The Junction Group sits among the aggregation of earthwork groups located in Ross County, Ohio. The first description of the Junction Group appeared in Squire and Davis’ 1848 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, and Squire and Davis mapped nine small, geometric enclosures arranged in a U-shaped pattern and four mounds within the site. The shapes of the enclosures included circles, squares with rounded corners, and U-shaped enclosures.
Jamie Davis of Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. created this model of the Junction Group in the winter of 2016 through the process of drone based photogrammetry. Photogrammetry allows for the creation of high-detailed, 3-Dimensional models from photographs. These models facilitate numerous functions related to archaeology and historic preservation.
In 2005 Dr. Jarrod Burks, Principal Investigator at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. conducted a magnetic, geophysical survey of the Junction Group and discovered that while Squire and Davis’ original map was fairly accurate, one of their small square-shaped enclosures was actually a quatrefoil. To date, the quatrefoil within the Junction Group is the only known enclosure of this type in the Ohio River Valley. In 2014-2015, Dr. Burks completed a second, higher resolution magnetic survey of the Junction Group and found numerous small features and a small, wood-post circle. Although a radio carbon date has not been obtained from the Junction site, the site is most likely around 2000 years old and represents a type of earthwork group that probably falls within a cultural transition period that modern archaeologist would call late Adena or early Hopewell.
Although the Junction Group had been known since at least the 1840’s, the site had always remained on private property and was continuously plowed within an agricultural field. In 2014, the property that contained the Junction Group became available to purchase through auction by the highest bidder, and the probability of the Junction Group being bought by developers existed. So, the “Save the Junction Group” campaign began. A joint effort among many concerned organizations began to raise funds through donations to buy the Junction Group property, and at auction, the Archaeological Conservancy purchased the Junction Group. Today, the Junction Group is open to the public. The archaeological easement is maintained by the Archaeological Conservancy, and the park is maintained by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System. As seen in the Junction Group model, the enclosures are highlighted by interpretive mowing based on Dr. Burks 2014-2015 magnetic survey sponsored by the Heartland Earthwork Conservancy.
Jamie has created several models of earthwork sites, including Serpent Mound, the Steel Group, Snake Den Mound Group, the Grave Creek Mound, and the World Heritage Site Sutton Hoo located in the United Kingdom, and historic buildings, such as the 5th Church of Christ Scientist in Cleveland, Ohio and the Zenas Jackson House in Columbus, Ohio. All of these models have provided an unprecedented view of the earthworks or historic building, and in some cases found previously unknown components of well-known sites. Some of these models, Serpent Mound and the Grave Creek Mound model to name two, are planned to be used in a fashion similar to this Junction model, as interactive, public outreach, in a sense bring the site to the public.
Photogrammetry models, however, provide more than just a way for the public to interact with an archaeological site. The photogrammetry process can create high resolution aerial imagery and topographic data that can be an integral part of the scientific investigation and mapping of an archaeological site or historic property. The data can be accurately georeferenced and measured, and the topography data can show subtle surface details of a site that may not even be noticed through in-person visual inspection. Once created, models provide a snapshot of a site or building as it was at the time of data collection, and then can be used as a referenced to document past activities or future changes to a site.
In the case of the now demolished 5th Church of Christ Scientist, the photogrammetry model provides the best representation of a beautiful building that is now gone. In the case of a park such as the Junction Group, the model can be used to help maintain the site in the future (If you look closely at the Junction model, some of the walking paths actually pass over the earthworks). The process can work so well, that Jamie’s Sutton Hoo model will be presented at the 2017 International Conference on Archaeological Prospection (ISAP) in Bradford, England as a case study for management of World Heritage Sites.
Other examples of Jamie’s photogrammetry work as well as videos and interactive models are available on Facebook @3DArchaeology.
Bio: Jamie Davis has been employed at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc., since 2010 and has worked as a professional archaeologist since 2009. He earned his B.A. degree in anthropology and B.A. degree in mathematics from Ohio University in 2002 and 2006. Jamie also earned a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Masters Certificate from Penn State University in 2011. He has developed a particular interest in the spatial arrangement of archaeological sites as pertaining to various terrain and environmental variables, and has presented his findings at numerous professional conferences. Jamie began working with drones and photogrammetry in the spring of 2015 and has created nearly fifty photogrammetry models. Jamie’s ambition is to incorporate drones and photogrammetry into mainstream archaeology and historic preservation.
