, the Valleybrook Center is able to provide one of those key conditions: ample curation space.

The Archaeological Education and Curation Center also plays a crucial role in public outreach in archaeology. We provide guided tours of the lab and research areas to groups of people such as elementary school students, retired members of the community, and local historic associations. During these tours, we present our ongoing archaeological research and invite guests to ask questions and share any knowledge they may have. Our goal is to make the region’s archaeology accessible and meaningful to all in the community. In doing so, we hope to stress the importance of protection and sensitivity of local archaeological resources.

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Cherokee Central Middle School Students visiting Valleybrook.

Students from Cherokee Central Middle School on the Qualla Boundary have also visited the facility to learn about the archaeology of early Cherokee towns in our region. Representatives from the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) come to the Valleybrook Center to give talks to ETSU students about archaeology from a tribal perspective. This direct involvement with the Cherokee community makes the research conducted at the Valleybrook Center relevant to a living group of people and fosters a mutually gratifying relationship between ETSU and Cherokee people.

Future goals for the center will address our primary focus on public archaeology. We are currently constructing 3D databases of comparative prehistoric and historic artifact collections for our region. These databases will be uploaded to the Archaeological Education and Curation Center’s webpage, and made accessible to the public. We continue to engage in original field work and research, but we also recognize the importance of engaging our communities. Further, we believe field work and research should be interwoven with public outreach. Static approaches to archaeology education, research, curation, and public outreach need revision and revitalization; continued fieldwork must form the base of these efforts, and we are committed to such an approach.

 

 

 

 

 

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Split-cane Technology from an Experimental Ethnoarchaeological Perspective

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 23

Megan King
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

In the Southeast, split-cane technology is believed to represent an ancient tradition spanning thousands of years, and it remains a respected and valued art form among Southeastern Indians. When cane is found in the archaeological record it can take the form of formal artifacts, the remnants of basketry or matting, pieces of carbonized torches, or as impressions in clay or prepared surfaces. When cane baskets or mats are studied, the focus tends to be on recording and documenting stylistic treatments and construction techniques, and while this is important few scholars have attempted to investigate the tools, techniques, and by-products associated with split-technology. In the absence of direct evidence, stone tools might be one of the only means to identify the manufacture and production of this ancient technology in the archaeological record. As part of my dissertation research I wanted to know if stone tools would be efficient in the processing of river cane and I also wanted to document any wear that the processing left behind. I began by conducting a few cane processing experiments on my own based on descriptions in Sarah Hill’s Weaving New Worlds: Southeastern Cherokee Women and their BasketryThe mechanics sounded simple enough and I was optimistic, excited, and completely unprepared.

Hill described cane preparation as being quite demanding and notes that it is one of the most challenging of all raw materials used by contemporary Cherokee weavers. This I can attest to is an understatement. Cane processing is difficult, it is arduous, and it is dangerous. In the process of splitting, peeling, and scraping cane culms I was cut, scratched, punctured, and even needed eight stitches. It became evident after only just a day of working with cane that my inexperience was not only causing me bodily harm, but more importantly it was hindering my experiments. It became clear that the most effective way to replicate realistic use contexts of river cane and stone tools was to incorporate an ethnoarchaeological perspective, wherein the individuals using the tools were performing tasks in which they were practiced and proficient. As a result, I contacted Roger and Shawna Morton Cain, expert basket makers from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) in Oklahoma. Each have been awarded the honor of National Treasure within the Cherokee Nation for their contributions towards the preservation and revival of Cherokee art forms. Their knowledge of river cane and skill level as weavers is unparalleled, and while neither had experience processing cane with stone tools, they were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology and practice prior to our experiments.

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Sample of Flake Tools Preferred for Cane Processing Experiments.

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Experimental Cane Processing Experiments Conducted with Expert Basket Weavers and Cherokee Nation Treasures Roger and Shawna Morton Cane.

Over the course of several days I worked closely with Roger and Shawna. We visited a local canebrake where Roger carefully selected 10 culms for processing. When selecting culms for a basket Roger and Shawna follow the cycles of moon and tend to prefer those that were at least 3 to 5 years. They only harvest what they need and make a concerted effort to converse and manage canebrakes. Roger has even worked to establish the Cherokee Nation River Cane Initiative, which has been actively identifying and mapping existing canebrakes on tribal land in northeastern Oklahoma. While working together were able to process over a dozen river cane splits, and Roger processed an additional 120 splits after I left. Of the more than forty flake tools available for use, the Cain’s preferred large cortical backed flakes that could be used interchangeably to split, peel, and scrape the fibrous culms. They proved unequivocally that simple flake tools were efficient implements for processing river cane, and they even remarked that some of the flake tools were more efficient than modern steel blades.

