30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 14
Jennifer Green and Meagan E. Dennison
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Walter E. Klippel, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, retired from his career at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in the summer of 2017 after 40 years of service. Throughout his career, Klippel made numerous scientific contributions that brought together scholars from multiple disciplines including archaeology, zooarchaeology, paleontology, and forensic taphonomy. His beginnings as a scholar were rooted in the archaeology of the Midwestern United States, but throughout his career he has worked across Eastern North America, the Mediterranean, and even the Caribbean. Much of his archaeological and zooarchaeological research took place here in Tennessee.
Walter Klippel working in the new zooarchaeology lab at Strong Hall.
Klippel came to the University of Tennessee (UT) in 1977 as an assistant professor in Anthropology after being recruited by Paul Parmalee, a well-renowned zooarchaeologist and a faculty member within the department. Before this, Klippel was on an appointment at the Illinois State Museum, where he had been after completing his dissertation at the University of Missouri in 1971. He and Parmalee worked together in Illinois, producing an influential publication on the viability of freshwater mussels as a food resource in prehistoric diets (Parmalee and Klippel 1974). The duo continued to publish together for the next 30 years. As a graduate student, Klippel had examined the distribution of Late Archaic to Early Woodland archaeological sites in the lower Osage River Basin. His research illuminated human adaptive responses to environmental changes which occurred during the mid-Holocene.
Early in his career at UT, Klippel received a contract from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to begin work on the Columbia Archaeological Project (CAP) which was carried out along the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. Survey, testing and excavations of numerous archaeological sites were conducted until 1985. The excavated material provided numerous research and publication opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and research is still ongoing today.
One of the most important sites excavated during the CAP is Cheek Bend Cave, an impressively stratified rock shelter located near the Cheek Bend on the Duck River in Maury County, Tennessee. Deposits in the shelter are more than four meters in depth and have preserved both cultural and environmental remains from the Late Pleistocene through the recent past. Furthermore, the shelter appears to have been occupied on a seasonal basis by raptorial birds, such as owls, who would leave behind the remains of small mammals. Species no longer present in the Southeast were routinely encountered in the Late Pleistocene through the Mid-Holocene deposits at Cheek Bend Cave, a period of intense global climatic changes. Extant species such as the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) arctic shrew (Sorex arcticus), pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi), plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius), heather vole (Phenacomys intermedius) and wood turtle (Clemmys insculpta) were identified from these deposits (Klippel 1987; Klippel and Parmalee 1982; Parmalee and Klippel 1981, 1981b, 1981c, 1982). Klippel and Parmalee (1982) also reported size differences in shrews from these late Pleistocene through Mid-Holocene deposits at Cheek Bend.
Later, Klippel and Parmalee carried out a study of modern barn owl predation in both Shelby and Knox Counties, Tennessee by examining the mammalian remains in nearly 800 modern owl pellets (Klippel and Parmalee 1991). This research has implications for understanding what types of microenvironments were available to raptorial birds and humans alike and thus could shed light on changes in habitat availability in prehistoric times.
Other notable publications from the CAP include two studies of land use, including a rock shelter survey (Hall and Klippel 1988), and an analysis of upland versus river valley aggregation (Turner and Klippel 1989). Both indicated that resource availability such as distance to water and other natural resources drove human settlement location. Additionally, a large quantity of animal bones displaying evidence of canid gnawing recovered from the Hayes site prompted Morey and Klippel (1991) to undertake an experimental project. They fed a domestic dog deer leg bones to explore skeletal part survival as a proxy for canid scavenging. The dog scat was recovered and examined. Klippel, being a notorious scat collector and middle range research enthusiast, has been known to carry out similar research with wolves (Klippel et al. 1987), rats (Klippel et al. 2011:36), and squirrels (Klippel and Synstelien 2007). He has even carried out research on the effects of cockroach gnawing on bone!
Walter Klippel collecting scat for analysis.
In addition to working with Parmalee on remains from the CAP, the duo collaborated on faunal material recovered from early explorations at the Gray fossil Site in upper East Tennessee (Hulbert et al. 2009; Parmalee et al. 2002). They also continued their investigations on the significance of freshwater mussels and gastropods to prehistoric peoples. Together they explored the impacts of landscape evolution because of damming endeavors undertaken by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and modern shell fishing operations on the mussel communities of the Tennessee River Valley and adjacent basins (Parmalee and Klippel 1982b, 1984, 1986; Parmalee et al. 1980, 1982). These studies facilitated the understanding of how changes in water flow and benthic habitat availability influenced mussel communities. This research was critical because Tennessee once “harbored the most diverse and abundant assemblage in historic times” and as of 1998, Tennessee was home to 129 of the nearly 300 species of freshwater mussels in North America (Parmalee and Bogan 1998:ix). Klippel also worked with graduate students on the mollusk assemblages from the CAP, to establish that while small, gastropods can be an important nutritional supplement in prehistoric diets (Klippel and Morey 1986) and are good proxies for understanding past environmental conditions (Klippel and Turner 1991).