The cell reception is pretty bad at Carter Robinson Mound and Village in Lee’s County, Virginia. Sometimes, if she’s lucky, Maureen Meyers can stand on the top of the mound and get a signal. But cell service notwithstanding, Dr. Meyers, Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi, feels lucky to be here.
The area’s remoteness is one reason why it’s such an exciting place to work. The mound had been identified in C.G. Holland’s Archeological Survey of Southwest Virginia in 1970, but for years it got little attention. In 2006, when Meyers first approached the property owners about her interest in undertaking research in the rolling pastureland, it had experienced only minor looting.
In June, Meyers wrapped up her fifth field study here. She has determined that this is a Mississippian site occupied 1250 to 1400. The people who lived here were part of the Mississippian expansion during that period, living on the frontier of Mississippian settlement. Meyers’s work at Carter Robinson focuses on life at the fringes of the Mississippian world. Typical of other Mississippians, the people at Carter Robinson built a mound; this one is 10 feet high and 120 feet in diameter. She believes, however, that unlike their contemporaries in the fertile floodplain of the Mississippi River, they didn’t grow maize—or anything else. She’s found only a small amount of shelled corn “and one bean.” They came here to trade, taking advantage of the area’s location, which is just a few miles from the Cumberland Gap, the narrow passage in the lower Appalachian Range. The area, says Meyers, “is a trade funnel. They could go north, south, east, or west.”
Her previous excavations have uncovered parts of five structures, including one where Meyers and her team screened out 2.5 kg of shells and shell beads in various stages of completion. The house, which she has dated to the middle of Carter Robinson occupation, seems to have been a production area, she says. It’s located close to the mound—a position that’s usually considered a place for those who have higher status. This suggests to Meyers that making and trading these goods was restricted to people of higher status.
This summer’s excavation explored a site where three houses had been built sequentially on the same spot over the course of the site’s occupation. It’s an unusual and puzzling site because, the way it looks to Meyers, each house was occupied for 40 to 50 years, then deliberately burned, the walls pushed in and dirt thrown on top to stop the fire. Uncovering the middle house this summer, her team found large patches of burnt clay daub alongside partially unburned logs which had fallen into what would have been the interior of the structure. That’s the evidence that the destruction was deliberate and according to a plan. A house destroyed in an accidental fire, she says, would be “just one burned mess.”
In the coming months she’ll be analyzing artifacts to come to a better understanding of what was going on here, hoping to add another chapter to the frontier saga at Carter Robinson mound.
Read more in the Fall 2017 Issue of American Archaeology, hitting Newsstands Early September.
By age 15, I had decided to be a veterinarian. I managed to get a job with a local vet in Lakeland, Florida, and worked there for the next five years when not in school or away at college. I was really serious, but ran into a snag during my freshman year at the University of Florida: I flunked two chemistry courses. For someone who had always done well in school, this was devastating. I would have to retake and pass these courses before I could move on.
One of the bright spots in that dismal year was a course on North American Indians that I took as an elective. It was taught by a young, freshly-minted professor named Jerald Milanich. I had an interest in archaeology since a young age. I vaguely recall looking at some books on archaeology that my mother was reading when I was very young, and classic horror movies were (and still are) favorites of mine, especially mummy movies. I went to talk to Dr. Milanich about changing my major to anthropology. He was straightforward about the difficult job market and other matters, but when I left his office I had decided to change my major.
Jerry became my mentor, and my graduate studies focused on early Spanish contact sites in Florida. As Jerry’s field supervisor, I directed three field schools at the Tatham Mound, a late prehistoric/early contact site that had lots of Spanish artifacts. This research served as the basis of my doctoral dissertation. In 1989, it was Jerry who walked me to the stage to have my PhD degree conferred from the University of Florida. I should also mention that I’m one of the few people who can claim that a novel was published based on my dissertation research (Tatham Mound by Piers Anthony).
After a year in short-term jobs, I applied for a permanent position with the Arkansas Archeological Survey (an agency of the University of Arkansas system) that was advertised as the “Opportunity of a Lifetime!”. It was for an archaeologist to carry out research on the Parkin site (ca. A.D. 1000-1600) and related sites in eastern Arkansas. I jumped at the chance for a full-time research job that was perfectly aligned with my interests.
