TDOA’s New Web-based Site Record Submission

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 26

Paige Silcox and Satin Platt
Tennessee Division of Archaeology

One of the primary functions of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) is to maintain the state’s Archaeological Site File, the official repository for information about archaeological sites in the state of Tennessee. We determine what constitutes an archaeological site, assign state site numbers, and record information about the sites on documents called Site Survey Records, also known as site forms. We maintain an archive of site forms, both paper and electronic and manage a geospatial database of site data and survey information. We currently have over 26,000 recorded archaeological sites in Tennessee adding, on average, about 300 new sites each year.

For the last year, we at the TDOA Site File have been working closely with a development team to create an updated system for recording and archiving archaeological site data. This new system will allow us to collect site data from archaeologists via a web application, import approved data directly into our database, and automatically produce a standardized Site Survey Record from the recorded data.

A new method of data collection necessarily involved revising the site form and creating a new database. This was an exciting opportunity to reevaluate the data we collect and how we structure it. We went into that process with three main goals in mind:

  1. to maintain a secure, functional site database with each record tied directly to a geographic location, which we already had but we certainly didn’t want to diminish that functionality while making “improvements,”
  2. to integrate our site database with other TDOA work processes such as archaeological permitting, collections management, and the report library, and
  3. to look toward expanding the potential research value of the archaeological database.

And now, finally, all our hard work is about to pay off as we are nearly ready to launch our new web-based site record submission process!

For the general public, the process of reporting a potential archaeological site will remain the same: contact one of the site file curators at and we will assess whether an official state site number is warranted. But for our frequent flyers; private contract archaeologists, state and federal agency archaeologists, and academic archaeologists, we are excited to give a sneak peek at the new system we hope to be using for years to come.

To begin the process, each individual site reporter will register as a user on the TDEC dashboard. This dashboard will allow them to access the site record submission form as well as a personalized table listing the site records they’ve submitted and each record’s status in the review and approval process (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: TDEC Dashboard table of submitted records.

A custom-designed web form was created for our reporters to use when submitting site records for either new or previously-recorded sites. Each of the form’s seven pages collects a specific set of data; for example site location, cultural affiliation and site type, or site conditions. If a submission is not completed in one sitting it can be saved and returned to via the dashboard at any time.

Some of the changes on the new site form may appear to be minor, but will have significant impacts on the site data entry and site form production workflows. For example, the reporter will enter basic location info, such as county, quad name, and Lat/Long coordinates, which were previously entered by site file curators (Figure 2). They will also report whether the site is located on state-owned or state-controlled land and, if so, a permit number will be required before the site record can be submitted. This will allow us to eventually connect the site record database with the archaeological permitting database.

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Figure 2: Site Location page of the new Site Record Submission web form.

We’ve made a number of changes to the way we collect cultural affiliation and site type data and the expected result will be an improvement in the accuracy and research potential of our site data. Rather than site file curators assigning site types, site reporters will now select them from expandable menus under four main categories: Pleistocene Fauna, Prehistoric, Protohistoric/Contact Period Native American, and Historic (Figure 3). Storing site type data in these nested sets will eventually allow for queries at varying levels of specificity.

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Figure 3: Cultural Affiliation and Site Type page of the new Site Record Submission web form.

Many historic archaeologists will be happy to learn that we have added a new historic date range selection and will now record historic sites with likely occupations dating to between 1933 and 1950. Other data points added to facilitate specific research questions include the Military Era field (i.e., Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, etc) and an optional text field in which Ethnic Heritage can be associated with a site.

From the site file curators’ perspective one of the most exciting aspects of the new process is that to a large degree the data entry and site form production will be automated. This streamlined process will not only be more efficient, it will significantly decrease the potential for error. Submissions will be reviewed and site numbers will be assigned more quickly and a final site form will be available at the click of a button (Figure 4).

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Figure 4: Mock-up of TDOA’s new standardized Archaeological Site Survey Record [DISCLAIMER: if you upload a photo of Betty White instead of a site location map, your submission will be denied].