Screening dense deposits of freshwater gastropods at the Hayes Site, Tennessee (Klippel and Morey 1986:802).
To carry out this zooarchaeological and paleontological research, an extensive comparative collection was necessary. Parmalee had begun creating a collection in the 1970s when he arrived at the University of Tennessee and throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Klippel and students worked tirelessly to expand one of the most impressive modern faunal comparative collections in the world. Acquired through opportunistic means (i.e. ‘dead on road,’ TV towers, many hours spent fishing, and so forth) these specimens were initially processed in the Anthropology Department in Neyland Stadium (although this practice was designated by university officials as, “obnoxious, but not toxic” (McMillan 1991:7)). The operation was later moved to the Annex adjacent to Neyland Stadium (now the John D. Tickle Engineering Building) and large specimens were processed at Klippel’s Maryville farm also known as the “Middle Range Research Ranch” (Sean Coughlin, personal communication). Dozens of students throughout the 1980s and 1990s were introduced to zooarchaeological research and specimen preparation in one of these settings.
Walter Klippel field processing at the “Middle Range Research Ranch”.
In 1992, the collections had reached ca. 8,000 individual specimens, and Klippel submitted a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to rehouse and digitize the collection. The award was granted in 1994 for $120,385.00 (NSF Award # 9408643) and allowed the Department of Anthropology to purchase state-of-the-art cabinetry, acid-free boxes, and pay students to process and accession specimens. The effort created a world class collection with limitless research potential. One of the great features of the collection is the evenness within animal taxa which provides the opportunity to explore questions of allometry, or the relationship between an animal’s height and weight and skeletal measurements (Klippel and Parmalee 1982). This is why visitors to the zooarchaeology collections at UT often ask, “why do you need so many [shrews, catfish, squirrels, drum, etc.]!”
Zooarchaeology class in South Stadium Hall of Neyland Stadium.
In 2017, the Department of Anthropology relocated from the 70-year-old athletic dorms in Neyland Stadium to a brand-new building, Strong Hall, where the collections are maintained today. At last count, the comparative collection houses more than 11,000 skeletons and the collections continue to be used in a number of zooarchaeological and paleontological research projects. The Department kindly welcomes visiting scholars to utilize the collection for research purposes .
At the most recent Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meeting in Washington D.C. a symposium was held in honor of Klippel’s retirement entitled “Discs, Fish, Squirrels and Scat: Papers in Honor of Walter Klippel.” The symposium was well attended and 15 papers were presented by former students and colleagues which exemplified the breadth of Klippel’s research including taphonomy and site formation processes, environmental and applied zooarchaeology, and historical zooarchaeology. Currently, the papers from the session are under contract with UT Press and an edited volume is expected to enter publishing stages in late 2019.
In his retirement, Klippel is enjoying working on his Maryville farm and researching bats in the Southeast.
Selected Works of Walter E. Klippel in Tennessee Archaeology, Zooarchaeology and Paleontology and Bibliography:
Hall, Charles L. and Walter E. Klippel
1988 A Polythetic-Satisficer Approach to Prehistoric Natural Shelter Selection in Middle Tennessee. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 13(2):159-186.
Hulbert Jr., Richard C., Steven C. Wallace, Walter E. Klippel, and Paul W. Parmalee
2009 Cranial Morphology and Systematics of an Extraordinary Sample of the Late Neogene Dwarf Tapir, Tapirus polkensis (Olsen). Journal of Paleontology 83(2):238-262.
Klippel, Walter E.
1987 Microtus pennsylvanicus from the Holocene of the Nashville Basin. The American Midland Naturalist 118(1).
Klippel, Walter E. and Darcy F. Morey
1986 Contextual and Nutritional Analysis of Freshwater Gastropods from Middle Archaic Deposits at the Hayes Site, Middle Tennessee. American Antiquity 51(4):799-813.
Klippel, Walter E. and Paul W. Parmalee
1982 Diachronic Variation in Insectivores from Cheek Bend Cave and Environmental Change in the Midsouth. Paleobiology 8(4):447-458.
1982b The Paleontology of Cheek Bend Cave: Phase II Report. Report Submitted in accordance with Tennessee Valley Authority contract TVA TV-49244A—Fieldwork and TVA TV53013A—Laboratory Analyses.