The Parkin site is a 17-acre Mississippian village situated along the St. Francis River. It is remarkable in several ways. Archaeological and historical evidence suggest that Parkin was the regional capital town with jurisdiction over 20-25 smaller villages along the St. Francis and Tyronza Rivers. The village’s location, layout, and material assemblage (including early sixteenth-century Spanish artifacts) have convinced most of us that the Parkin site is the village of Casqui described in the narratives of the Hernando de Soto expedition, which briefly stayed in this region in the summer of 1541.
Having had extensive experience with Soto-related sites in Florida, I was hired by the Survey to begin work on July 1, 1990. The Parkin site was the main feature of the newly-created Parkin Archeological State Park, and I was to not only direct archaeological and historical research, but also to work with State Park personnel to develop exhibits and other interpretive media to communicate our research findings to park visitors and the general public. When I say “newly-created,” I am fibbing a little. Although the Arkansas state legislature had designated the location as a state park in 1967, they did not provide funding until 1989. Nor had they acquired much of the property, and there were still several occupied houses on the site.
When I arrived in Parkin, I set about moving into a rental house and into my temporary office/lab space. Both were owned by a local dentist, Dr. Richard Toland, who is still my dentist today. Our office was in the back of his dental office. I hired staff (including my wonderful assistant Faye Futch), and before long we were up and running.
I was concerned about the remaining properties that needed to be acquired within the park boundaries. The real estate specialist for Arkansas State Parks felt they had purchased all of the lots that they could, and the remaining properties either had complicated title problems or the owners refused to sell. He pointed out that the agency was not in the real estate business, and he had limited ability to negotiate.
Enter The Archaeological Conservancy, specifically TAC President Mark Michel. I had heard about the Conservancy ever since its founding. I learned that Mark had been involved with the Parkin project since 1983, when he attended meetings with local residents and state officials working to establish Parkin Archeological State Park. I don’t recall when I first met Mark, but we hit it off and he has become a close friend and colleague. Over the years, he facilitated or single-handedly negotiated the acquisition of several pieces of property that are now part of Parkin Archeological State Park.
Mark’s calm demeanor and sense of fairness (and the fact that he is not a “government” man) put landowners and residents at ease. As noted earlier, one of the biggest problems was establishing legal ownership. In some cases, people had inherited property from relatives, but title searches showed that even those original owners did not have clear titles. Mark negotiated both outright purchases and moving houses to other lots in town in order to acquire the land. Arkansas State Parks subsequently purchased these parcels from the Conservancy. The final occupied house on the Parkin site was acquired in 1994, the same year the Visitor Information Center (VIC) was finished adjacent to the Parkin site. The VIC houses park personnel offices and facilities, as well as our archaeological research station offices, laboratory, and curation areas. The park’s official opening was held that year.
Since that time, I have directed extensive excavations at Parkin and several related sites in the area. Laboratory processing and analysis are ongoing, and we periodically update exhibits and interpretive materials based on new discoveries. We welcome visitors year-round, and regularly use volunteers both in the field and the laboratory. Parkin Archeological State Park is now considered a success by anyone’s measures. Mark has told me that he took the Parkin project on as a special undertaking, resolving to see it through to completion. I now take IMMENSE pride in the fact that he considers the entire project one of the Conservancy’s best success stories!
I am now a life member of The Archaeological Conservancy, and donate to this great organization whenever I am able. I believe strongly in the aims of TAC and have benefitted from its efforts. At the invitation of Michael Bawaya, I have proofread and helped edit some articles in American Archaeology, and I have worked for years with TAC’s Southeast representatives on acquisition of sites in Arkansas and Florida.
On a few occasions, I have accompanied tours in Florida and Arkansas as a guide and speaker. One of my favorite recurring roles with the Conservancy is serving as the introductory speaker when the Southeast region conducts its “Peoples of the Lower Mississippi Valley” tours. Parkin Archeological State Park is the first stop on the tour, where the participants get their introduction to Lower Mississippi Valley archaeology, and we always introduce them to Arkansas barbecue as well!