So yes indeed, we’ve been busy in the site file lately. In addition to creating a web-based site record submission process from the ground up, we’ve recorded 230 new archaeological sites so far this year, and nearly three quarters of those in the last three months alone! But change is on the horizon and we are so excited to see it finally come to fruition. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for an email from us announcing that our new site record submission process is online and ready to go.

Acknowledgements: Mike Moore and Jennifer Barnett for being supportive through the process, the TDEC IT team for making it happen (current status: 99% awesome), retired site file curator Suzanne Hoyal for setting us up for success, and huge thanks to our beta-testers Heidi de Gregory, Hannah Guidry, and Chris Nelson for taking time out to make sure this thing actually works and for providing valuable feedback.


Tennessee Division of Archaeology Digital Report Archive

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 12

Aaron Deter-Wolf
Tennessee Division of Archaeology

Over the past 40 years, the Tennessee Division of Archaeology has produced publications in three series: the Research Series, Report of Investigations, and Miscellaneous Publications. These works have variously included the results of transportation corridor examinations, thematic surveys, technical reports on specific site investigations, and more broad-ranging topical discussions. The TDOA publications contain noteworthy data on the archaeology of Tennessee, but have had relatively limited print runs, and until recently been largely inaccessible except to researchers visiting our Nashville office.

Tennessee Division of Archaeology digital reports produced since 2013..jpg

Tennessee Division of Archaeology digital reports produced since 2013.

One aspect of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology’s ongoing digitization project has been to provide online access to the library of TDOA publications via our web page. This effort began in 2013 with publication of the Fernvale site report. That publication also ushered in a new era of native digital TDOA reports, which avoid the expense and limited impact of printed report copies in favor of digital accessibility. Reports published under this model since 2013 include the Special Needs Prison project, the Algood SR-42 project,  and the Riverbend Prison site (40DV83).

Some reports now available for download on the TDOA web page.

Some reports now available for download on the TDOA web page.

In addition to these new works, the TDOA has also endeavored to provide access to older publications, both as scanned PDFs and new digital report editions. These later reports take advantage of the digital medium to include higher quality (and color) color images, and to provide updated citations and annotations connecting to more recent scholarship. Revised electronic editions now available on the TDOA web site include reports on excavations at the Rutherford-Kizer, Penitentiary Branch, and –published just this past month- Brandywine Pointe sites. Accessibility to unrevised reports has also improved dramatically over the past year, and PDF versions of 21 out of 38 TDOA publications produced before 2013 are now hosted via our web page. These include surveys of Civil War era military sites, Tennessee potteries, historic gunmaking sites, and excavations at the Moss-Wright and Hooper sites, and plus others.

Finally, we have recently undertaken an effort to compile a master bibliography of all publications on Tennessee archaeology produced by TDOA staff since the founding of the organization. That list was uploaded to the TDOA web page earlier this month, and at present provides citations for more than 100 works, including scholarly volumes, individual chapters, and articles in journals ranging from Tennessee Anthropologist and American Antiquity to Current Research in the Pleistocene. Our intent is to create an institutional repository for these works via the TDOA web page, so that they may (according to copyright stipulations of their respective publishers) be accessed by professional and independent researchers who lack access to university library systems.

An Unfortunate Consequence of NAGPRA for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 10

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

The federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became law in 1990.  This statute provided a mechanism for federal agencies and “federal museums” (any entity that has received federal funds) to return Native American cultural items (such as human remains and associated funerary objects) to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes/Native Hawaiian organizations.

NAGPRA created quite the stir among archaeological and museum communities across the nation as Native American skeletal remains and burial objects held as scientific research specimens or display items were now eligible to be claimed by federally-recognized tribes (and other appropriate groups) for repatriation. This law was a “game-changer” met with a wide range of responses and emotions. This blog discusses a NAGPRA case that resulted in a fundamental shift in how the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) handles court-ordered burial removals under Tennessee state law.

The TDOA met the definition of “federal museum” under NAGPRA. As such, we were required to complete an inventory of our human remains, associated and unassociated funerary objects, and other items to be submitted to National NAGPRA no later than 1995.  You can imagine how this unfunded federal mandate strained budgets and personnel resources for those entities already working under tight fiscal constraints.  The TDOA was no different, but fortunately we already had the staff expertise to complete our inventory and submit it by the required due date.