While they worked I paid close attention to the tools as they were maneuvered along the culms and even took notice of refuse that accumulated at their feet. When I returned home I examined the tools for microscopic usewear and was surprised in the variability of polish development and distribution on the tools. Cane polish develops slower than I had thought and there were observable differences in polish formation on artifacts used to split, peel, and scrape the culms. In general, the polish formed in small isolated patches and gradually developed into a bright, voluminous polish that looked more woody than plant.

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River Cane Polish in Early Stages of Development on Experimental Flake Tools Used to Peel and Scrape Culms.

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River Cane Polish in Late Stages of Development on Experimental Flake Tools Used to Peel and Scrape Culms

Differentiating between river cane polish and wood might be difficult archaeologically, however, the location of the polish and the macroscopic damage that resulted from use might help future archaeologists make such distinctions.

These experiments underscore the need for additional experimental work with indigenous plants in the Southeast. They also demonstrate how important it is to work with source communities and utilize the knowledge of craft specialists and artisans who continue to work with native plants and carry on traditions of their ancestors. I feel privileged to have been worked with Roger and Shawna, to have been welcomed into their community and their home, and to have had the opportunity to watch them work with a plant that they are so passionate about and have essentially built their life and livelihood around.

Public Outreach at Pickett State Park

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 22

Travis Bow
Tennessee State Parks

Pickett State Park has greatly expanded its public outreach in the realm of archaeology and cultural resources with the opening of the Pickett Archaeology Museum and ETSU Research Station earlier this year. This collaborative effort between Tennessee State Parks and East Tennessee State University represents the first State Park Public Facility devoted to archaeology and cultural resources outside of designated archaeological parks.

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Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, May 2017.

Tennessee State Parks has long been committed to protecting and interpreting the cultural resources of the State of Tennessee, including two designated archaeological parks in Pinson Mounds Archaeological State Park and Old Stone Fort Archaeological State Park as well as several other designated State Archaeological Areas. However, likely all of Tennessee’s State Parks contain archaeological sites of some form, and unfortunately in many cases these cultural resources are mentioned in passing if at all in the information available to park guests. All of these archaeological sites existing on our State Parks, whether unknown, undocumented, or just un-interpreted to the park guests, contain invaluable information about the story of each respective State Park that we as resource managers should be presenting to the public whenever possible.

At Pickett State Park, a culmination of factors has led to an opportunity to present to the public the archaeological discoveries made by the scientific community and bridge the gap between academic and public education. East Tennessee State University and Dr. Jay Franklin have been involved in ongoing archaeological Survey at Pickett State Park, State Forest, and nearby Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area since 2006. Over the past 10 years this mutual beneficial relationship has provided Pickett with valuable resource management information on the location of sites as well as impact the information provided in public interpretive programs at the park. Many important prehistoric rockshelter sites were documented at Pickett during this time, including the Rock Creek Mortar Shelter which continues to provide invaluable information as one of the few un-disturbed and stratified Paleo-Indian sites remaining on the Cumberland Plateau.

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Interior of the museum.

As our information about the archaeological significance of Pickett’s cultural resources grew, we began looking for new ways to present this information to the public. As luck would have it a ranger residence would become vacant on the park that was only a short distance from the Rock Creek Mortar Shelter. The structure’s floorplan allowed for an area that could be converted into a public accessible museum, as well as provide a limited amount of housing for staff during the summer season as well as provide overflow housing for ETSU summer field schools. In 2016 the concept for the dual purpose structure was agreed upon by both parties and work started on developing a museum. Through this partnership the Pickett Archaeology Museum and ETSU Research Station was officially open to the public in April of 2017.

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Prehistoric pottery programming.

The first summer season of the Museum was an outstanding success. ETSU funded Reagan Cornett to staff the museum through the first part of the summer, and ETSU field school students provided programs throughout their stay at the park and this public outreach was factored into their coursework for the class. Over the course of the summer over a thousand park guests participated in archaeological program provided by ETSU staff at the museum. These programs include pottery making programs, atlatl programs, flint knapping, site tours and other public programs. This effort has increased the level of awareness about the archaeological significance of the rockshelter-laden landscape of the Cumberland Plateau to not only our park guests, but the local community as well.

Reagan Cornett giving presentation on Rock Creek Mortar Shelter

ETSU student, Reagan Cornett giving a lecture on the archaeology at Rock Creek Mortar Shelter.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this project is the involvement from local school groups and the positive reception and attendance of our youth targeted programs. In addition to regularly scheduled programs throughout the summer, with supervision youth ages 12 and up are allowed to participate in the ongoing excavations of the Rock Creek Mortar site during our scheduled volunteer days. We are excited about the future of our archaeological public outreach at Pickett State Park, not only for the park’s public education goals, but also for the future of archaeology in Tennessee.

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Park visitors enjoying archaeological programming.

 

My Construction Project Has Discovered Human Remains: What Do I Do Now?