My association with The Archaeological Conservancy has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have become friends with many of the staff through the years. Whenever I give presentations on our research, I always mention the positive impacts that TAC has had on Parkin and on North American archaeology in general. No other organization can boast of saving more than 500 sites, and I look forward to helping on the way to 1000!
BIO: Jeffrey M. Mitchem earned a BA with honors and a PhD from the University of Florida and a MA from the University of South Florida (all in anthropology). After brief stints at Florida State University and Louisiana State University, he was hired by the Arkansas Archeological Survey in 1990, where he remains today. He is Station Archeologist of the Parkin Research Station at Parkin Archeological State Park and Research Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville). In addition to his ongoing research in Arkansas, he has carried out field research in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Idaho, and the country of Jordan. Mitchem has also studied museum and private collections in the U.S., Spain, and Jordan.
The Midwest Office recently conducted our “The Empire of Cahokia & the Ancient Mississippian World” bus tour. We had a wonderfully diverse group of guests from all over the country that joined Paul Gardner, Midwest Regional Director, and myself as we visited fascinating historic and prehistoric sites in Missouri and Illinois.
We were able to view a fantastic collection of rare Mississippian artifacts at the St. Louis Museum of Art, got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Illinois State Museum Research & Collections Center in Springfield, and climbed to the top of Monks Mound at the famous Cahokia site. Even though all of the sites we visited were exciting and informative the highlight for many was our tour of Dickson Mounds State Museum hosted by Dr. Mike Wiant, the director of the museum and Interim Director of the Illinois State Museum.
Dickson Mounds is a national register site in Lewiston Illinois. This settlement site and burial complex became famous in 1927 when Don Dickson, the owner of the land at that time, excavated a number of the burials and built a private museum around the exposed human remains. This remained a popular tourist attraction for decades until changing sensibilities about exhibiting human remains lead to its replacement by the modern state museum in 1972.
Completely unexpectedly, when we arrived at Dickson Mounds a for-sale sign stood at the property across the road from the museum. The parcel appeared to contain an intact mound, and Dr. Wiant confirmed that the property was indeed part of the Dickson complex. I called the listing agent of the property and soon learned that the parcel had went on the market two days prior and was owned by a private individual. The tract was just under 20 acres and the asking price was $125,000. When I learned the basics about the property I quickly relayed the information to Paul, because it’s not very often we stumble across an important archaeological site that’s already for sale and at market price.
Seizing an opportunity to promote our mission of preserving archaeological sites, Paul decided to share the exciting news of a potential new Conservancy project with our tour guests when we left Dickson Mounds State Museum. He explained to everyone that it’s rare for significant site to have a ready and willing seller. Often land owners won’t agree to meet with us, let alone sell us their land. It was a great note to end an exciting tour day on, and as we rode the bus back to Springfield many of our guests were overjoyed at the thought that they had witnessed the beginning stages of a new Archaeological Conservancy preserve. The next day we wrapped up the tour at the always impressive Cahokia Mounds, and as tour members went their separate ways they all insisted we keep them posted on the progress of our new project.
The elation of the previous day quickly turned a bit sour when Paul called me to say that, after talking to the national office, it appeared that we might have trouble purchasing the site on such short notice. The Conservancy has been stretched thin in the last few years because of a vigorous program of acquisitions combined with increasing land costs and a still slow-moving economy that hinders charitable giving by individuals and corporations.
Knowing the opportunity was too good to pass up, Mark Michel, President of The Archaeological Conservancy, authorized us to make an offer of $100,000 for the 19-acre site to be paid out over the course of 3 years. Spreading the total dollar amount out over a longer period of time with yearly installments helps us, in some situations, to get a purchase contract and acquire the site but allows us time to fundraise more money to pay for the land. While we recognized that our offer would not be as attractive as one that included all the cash “up front”, we had no choice but to do the best we could and hope for the best.
Alas, our hopes were soon dashed as we learned that finding an archaeological site already listed for sale is not an unmitigated blessing. In this case another buyer appeared with ready cash, and stripped the prize from our hands.
While this is a particularly disappointing outcome – made all the more so by having raised the hopes of a busload of our supporters – there is some small good news in that the land will remain as farmland, so the site will remain relatively intact for the near future. We’re now in the process of establishing a relationship with the new owners with the expectation that at some more favorable time, we will open negotiations again.