1991 Seasonal Variation in Prey of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in Tennessee. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science 66(4):219-224.
Klippel, Walter E., Lynn M Snyder, and Paul W Parmalee
1987 Taphonomy and Archaeologically Recovered Mammal Bone from Southeast Missouri. Journal of Ethnobiology 7(2):155-169.
Klippel, Walter E, and Jennifer A. Synstelien
2007 Rodents as Taphonomic Agents: Bone Gnawing by Brown Rats and Gray Squirrels. Journal of Forensic Sciences 52(4):765-773.
Klippel, Walter E., Jennifer A Synstelien, and Barbara J Heath
2011 Taphonomy and Fish Bones from an Enslaved African American Context at Poplar Forest, Virginia, USA. Archaeofauna 20:27-45.
Klippel, Walter E. and William B. Turner
1991 Terrestrial Gastropods from Glade Sere and the Hayes Shell Midden in Middle Tennessee. In, Beamers, Bobwhites and Blue-Points, Tributes to the Career of Paul W. Parmalee, edited by James R. Purdue, Walter E. Klippel, Bonnie W. Styles and Paul W. Parmalee. pp. 177-188. Illinois State Museum Scientific Papers 23.
McMillan, R. Bruce
1991 Paul W. Parmalee: A Pioneer in Zooarchaeology. In, Beamers, Bobwhites and Blue-Points, Tributes to the Career of Paul W. Parmalee, edited by James R. Purdue, Walter E. Klippel, Bonnie W. Styles and Paul W. Parmalee. pp. 1-13. Illinois State Museum Scientific Papers 23.
Morey, Darcy F. and Walter E. Klippel
1991 Canid Scavenging and Deer Bone Survivorship at an Archaic Period Site in Tennessee. Archaeozoologia 4(1):11-28.
Parmalee, Paul W. and Arthur E. Bogan
1998 The Freshwater Mussels of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Parmalee, Paul W. and Walter E. Klippel
1974 Freshwater Mussels as a Prehistoric Food Resource. American Antiquity 39(3):421-434.
1981 A Late Pleistocene Population of the Pocket Gopher, Geomys cf. bursarius, in the Nashville Basin, Tennessee. Journal of Mammalogy 62(4):831-835.
1981b A late Pleistocene Record of the Heather Vole (Phenacomys intermedius) in the Nashville Basin, Tennessee. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science 56(4):127-129.
1981c Remains of the Wood Turtle, Clemmys insculpta (Le Conte) from a Late Pleistocene Deposit in Middle Tennessee. American Midland Naturalist 105(2):413-416.
1982 Evidence of a Boreal Avifauna in Middle Tennessee during the Late Pleistocene. Auk 99(2):365-368.
1982b A Relic Population of Obovaria retusa (Lamarck, 1819) in the Middle Cumberland River, Tennessee. The Nautilus 96(1):30-32.
1984 The Naiad Fauna of the Tellico River, Monroe County, Tennessee. American Malacological Bulletin 3(1):41-44.
1986 A Prehistoric Aboriginal Freshwater Mussel Assemblage from the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. The Nautilus 100(4):134-140.
Parmalee, Paul W., Walter E. Klippel, and Arthur E. Bogan
1980 Notes on the Prehistoric and Present Status of the Naiad Fauna of the Middle Cumberland River, Smith-County, Tennessee. The Nautilus 94(3):93-105.
Parmalee, Paul W., Walter E. Klippel, and Arthur E. Bogan
1982 Aboriginal and Modern Freshwater Mussel Assemblages (Pelecypoda: Unionidae) from the Chickamauga Reservoir, Tennessee. Brimleyana 8:75-90.
Parmalee, Paul W., Walter E. Klippel, Peter A. Meylan and J. Alan Holman
2002 A Late Miocene-Early Pliocene Population of Trachemys (Testudines: Emydidae) from East Tennessee. Annals of Carnegie Museum 71(4):233-239.
Simek, Jan F., Charles H. Faulkner, Susan R. Frankenberg, Walter E. Klippel, Todd M. Ahlman, Nicholas P. Hermann, Sarah C. Sherwood, Renee B. Walker, W. Miles Wright, and Richard Yarnell
1997 A Preliminary Report on the Archaeology of a New Mississippian Cave Art Site in East Tennessee. Southeastern Archaeology 16(1):51-73.
Turner, William B. and Walter E. Klippel
1989 Hunter‐Gatherers in the Nashville Basin: Archaeological and Geological Evidence for Variability in Prehistoric Land Use. Geoarchaeology 4(1):43-67.