The TDOA received its first NAGPRA claim in April 2008 from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, with one of the sites being the David Davis Farm (40HA301).  The circumstances of this particular site claim created a potential federal-state legal conflict, and also resulted in a major change to TDOA protocol.

The David Davis Farm site was identified in February 2007 during a privately-funded construction project on private property in the Chattanooga area. In March 2007, the landowner obtained a court order as required by Tennessee state law to legally remove all human burials and associated funerary objects (AFOs) from the project area. A private consultant conducted the removal over the next four months (Figure 1). The removal project yielded 189 individuals (defined through reanalysis by Middle Tennessee State University), and thousands of AFOs.


Figure 1.  Field shot of the 2007 David Davis Farm excavations.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation pursued a claim through National NAGPRA despite the fact the skeletal remains and associated burial objects originated from a private venture on private property. National NAGPRA decided the tribe had a valid claim since the court order stated the TDOA would hold all removed remains/objects until reburial under state law (using NAGPRA terms, the TDOA had possession and control of these items).

This National NAGPRA interpretation was admittedly surprising, and ultimately resulted in two actions.  The first action was a July 2008 request by the TDOA for a TN Attorney General opinion regarding potential conflict between the federal NAGPRA statute and Tennessee state law. Essentially, does the TDOA follow Tennessee state law through reburial of skeletal remains and associated funerary objects within one year of removal, or does the TDOA follow federal law seeking repatriation under NAGPRA? The skeletal remains and AFOs were not reburied while waiting on receipt of the final AG opinion. The final opinion issued in January 2011 stated that NAGPRA did not conflict with Tennessee state law.

The second action was a decision by TDOA to no longer hold human skeletal remains or AFOs removed under Tennessee state law. This is a permanent policy decision we truly regret, as for decades we offered to hold items as a courtesy to anyone needing an appropriate and safe storage location prior to the required reburial. But, we could not (and still cannot) take the chance that future private removal projects will become subject to federal law as a result of our involvement.

The David Davis Farm case has encountered stops, starts, and delays for a wide variety of reasons since the April 2008 claim. For those that might wonder where the case stands now, I’m pleased to say a final resolution should be in place in the very near future.

I encourage anyone seeking additional information and insights regarding NAGPRA to visit the National NAGPRA website

The Completion of the Tennessee Rosenwald School Survey

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 2

Sarah Eckhardt and Ben Nance
Tennessee Division of Archaeology

As previously mentioned by Ben Nance in his 2014 “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” post, the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) began an archaeological survey of Tennessee’s Rosenwald Schools in 2013. This earlier post provides an explanation of what these schools were and how the survey began, so an in depth description is not provided here. Instead, we offer a brief description of the results of the survey, which was just completed in 2017.

The Rosenwald program can be summed up briefly as an enterprise that arose out of a 1912 meeting between Booker T. Washington, head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Rosenwald had just joined the Tuskegee’s Board of Trustees, and was approached by Washington about securing funding to build schools for black children in the south. Rosenwald loved the idea and thus was born the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which provided seed money to build schools throughout the south.  Between 1912 and 1932 the Fund contributed to the construction of 4,997 schools, 163 industrial shop buildings, and 217 teachers’ homes. By 1928, one-third of the South’s rural black school children and teachers were served by Rosenwald Schools. Tennessee had an estimated 354 schools, 10 shops, and 9 teachers’ homes.

The TDOA, in conjunction with the Tennessee Historical Commission, began a survey of these Tennessee Rosenwald Schools with the goal of finding and assessing each site for its archaeological integrity and potential eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, regardless of whether or not there was a standing building. We consulted several sources to locate these schools, which included the Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database, U.S. Geologic Survey topographic maps, county highway maps, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Tennessee County Educational maps, the Tennessee Department of Education’s Application for Classification of Rural Elementary Schools, census and deed records, local and county libraries, and local informants, many of whom were former students of these schools.