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“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth
The Western Regional office just did a major cleanup at our Paragonah Mounds Preserve, Utah. The land in the picture was recently acquired to expand the site that was acquired in 2013. There were old fallen trees and other debris on this new parcel of land. With the help of our Paragonah neighbors and Site Stewards, we were able to get the new addition to this preserve of one of the largest known fremont sites cleaned up and looking nice.
It was through a fortuitous collaboration of agencies and organizations that the Conservancy was able to acquire Paragonah Mounds, a very large Fremont village in Utah’s Parowan Valley. Although, according to historical documents, the site had more than 400 mounds covering close to a square mile in the late 1800s, the largest remaining intact portion is a 12-acre site containing 28 mounds. Nonetheless, the site, which dates between A.D. 700 and 1300, is still one of the largest Fremont villages known in the state. While farming and residential development have destroyed much of the enormous site over the years, what remains is well preserved.
The site’s acquisition is a remarkable story of collaboration that began with the unfortunate 2008 disturbance of a site dating from the Archaic through Fremont periods by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) during the construction of a light rail line in Draper, Utah. Consequently, the Army Corps of Engineers, the permitting agency for the project, issued a notice of non-compliance and a stop work order to the UTA, penalizing them with a substantial fine. A portion of the fine was allocated for the acquisition of another significant archaeological site in Utah to “replace” the one that was damaged.
The UTA contacted the Conservancy for assistance in the identification of an appropriate site that could be established as a permanent archaeological preserve. The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah was also involved in the acquisition of Paragonah Mounds with Mr. Robb, the tribe’s director of economic development, acting as its representative. Being a life-long resident of the region, Robb knew of a number of other archaeological sites in the area, including another ancient village called the Virgin River Village. Thus through this unfortunate event we were able to preserve several amazing Utah sites.
Read the 2013 Article “The Conservancy Preserves One Of The Largest Known Fremont Sites,” page 44, American Archaeology, Fall 2013.
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Explore the wonders of the past with the Archaeological Conservancy. From the remote jungles of Honduras to the pristine rivers of the American Southwest, our archaeological tours promise exciting adventures. For more than 20 years, the Conservancy has conducted amazing tours ranging in length from four days to two weeks. Expert guides and professional archaeologists always accompany our tours, providing unique insights about the places we visit. We look forward to you joining us for these great 2017 Southwestern fall tours!
Ancient Cliff Dwellers of the Southwest
When: September 16-26, 2017 Where: Arizona and Colorado How Much: $2,595 per person ($480 single supplement)
They rank among the most amazing archaeological sites anywhere: walls and windows, towers and kivas, all tucked neatly into sandstone cliffs. More than 700 years ago, the Anasazi and Sinagua cultures of the Four Corners region called these cliff dwellings home. Warm and dry during the winter, the secluded pueblos may also have protected villagers from attacking enemies.
Today, amidst the scenery of Arizona and Colorado, our tour presents the most famous of the region’s cliff dwellings, as well as modern-day pueblos and several Conservancy preserves. Archaeologists well-versed in the region’s prehistory will accompany the tour. Check out the travel itinerary for the upcoming Ancient Cliff Dwellers tour. Read the travel blog from our 2015 Tour:Traveling the Southwest of the Ancient Cliff Dwellers’.
Chaco Canyon in Depth
When: September 9-17, 2017 Where: New Mexico and Colorado How Much: $2,295 per person ($240 single supplement)
Explore the vast cultural system of Chaco Canyon and the extensive network of outlying communities that developed in northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado from A.D. 800 to 1140. We’ll visit Pueblo Bonito and other spectacular great houses in Chaco Canyon as well as the great kiva at Casa Rinconada. We’ll also have the unique opportunity to visit many of the most important outlying communities that are integral parts of the entire Chacoan complex still being uncovered by researchers. Scholars are still struggling to understand how this vast system developed and operated, and why it suddenly collapsed in about A.D. 1130. To complete the experience, we will tour the modern day Pueblo of Acoma and spend two memorable nights camping in Chaco Canyon. Some of the leading Chaco experts will join us. Check out the travel itinerary for the upcoming 2017 Chaco Canyon In-depth Tour. Read the travel blog from our 2015 Tour: Touring Chaco Canyon In Depth.