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 21

Michael C. Moore
State Archaeologist and Director, Tennessee Division of Archaeology

Most archaeologists have discovered, or will encounter, human skeletal remains at some point during their career. These encounters comprise prehistoric Native American burials and/or historic period graves. Prehistoric Native American burials have been dug since the early 1800s for various reasons by researchers and hobbyists, as well as looters seeking to profit from the sale of associated burial objects on the antiquities market. Folks may not know that digging prehistoric Native American graves was perfectly legal in Tennessee until 1984 when legislative intent was established to cover these graves under the state cemetery statutes.

Historic/modern cemeteries have also fared poorly at times through landowner negligence, developer deceit, and vandalism. I’m aware of several development cases where cemetery tombstones were removed but the graves left in place. I have also observed a vandalized grave accompanied by candles and other offerings.  This particular desecration occurred the night before Easter, but fortunately the people involved did not disturb the interred individual as they dug on the wrong side of the tombstone.

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Figure 1. Coffin heavily damaged by backhoe during subdivision construction activity within an unmarked historic cemetery in Davidson County.

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Figure 2. Consultant removal of prehistoric stone-box graves, Davidson County.

Today, the current construction boom in Nashville has led to an increase in the discovery and removal of prehistoric and historic graves (Figures 1 and 2). Developers occasionally consult our office regarding the presence, or potential presence, of burials within their project areas. In those cases where graves are known to be present, a private consultant is often hired to evaluate the construction footprint. If burials are discovered, the consultant can recommend burial avoidance when possible but removal when necessary. One example is the Nashville construction project within the boundaries of a large prehistoric site where human burials had been dug in the past. In this particular case, the archaeological consultant discovered a previously unrecorded burial mound that contained well over 200 individuals. These individuals were legally removed through the process mentioned below.

However, most burial discoveries occur as complete surprises during construction. Recent cases in Nashville include an early historic cemetery within a subdivision entrance, historic graves found under an existing driveway, and prehistoric Mississippian stone-box graves within the footprint of a backyard pool.

So, what happened in those cases? First, Tennessee state law (TCA 11-6-107) required all digging to stop. That statute also required notification of local law enforcement, the medical examiner or coroner, and the Division of Archaeology. Local law enforcement and the medical examiner were contacted to assess any forensic concerns (homicide, suicide, missing person). The Division assisted in assessing remains as prehistoric or early historic, and took the lead once forensic concerns were ruled out. At that time the disposition of remains became the landowner’s responsibility. Burials could be avoided and left in place if they were not disturbed by proposed construction.

Tennessee has a legal mechanism to remove human burials, known as Termination of Land Use as Cemetery (TCA 46-4-101-104). Landowners petition Chancery Court for a court order to remove any human remains on their property (whether disturbed by proposed construction or not). The court order will include a project description, how the removal will be performed, and a designated reburial location for the removed individuals (on the same property if possible). Please visit here to see more information regarding cemetery removals.

There are several unique statutes regarding the disposition of Native American burials.  For example, under TCA 11-6-116 Native American observers are allowed (but not required) to be present during the removal of Native American graves. Also, under TCA 11-6-119 all removed Native American individuals and associated burial objects have to be reburied with six months of removal (although I can grant an additional six months for a total of one year). This particular statute also allows (but does not require) scientific analysis within that one-year period.

On a final note, what happens to prehistoric structures, palisades, refuse-filled pits, and other non-burial features exposed during the search for graves? Landowners are only responsible for human burials under state law, so over the past 20+ years the Division of Archaeology has requested permission from landowners to evaluate the non-mortuary features at no-cost. Permission to conduct such work has been granted in the vast majority of cases, including such well-known sites as Rutherford-Kizer and Brentwood Library.

Using Drone-based Remote Sensing to Document Sites

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 20

Jesse W. Tune¹ and Aaron Deter-Wolf²
¹Department of Anthropology, Fort Lewis College
²Tennessee Division of Archaeology

Technology is quickly and dramatically changing the way that we, as archaeologists, collect data. At the forefront of new technologies today is the application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones. The use of UAVs to collect data at archaeological sites is just one example of remote sensing methods. In general, these types of methods allow us to investigate the Earth’s surface and sediments just below the surface without actually digging into the ground. To find out more about other remote sensing methods, see Eileen G. Ernenwein and Jay D. Franklin’s post from September 12th.

Over a period of two days this past July we conducted two UAV-based remote sensing pilot studies at the Mound Bottom State Archaeological Area and the Sellars Farm State Archaeological Area. Both sites are owned by the state and managed by Tennessee State Parks. Our work was done to help construct future research agendas at these sites, and to collect data that can be used for site interpretations and public education.