Figure 1. Examples of school structures encountered. Top left is the fully restored Durham’s Chapel School in Sumner County, which is now used as a community center. Top right is the Antioch School in Crockett County, which is still standing, but is abandoned and in poor condition. Bottom left is the foundation and chimney remnants of the Center Star School in Maury County. Bottom right is the ruins of the Salem School in Gibson County, which has some standing walls, but the majority has collapsed and the roof has caved in.

The condition in which we found Rosenwald Schools during our survey ranged from completely restored and preserved to abandoned buildings and ruins and, in most cases they were gone (Figure 1). In those cases where no remnants of the building remained we searched for other indicators that a school once stood in a specific spot as determined by our research such as privies, wells and fountains, and artifacts like desk parts, brick, coal, assorted metal, stair remnants, etc. (Figure 2). These artifacts and features played an important role in helping us determine if a school actually existed at a site, especially if there were no other remnants of the school building. In fact, we were more likely to find these features and artifacts than the actual school structures.


Figure 2. Examples of additional features and artifacts encountered. Top left is the concrete foundation of the privy at the Farmington School, Marshall County. Top right is a fairly intact privy at the Chapel Hill School, Marshall County. Bottom left is the remnants of a water pump and fountain at the Durham’s Chapel School, Sumner County. Bottom right is desk parts found at two different sites.

With the completion of the survey, we can now offer some of the preliminary findings about TN Rosenwald Schools. A formal report is in process and will be published on the TDOA’s webpage in early 2019. This work will also be featured in this year’s Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month poster, which will be released later this month.


Figure 3. Map showing the location of Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee. The dots in red denote a standing school building and those in green denote sites where the Rosenwald School building was no longer standing.

We were able to locate all but 14 of the 373 Rosenwald schools, shops, and teacher homes constructed in Tennessee (Figure 3). While many of the buildings were gone or in ruins, more standing structures were found than anticipated. They include 62 standing schools, one shop, and one teacher’s home equaling about 17% of the total buildings constructed in Tennessee. The National Trust estimates that 10% to 12% of 3,537 schools, shops, and homes built between 1917 and 1932 are still standing. This means that Tennessee has more standing schools than estimated. It also means that we have many that are in danger of disappearing or have already disappeared since being recorded.

A particularly heartbreaking example is the demolition of the only standing Rosenwald funded teacher’s home that we were able to locate. We recorded the site of the Millington School (aka Millington Jr. High School, Millington High School, E.A. Harold School) in Millington, TN (Shelby County), which consisted of a large school, teacher’s home and shop in March of 2016. Foundations of the school and shop remained, but the teacher’s home was still completely intact and appeared to have been abandoned, but still in decent shape (Figure 4).


Figure 4. Teacher’s home at the Millington School, Shelby County. It was the only surviving home we found and is now gone.

The school was built in 1923/1924 with the teacher’s home added in 1926/1927 and the shop in 1927/1928. A recent reexamination of the satellite imagery for the area, however, shows that the home was torn down within the last year or two due to road expansion.

Despite this example and others, there are still several schools that are still standing and in good condition. In west TN 29 buildings were still standing of the 183 built, in middle TN 25 of the 122 that were built still stood, and east TN we found 10 standing out of the 42 that were built. It is obvious that more schools were built in west Tennessee than in the other regions of the state and Shelby County had by far the most of any one county with 68. The next densest county was Montgomery with 23 Rosenwald funded buildings.  Sites with some structural remnants amounted to 137. At 38 of the sites, we located privies and/or privy vaults, and at 52 sites we found remnants of wells and/or fountains. Seven schools had already been added to the national Register of Historic Places and we plan to do a multiple property nomination for many of the school sites surveyed.

In addition to the survey, this past August we started a second phase of research, which will focus on limited testing of three Rosenwald School sites. Our first test site was the Lee Buckner School in Williamson County (Figure 5). It was just recently acquired by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, which hopes to relocate and restore the school and use it for educational programs. We plan to test two more school sites within the year and will publish our results.


Figure 5. Limited shovel testing being carried out by TDOA staff at the Lee Buckner School in Williamson County.

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.