How the public uses Archaeological Conservancy Preserves: Fort Parker, Montana
Southwest Region update
The Archaeological Conservancy acquired 15 acres containing the ruins of Fort Parker in Park County, Montana in 2015 as our second archaeological preserve in the state. Fort Parker, the first Crow Indian Agency, was established under the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Ft. Parker is located along Interstate 90 east of Bozeman, Montana beside Mission Creek, a tributary of the Yellowstone River. Fort Parker had been part of a large cattle ranch owned by a Montana family who has diligently protected the site for four generations.
Ft. Parker, like all Conservancy preserves, is available for public tours. In a unique annual cross-cultural educational program, 5th and 6th grade students from the Pryor Public Schools, located in Pryor, Montana (the current capital of the Crow Nation), and 5th grade students from the Livingston East Side Independent School (Livingston is a small town near the Ft. Parker Archaeological Preserve), participated in program called “Building Bridges Building Friendships” as part of a Montana “Indian Education for All” project. When Montana created a new state constitution in 1972, the following proclamation was included:
“The State recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in their educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity”
In 1999, the Montana legislature passed a Constitutional Mandate that stated:
“…every Montanan, whether Indian or non-Indian, be encouraged to learn about the distinct and unique heritage of American Indians in a culturally responsive manner…”
The “Building Bridges Building Friendships” program involves Livingston students visiting the Pryor classroom and Pryor students visiting the Livingston classroom as well as both groups visiting the Ft. Parker preserve. This year’s event occurred in late May. Click the video below to watch cultural education in action:
The history of the Fort began in 1869. The original wooden buildings at the agency, constructed in 1869, were destroyed by fire in 1872. Immediately following the fire, construction was begun on adobe and stone structures built to replace the destroyed original buildings. The foundations of the second structures are visible today on the surface of the preserve.
The Ft. Parker Indian Agency was established to relocate the Crow and to force their transition from a traditional buffalo hunting lifestyle to a sedentary ranching and farming way of life. The relocation and lifestyle transition was driven by Westward expansion: the increasing European settlement in the West, decreasing buffalo herds through the government policy to destroy the buffalo, the mining and discovery of gold in Montana, and the westward expansion of the railroad.
Although the treaty promised that the agency would teach the Crow farming skills, and provide them with food, medicine, and educational opportunities for their children, none of these goals were accomplished. Floods, grasshopper infestations, and early fall frosts all took their toll on the Ft. Parker fields, often destroying the entire season’s crop. Several Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe raiding episodes occurred at the agency, some of them resulted in the loss of human life.
The Crow relocation to central Montana following the signing of the Ft. Laramie Treaty, was a period marked by hardship as they adjusted to new surroundings and dealt with culture change. The Crow visited the Ft. Parker Indian Agency only occasionally to take advantage of the goods and services available. They spent their time away from Ft. Parker hunting and trading. The changing world around them and government policy would soon transform the Crow into a group totally dependent upon the government for survival.
The Crow reservation was reconfigured in 1873, which led to the establishment in 1875 of a second location for the Crow Agency (also known as the Absorka Agency) about 50 miles to the southeast of Ft. Parker along the banks of the Stillwater River near the present-day town of Absarokee, Montana. Learn more about the in-depth history of the Crow and Fort Parker.
Ft. Parker is a place where significant events occurred that shaped who the Crow are today. It is a place that should be known, protected and preserved.
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Introducing Our Eastern Regional Field Assistant: Kelley Berliner
As a kid, historical markers, antique malls, flea markets, steam engine tractor shows, and just about anything else that had to do with old things were mandatory stops on road trips with my dad, so it did not come as much of a surprise that I developed a fondness for history from an early age. Growing up in Maryland with its extensive native, colonial and Civil War history meant there was never a shortage of places to explore.
Flash forward to the week after graduating with a B.A.in Anthropology from the University of Toronto. I found myself on a volunteer excavation run by the Archaeological Society of Maryland. The site was Port Tobacco, an early colonial port town located in southern Maryland. It is also the likely site of Potobac, a Native American village associated with the Piscataway Indian Tribe. The work consisted of sorting through a myriad of prehistoric and historic artifacts while uncovering some of the foundations of the early town. My enthusiasm for working in the dirt landed me a job with the archaeologist supervising the excavation who ran a small cultural resource management firm that focused on archaeological testing in central and southern Maryland.