We used a DJI Phantom UAV to collect 200-300 high-resolution photographs of each site. Each photograph was taken at a resolution of about 5.5 cm per pixel. Each survey was conducted at 100 meters above ground surface and required multiple flights. During the flights, the UAV tags each photograph with x, y, z coordinates so that the photographs can then be georeferenced to create a single composite image of the site. We processed the images using Pix4Dmapper Pro. Orthomosaic images (composite images), digital surface models (DSM), and digital terrain models (DTMs) were created using the photographs.

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Figure 1. Processing photographic data in Pix4Dmapper software. Each red and green dot represents an individual photograph being stitched together to create the orthomosaic image of the site.

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Figure 2. The orthomosaic image of the Sellars Farm site overlain with standard open source aerial images available on Google Earth and other GIS sources. Note the difference in image resolutions. 

The results of these surveys give us a unique perspective on the sites. Archaeological sites are not just discrete lithic scatters, or mounds in this case, but part of the landscape. As such, sites should be interpreted as the intersections of cultural and natural landscapes. Moreover, these are dynamic environments that are continually changing. In the DSM of the Mound Bottom site we can clearly identify the Mississippian mounds, but historic fencerows are also evident. While the fences themselves are no longer present, we can still see them in the form of small ridges running generally north-south and east-west between historic fields. These fencerows are not readily visible in aerial images like the composite orthomosaic.

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Figure 3. Orthomosaic and DSM of the Mound Bottom site. Lighter blues represent lower elevations, while darker oranges represent higher elevations. Note the main platform mound to the northwest and the linear features indicating historic fencerows. The distortion near the edges of the DSM is caused by the software attempting to fill in gaps where photographic data is missing.

As we continue to plan future research at these sites, the data collected during the UAV-based surveys will be helpful in locating areas of interest, and also providing greater context to excavations. Future aerial remote sensing will expand on this pilot study and will employ additional methods that will help shed light on subsurface features such as storage pits and possibly palisade lines.

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.

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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!

Volunteer Day at the UT Archaeological Research Lab

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 18

Kandace D. Hollenbach
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

On the third Friday of each month, the Archaeological Research Laboratory (ARL) at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville invites members of the community to join us for our Volunteer Day.  This program began in January of 2015, shortly after the ARL “inherited” Dr. Charlie Faulkner’s comparative collection from the Normandy Archaeological Project.

Dr. Faulkner and Major McCollough directed the Normandy Project from 1971 to 1975, prior to the construction of Normandy Dam and inundation of the reservoir in 1976 by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  These archaeological salvage efforts and resulting research defined the culture history of Middle Tennessee.  Dr. Faulkner compiled some of the best examples of these materials into a type collection of stone tools and pottery that he used to teach untold numbers of undergraduate and graduate students.

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A shell-tempered vessel fragment with an unusual handle from the Normandy collection.

With the Department of Anthropology’s move from South Stadium Hall imminent, the collection – dozens of drawers, artifact boxes, and cigar boxes filled with artifacts labeled by type and provenience – was moved to the ARL’s space at Middlebrook to be repackaged into curation-quality bags with acid-free paper tags, a significant improvement over the paper bags with crumbling rubber bands that many of the artifacts were held in.  Covering four large work tables, the collection quickly proved to be more than could be managed by student volunteers.

Thankfully, several dozen community members answered our call for volunteers to help us with the daunting task of rebagging over 20,000 artifacts, entering them into a spreadsheet, and organizing them for curation.  We plied them with snacks and a lunchtime lecture on Tennessee archaeology, with guest speakers including Charlie Faulkner, and archaeologists from TVA, UT, and SUNY-Oneonta.

At the end of the first year, we asked for feedback from the volunteers. Their primary request was for reading material related to the either the Normandy Collection or to the topic of the lunchtime lecture, a request we were more than happy to oblige.  They also expressed interest in fieldwork, if the opportunity arose.  We were finally able to fulfill this request this past spring, with shovel-testing at the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Holston Unit Farm.  Roughly a dozen stalwart volunteers joined us from March through July, slogging through at least 60 cm of clayey overburden to reach a few sherds and a handful of debitage (stone tool-making debris).  I hope that we have not scared all of them off from fieldwork, which is usually not as exciting as one imagines it to be.  We plan to do some additional testing this winter, including some geophysical surveys to trace the deposits rather than using a shovel, and I am hoping that our volunteers will join us for collecting these data.  I also hope that they will join us for our field school this coming summer, so that they can learn how to use trowels as well as shovels in the field.

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Five of our stalwart volunteers tackling two shovel test pits at the UT Holston Unit Farm

I have sincerely enjoyed working with the volunteers and getting to know them over the past three years.  We are truly indebted to them for the more than 1000 hours of their time that they have given to us, and their enthusiasm and interest that they have shared with us.  I am looking forward to the next three years of the program and the directions in which our volunteers will join us and push us.

For more information about the Volunteer Program at the ARL, please contact Kandi Hollenbach (kdh@utk.edu).