2018 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology Blogfest, Wrap Up

Jared Barrett
President, Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA)

Our fifth year of “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” blogfest is complete! Our yearly blogfest continues to grow. I want to say a big thank you to TCPA Board Member Sierra Bow who solicited posts, organized the blogfest, published the posts, and made it happen. TCPA would also like to thank everyone who followed along each day and especially to all those who contributed a post. If it weren’t for the posts, we wouldn’t have a blogfest, so again thank you. Going over the numbers for the last 30 days, the blogfest on our main website had 13,066 views and 8,054 visitors. We also continue to expand our international reach as well with the Netherlands (89 visits), United Kingdom (65), Canada (60), the Philippines (59), and Hong Kong SAR China (45) making up the top five countries for visitors to our website. As you can see from the numbers below, this year was our best year to date!

Breakdown of Blogfest Website Traffic through TCPA’s webpage:

  • 2014: 7,000 views / 3,300 visitors
  • 2015: 10,864 views / 5,888 visitors
  • 2016: 10,932 views / 6,775 visitors
  • 2017: 10,289 views / 5,848 visitors
  • 2018: 13,066 views / 8,054 visitors

The most viewed post on our website during the blogfest was Paul Avery’s post about the Civil War earthwork in Bedford County with 2,755 visits followed by Nathan Shreve’s post about the Sixteenth Century Spanish presence in upper East Tennessee (889), Eileen Ernenwein and Reagan Cornett’s post regarding new research at the David Crockett Birthplace State Park (768), Jacob Lulewicz’s post about AMS dates and WPA-Era platform mound excavations across Southern Appalachia (628), and Ellen Lofaro’s post about archaeological curation and why it matters (444).

On our Facebook page, the blogfest this year reached 41,630 people and generated 3,726 reactions, comments, and shares. In 2017, our 30 day archaeology blogfest reached 45,000 people on Facebook and generated more than 2,000 reactions, comments, and shares. The most viewed posts on Facebook were Nathan Shreve’s post about the Sixteenth Century Spanish presence in upper East Tennessee, followed by Eileen Ernenwein and Reagan Cornett’s post regarding new research at the David Crockett Birthplace State Park, Ellen Lofaro’s post about archaeological curation and why it matters, and Jesse Tune’s post on pre-Clovis archaeology in Tennessee.

Breakdown of 2018 Blogfest Facebook Traffic (Top Five Reaches):

  • Day 13: 6,067 reaches (576 clicks/actions) – Across the Mountains: Sixteenth Century Spanish Presence in Upper East Tennessee (Nathan Shreve)
  • Day 21: 3,279 reaches (340 clicks/actions) – Farther Down the Nolichucky: New Research at David Crockett Birthplace State Park (Eileen G. Ernenwein and Reagan Cornett)
  • Day 15: 2,867 reaches (227 clicks/actions) – Archaeological Curation – Why does it Matter? (Ellen M. Lofaro)
  • Day 11: 2,577 reaches (201 clicks/actions) – Thoughts on pre-Clovis Archaeology in Tennessee (Jesse W. Tune)
  • Day 14: 2,298 reaches (278 clicks/actions) – University of Tennessee Anthropology and the Legacy of Walter Klippel (Jennifer Green and Meagan E. Dennison)

Most Shared 2018 Blogfest Facebook Post from TCPA’s Page:

As they do every year, these numbers from both our website and Facebook page speak to the popularity of the blogfest and serve as a great indicator that TCPA is reaching its audience and making people aware about Tennessee Archaeology. Our topics were wide ranging spanning the entire human history Tennessee. The posts were diverse and covered many areas of interest in Tennessee. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I have!

In addition to another successful blogfest, I wanted to bring to your attention a few other items before I close.

TCPA held its second annual Tennessee Archaeology Day on September 8th, 2018. The goal of Archaeology Day is bringing Tennessee archaeology to the public through free events and activities for archaeologists of all ages. Over 600 people came out to our event this year! Like last year, the response from visitors was overwhelmingly positive and we are already starting to plan next year’s event. The success of Archaeology Day wouldn’t have been possible without the major help of Paige Silcox, Sarah Levithol, and Lauren Walls and we thank them again for all their hard work. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank all of you, our event sponsors, and TCPA members for making Archaeology Day a success and ensuring that TCPA continues to fulfill its mission to promote archaeological awareness and stewardship of the past.

Also, make sure to get your copy of the 2018 Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster and postcard. This year’s poster and postcard honor the Julius Rosenwald Fund and the Tennessee Division of Archaeology’s recently completed Rosenwald School Survey. You can read more about this fund and survey in Sarah Levithol and Ben Nance’s 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology blogpost.

To get your 100 percent FREE COPY of this year’s poster and/or postcard, please send an email to tennessee.archaeology@gmail.com with your name and address, and indicate if you want a poster, a postcard or both!

You can also mail us your address to our P.O. Box:
c/o Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Middle Tennessee State University
Box 10
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

TCPA will ship you a copy of the poster free of charge.
Huge thank you to the Tennessee Historical Commission for providing the grant that funds this poster each year.

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. You can follow us on Facebook to get current updates on Tennessee archaeology and find out about future events. You can also join our email list at tennessee.archaeology@gmail.com.

And last and certainly not least, make sure to join us for the 2019 Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology (CRITA) event which will be held January 18-19, 2019 in the Tennessee Room, James Union Building, on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The TCPA business meeting will be held on Friday afternoon, January 18, 2019 at 3:00 pm.