After learning skills in both the field and lab, not to mention how to deal with tick bites and other less-than-pleasant parts of the job, I decided archaeology was the line of work for me and headed to the College of William and Mary in pursuit of a master’s degree. As I narrowed my research I realized that one thing really stuck with me: the importance of making archaeology accessible to the public. This was certainly not a marvel conclusion—many archaeologists have been arguing for more public and collaborative archaeology for decades—but it did help determine how I wanted to engage with the discipline. I returned to Port Tobacco for my M.A. research where, instead of spending my time excavating, I interviewed the residents to see how they felt about the work being done. The resulting conversations revealed a mix of enthusiasm and frustration. Some of the town residents felt like the archaeologists ignored their input, and many disagreements came down to biases inherent in historic locally-produced maps and the problems of memory and nostalgia. While no simple solutions to these disagreements exist, my experience lead to greater insight of how people engage with the past and how archaeological research, grounded in fact-based evidence, had the potential to generate serious conflict within parts of the community.
This experience was useful during a summer working as the Public Outreach Coordinator for the Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Project in Niles, Michigan. This amazing site was thought to be lost under the river until archaeologists from Western Michigan University began testing along the banks and revealed intact deposits. The fort dates to the 1690s and has associations with the French, English, Spanish, and United States armies (which is how the City of Niles earned the nickname ‘City of Four Flags’). At this site I assisted with excavations, tours, and event planning, including making arrangements for the annual Open House. I regularly worked with residents of Niles, some of who sat on an advisory council for the project. The more I spoke with residents the more I learned about the challenges presented when archaeologists and residents have somewhat differing visions for the future of a public archaeology project. These issues are still being navigated during ongoing excavations of the fort. This experience reinforced how I wanted to participate in the discipline: while I thoroughly enjoyed excavation and research I wanted to continue to find ways to connect people to archaeology.
Moving to Montreal after finishing my degree offered yet another perspective. Here the communities of First Nations peoples face difficulties in having their stories heard against the backdrop of both English and French exploration and settlement. After spending a few years working with various departments at the University of McGill, I headed back south to my Mid-Atlantic homeland after taking a job with the Archaeological Conservancy. Canada is full of fantastic sites (check out our upcoming Canadian tour!) but I was happy to move back into territory that was more familiar.
Working for the Conservancy has given me the opportunity to visit some of the most amazing archaeological sites in the region, sites that I never imagined I would have an opportunity to see, much less help preserve and maintain. While it would be difficult to choose a favorite site, I particularly enjoyed working on the Footer site which became a Conservancy preserve in 2015. This site is dear to me as the first acquisition that I was a part of from the very beginning, being responsible for finding the site in museum records, collecting information on the excavations that had been conducted, and then working with the landowner to see it permanently preserved.
The Footer site came to by attention while doing research at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, which holds the files for the archaeological sites in that region of New York. Research conducted in the 1950s resulted in the identification of several pre-Iroquoian sites in the region, one of which was the Footer site. It was identified as a pre-Iroquoian habitation site that dates to between AD 1300 and 1500. After reviewing the excavation notes the site seemed like a good fit for preservation and the Eastern Office reached out to the landowners, Joe and Janet Green.
History lovers themselves, Joe and Janet kindly welcomed us into their home and happily entertained our visits to the site. They had been excellent stewards of the site, and agreed to a bargain-sale to charity to have the Conservancy permanently protect the resource. Given the Green’s interest in the site we were able to arrange a behind-the-scenes tour at the Rochester Museum. Kathryn Murano Santos, the Senior Director for Collections and Exhibits, and George Hamell, Curator of the Rock Foundation Collection, helped pull some of the artifacts from the Footer site. It was great to have the opportunity to share these resources with the Greens. Working with landowners is a big part of the job, and this is a critical type of public outreach as we explain sites and the importance of protecting them on a case-by-case basis. Each time we contact someone about a site there is an opportunity for engagement and collaboration. Working with the Greens was made easy since they were already aware of the site’s importance and were eager to collaborate.
The Archaeological Conservancy has shown me yet another way of conducting public outreach in archaeology. After all, the sites we are preserving are places where this land’s most important history took place, and they deserve to be protected for the education and enjoyment of future generations. Working with researchers and landowners on such a personal level had emphasized this importance, continuing to remind me of the necessity of engaging the public in order to continue to garner support and interest for ongoing archaeological research and preservation efforts. On that note, a gracious thank you to all of our members and tour participants who recognize the value of archaeology and support the Conservancy’s efforts!