Tennessee Archaeological Site File 1992 – 2017 Highlights

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 8

Suzanne Hoyal
Retired Site File Curator
Tennessee Division of Archaeology

The Tennessee Archaeological Site File is the state’s repository for information about recorded prehistoric and historic archaeological sites.  State governments across the country maintain such repositories where archaeological records are managed by Site File Curators. Here, that office is the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA). The following is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Site File journey from paper to digital records during my 25-year service at TDOA.

1992 – Data Management System. TDOA began preparations for the next millennium before my arrival. A database application would be written in-house to manage basic site, survey report, and collections data. Ashton-Tate’s dBase III, the only suitable computer software available to TDOA at the time, provided the programming tools. Much of the information would be stored in the system as coded data, necessitating a review of all versions of the site survey record, or site form.

WPA archaeologists created the first site form where they noted basic details on hundreds of newly discovered archaeological sites in major river valleys.  Several versions followed over the next few decades.   The collection of these historic documents formed the core of what would eventually be known as the Site File.

The site forms review, one of my introductory tasks, identified all the various kinds of basic information to be categorized and coded, such as cultural affiliation and site type.  The review results provided about 60 potential fields, or columns, needed for inclusion in the site database, which would be the primary component of the forthcoming data management system.

Within the database each recorded site would exist as a distinct record known by its unique identifier, commonly referred to as site number. A few decades earlier Tennessee institutions replaced an old site number format with the much-improved Smithsonian trinomial format. The improved method efficiently and uniquely labeled each recorded archaeological site by its state, county, and sequential number within county. For example, site number 40MD1 identified Pinson Mounds as the first site recorded in Madison County (MD), Tennessee (40).

Database application construction proceeded after completion of code assignments. The team’s preparation of site forms for data entry began. A site form revision accommodated the new system’s needs. The 1992 count of recorded sites totaled around 12,000. Reorganization of the site form files and survey report library revealed several hundred sites without forms, which led to a successful and interesting search through the working files of my predecessor, and at the Chucalissa and McClung museums.

Progress continued for a few years. The team completed the initial data entry. Federal agency archives and ongoing survey projects generated thousands of new number assignments to sites at Cherokee National Forest, Big South Fork NRRA, Fort Campbell, Kentucky Lake and other reservoirs. The National Park Service sponsored a regional site file management workshop. The data management system worked admirably.

Geographic information system (GIS) training and Tennessee Geographic Information Council (TNGIC) membership reaffirmed the value and compatibility of TDOA’s site database. Although lean years took a toll, my belief in the potential of GIS and Oracle held true as I advanced slowly forward for another decade.

2008 – ArcMap Sanctuary. Ongoing survey projects continued to generate new site number assignments by the thousands with their reams of records and gigabytes of data. A printer/scanner, ArcGIS, and Adobe Pro eventually became available to me. ArcMap remained open on my desktop each day, ready for windows of editing time. Progress continued.


Map of recorded archaeological sites in Tennessee, courtesy of TDOA Site File Curator Paige Silcox.

2017 – Passing of the Baton. My daily wrangling of site data, points, polygons and polylines is done. TDOA’s current Site File Curator, with her knowledge of both paper and digital realms, is well-prepared to continue the journey. Tennessee’s Archaeological Site File will one day be described as a digital repository made available to archaeological researchers through secure remote access. My office desktop is shut down.

Learn more about Site File potential and digitization efforts of other TDOA resources from TCPA’s previous blogfest, 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, 2016 where you will find posts by Paige Silcox and Aaron Deter-Wolf, David G. Anderson and others on the DINAA team, and Shane Miller.

Acknowledgement and Thanks go to many.  Charles McNutt for 3 semester hours on Archaeology of North America. Sam Smith for mentoring during Hermitage and Wynnewood investigations. The late Herbert Harper for a position related to Anthropology. Nick Fielder for bureaucratic insight. SHPO/THC 1979-1983 staff for comradery. The late Patti Coats for being first. Kevin Smith for foresight and programming skills at TDOA. Katherine Sanford, Scott Jones and the late Parris Stripling for site form prep, data entry for 12,000 sites, lunchtime Rook games, and more at TDOA. Senior TDOA staff for corporate knowledge. Zada Law, Bill Avant, Lori Pittman, Tim Buchanan for GIS tips, tricks and expertise. Mike Moore and Jennifer Barnett at TDOA for finding Paige. TDOA staff for moral support and laughter. TDOA Site File Curator Paige Silcox for understanding the language, her calm amidst chaos, my peace of mind at retirement, and for the image above, a panacea for ArcMap withdrawal. And, archaeologists working in Tennessee for professionalism and cordiality when our paths crossed.