On behalf of TCPA’s board, officers, and membership, thank you again for following along through our 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2018 blogfest! 2018 has been a great success for TCPA and we hope to continue this success into 2019!


University of Tennessee Anthropology and the Legacy of Walter Klippel

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.

Thoughts on pre-Clovis Archaeology in Tennessee

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 11

Jesse W. Tune
Department of Anthropology, Fort Lewis College

How, when, from where, and by who were the Americas originally occupied is a burning question in archaeology that has persisted for over a century. Currently, the most compelling evidence that most archaeologists can agree with indicates that the first people in the Americas migrated across Beringia and into North America sometime around 16,000 years ago. While there are some alternative ideas, much more evidence is needed before most archaeologists will considered them to be realistic.

As it turns out, Tennessee is an exceptionally place to study early Paleoindian archaeology and the antiquity of human occupation of the Americas. Some of the densest concentrations of Paleoindian artifacts in North America occur in Tennessee. This has led to speculation about Tennessee’s role in the initial occupation of the North American continent.

Interestingly, Tennessee also has a particularly dense concentration of mastodons. While mammoths are typically the first thing people think of when pondering Pleistocene animals, mastodons were much more common in some areas like the midcontinent United States. We know from sites mainly in the western United States that Clovis people co-existed with mammoths and mastodons. There are even some mammoth and mastodon sites that have been dated to earlier than Clovis (that is, they are older than 13,200 calendar years ago). So that being said, if we’re interested in searching for archaeological sites associated with the first people in the Americas, sites with Pleistocene megafauna are a good place to start. Take for example Jessi Halligan’s research at the Page-Ladson site in Florida.

Fig 1

Figure 1. Size comparison of mammoths, mastodons, and humans. From back to front, a Columbian mammoth, an African elephant and an American mastodon next to a 6-foot-tall human. Image from the The Anza-Borrego Desert Paleontology Society, https://www.anzaborregopaleo.org/about-mammoths.html.

In 1994 Emanuel Brietburg and John Broster, with the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA), conducted a study comparing the distributions of mastodon remains and Paleoindian artifacts throughout the state. They found that people and mastodons were most common in the Central Basin and Highland Rim in the central part of the state. So at face value, it seems like there is a good chance people and mastodons were coexisting and potentially interacting with each other in Tennessee at the end of the Pleistocene.

Fig 2

Figure 2. Distributions of Paleoindian points and mastodon remains in Tennessee. Image from Breitburg and Broster 1994.

However, when we dig into things a little further, the situation becomes more complicated. Archaeologists have a pretty good understanding of how old Clovis points are thanks to a rigorous dating study of sites all across North America. The Southeast, and Tennessee in particular, however, suffer from a relative lack of radiocarbon dates from early Paleoindian sites. There are numerous reasons for this, and for the sake of brevity, I will not go into the details here. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about this to check out Shane Miller and Joseph Gingerich’s study of this. To further complicate the matter, archaeological sites with unequivocal evidence of humans and mastodons (or really any type of Pleistocene megafauna) interacting is actually quite rare.

This brings us back to the question of what’s the earliest evidence for people living in Tennessee and naturally to a discussion about the Coats-Hines-Litchy site, which is something I’ve written about here before. To briefly review for those who may be unfamiliar… this site was originally identified during the construction of a subdivision and golf course in Brentwood, Tennessee. Archaeologists from the TDOA conducted salvage excavations in the mid-1990s to recover as much archaeological evidence as possible before construction damaged the site. Those excavations led to the identification of possible artifacts and mastodon bones found mixed together. A suite of radiocarbon dates was also obtained from those excavations, and range from about 7,400 to 32,000 calendar years ago. A very similar suite of dates were obtained in 2010 during a small test excavation. However, questions remained as to exactly what the association was between the artifacts and mastodon remains.

In 2012 a large-scale excavation of the Coats-Hines-Litchy site was directed by myself and Michael Waters at the Center of the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University. The objectives of that project were to analyze the artifacts previously excavated in the 1990s, investigate the association of artifacts and mastodon bones at the site, re-date the sediments, and document the geologic processes that led to the creation of the site.

Fig 3

Figure 3. Coats-Hines-Litchy site exaction map. Image adapted from Tune et al. 2018.

To summarize the results of that research… our results show that the site is a location where several mastodons died naturally and their bones accumulated in the bottom of a drainage or gully sometime before 30,000 years ago. A few artifacts from nearby sites located upslope of the drainage washed down near the mastodon bones that were eroding into the drainage. The combination of high-energy pulses of water occasionally moving through the drainage and the gravelly sediments produced scratches on some mastodon bones as they tumbled down the drainage. Some of the naturally occurring chert in the drainage also broke apart producing small pieces of debris that look generally similar to human-made artifacts. Anyone interested in reading more of the nitty-gritty details about this project should check out the recent publication on the Coats-Hines-Litchy site.

As scientists, we (archaeologists) must follow the data rather than our feelings. That being said, at this time there is no compelling evidence for a pre-Clovis archaeological site in Tennessee. There is, however, abundant data to support early and very extensive Paleoindian occupations in the state, beginning with Clovis sometime around 13,200 years ago. So while there are currently no pre-Clovis sites known in state, Tennessee remains an important place to research Paleoindian archaeology.

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.