Please join us in celebrating Tennessee’s archaeological heritage.

Ongoing Digitization Efforts at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2016, Day 10

Paige Silcox and Aaron Deter-Wolf
Tennessee Division of Archaeology

The Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) has undertaken a number of projects as part of a statewide move to convert to digital storage of information and expand accessibility. These efforts include creating and maintaining a digital archive, participating in the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA), and hosting a variety of digital archaeological information on our website.

Digital Archive

In 1998, the TDOA offices (then on Edmonson Pike in Nashville) were hit by a flash flood resulting in water damage not only to the building, but to the extensive archive of archaeological records it contained. While most of those documents were salvaged thanks to the hard work of the staff both during the flood and in the weeks following, some were damaged beyond repair.  Historically, we’ve made efforts to duplicate key paper archives in multiple physical locations to prevent loss from natural or other disasters; however, this is not comprehensive or fail-proof. Fortunately, new technology opens the door for us to create and maintain a digital archive as well. TDOA staff are currently involved in various aspects of digitizing site forms, survey reports, excavation records, maps, photos, and myriad additional documents that make up the written archaeological record of Tennessee. The Tennessee State Library and Archives provided guidance in this effort to help ensure this archive will remain secure and functional well into the future.


Sevenmile Creek claims the TDOA office on Edmondson Pike in 1998. Thankfully, we’ve since moved to higher ground.

Participation in DINAA

This year, thanks in large part to our site file curator’s tireless work on the state’s archaeological site database, Tennessee was able to contribute our site information to the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA). Funded with grants from the NSF and IMLS, this innovative open-source database compiles site file data across North America from an increasing number of states, museums, and government agencies to host online for public use through the Alexandria Archive Institute’s Open Context. Data regarding site type, cultural affiliation, time period, physiography and a number of other factors are available for map-based browsing at a locational accuracy of 20 kilometers. This data can be used in a variety of ways, including regional spatial analysis, which David Anderson discussed in more detail on Day 2 of this blog series. As the 16th state to join this worthy project, we are more than happy to help fill out the DINAA map with data from our state.

Online Publications

Another ongoing project has been facilitating online access to the “gray literature” of TDOA publications. These efforts include completing reports of older TDOA surveys and excavations, as well as producing digital editions of works from both the Division’s Research Series and Reports of Investigations. As a result of this initiative, PDFs of nearly all TDOA reports since 2001 are now available for free download via the Archaeology Publications section of our web page.

The most recent result of this effort has been a new edition of the report on investigations at the Rutherford-Kizer site in Sumner County. The TDOA conducted salvage excavations and monitored removal of burials by a private consultant at this Mississippian mound and village between 1993 and 1995. The original edition of the site report was published in 2001 as TDOA Research Series No. 13, edited by Mike Moore and Kevin Smith. The new digital edition of the Rutherford-Kizer report includes updated information, illustrations, and citations, and was added to the website earlier this summer.


TDOA excavations at the Rutherford-Kizer site, October 1993

In addition to hosting digital reports, the TDOA website is now also home to a growing array of online information on Tennessee archaeology. Thanks to the efforts of Sarah Levithol Eckhardt, the website now includes a portal for accessing all past issues of the Tennessee Archaeology e-journal, as well as abstracts and programs for the annual Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology meeting going back to 1995.

While the past year has seen major strides in digitization of archaeological data at the TDOA, it’s just the beginning!  The corpus of digital data on Tennessee archaeology hosted and made accessible by the Division of Archaeology and other institutions and projects is going to to continue to grow as existing initiatives are expanded and new efforts are launched. Stay tuned!