~By Kelley Berliner
Bio: Kelley Berliner has served as the Eastern field representative since 2013. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Toronto and an MA in Historical Archaeology from the College of William and Mary. Prior to joining the Conservancy she spent time working as a cultural resource management archaeologist and was involved with the Port Tobacco and Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Projects. Her efforts in these projects kindled her interest in working with property owners and promoting archaeological outreach.
While most Conservancy preserves in the Southeast Region are prehistoric Native American earthworks, we do have a few more recent historic sites such as Colonial Era forts, Civil War earthworks, and we have one plantation that dates back to the early 1800’s. The plantation, Prospect Hill Plantation, is located in Mississippi and was established by a veteran of the Revolutionary War who moved there from South Carolina named Isaac Ross. By the time of his death in 1836, Isaac Ross owned nearly 3,000 acres and there were approximately 250 enslaved individuals on the plantation. This part of Mississippi was known for its large plantations and the concentration of wealthy planters, and that was not unusual. Prospect Hill has a more interesting aspect to its history because Ross left instructions in his will that allowed his slaves to emigrate to a colony that had been established by the American Colonization Society on the west coast of Africa in what is now Liberia.
A grandson challenged the will and during an extended court battle of nine years, there was an uprising at Prospect Hill. The original house was burned and a six-year-old girl died in the fire. Some of the slaves who were believed to have been responsible for the fire were executed on the plantation by the overseer and locals. The will was later upheld in court and although 200 of the enslaved workers chose to embark on the difficult and dangerous journey to Africa, some slaves did stay and went to other family plantations. Those slaves who were freed and left Prospect Hill found life in their new home difficult. The Ross estate was supposed to have used proceeds of the sale of one cotton crop and all the land, livestock and tools of the plantation to furnish the emigrants with supplies they would need to build houses, farm and even a school, once they arrived in Africa, but the long lawsuit had depleted its funds. Regardless, those who left Prospect Hill and survived the voyage across the Atlantic to a settlement named Greenville (after a town in Mississippi) persevered and many of their descendants became the most prominent leaders of Liberia.
The grandson who challenged the will did end up with the site of the original house and built the house that stands there now in 1854. This house, along with 23.4 acres is now The Conservancy’s Prospect Hill preserve. The site is unique for many reasons. Although only the house and one outbuilding are still standing, the foundations of many outbuildings are still easily visible, as are the remains of early to mid-1900’s tenant houses that are in the area where the slave dwellings were. There are also remains of the cotton gin.
There has been very little ground disturbance on the property and when The Conservancy purchased it, it had been neglected for many years and literally had to be “cut out of the surrounding woods” so to speak. Unlike many preserved antebellum sites in Mississippi, Prospect Hill was an actual working plantation, unlike the famous restored town houses of nearby Natchez. Prospect Hill also dates to 1808, which is a little earlier than some of those around it.
As the field of Plantation Archaeology has grown in other areas and at famous houses like Jefferson’s Monticello House: Plantation and Slavery research, and his Poplar Forest Home, and the Slave Plantation Community. Prospect Hill has its own contributions to make to learning about the lives of those who were enslaved there. There is also the Mississippi to Liberia connection, and the possibilities of recognizing traces of their lives in Mississippi at sites at the colony in Liberia.
We recently held an open house so those who have supported Prospect Hill and followed its progress could visit and see what we have done. Descendants of the Ross family and descendants of the enslaved mingled side by side and shared stories and photos. To begin that the day Reverend Sam Godfrey, 5th generation grandson of Captain Isaac Ross will bless the house and our new roof. Afterward, we will be treated to music from William Ross, who is a local from Natchez, and is in the Classical Music Program at Jackson State University. William is also featured on the soundtrack for the documentary “Mississippi Madam: The Life of Nellie Jackson” and has his own solo projects. James Belton, descendant of those who were enslaved at Prospect Hill was there with information about his ties to Prospect Hill and African American genealogy. Mary Belton, was the sister-in-law of Captain Isaac Ross and was visiting Prospect Hill when she died and is buried in our cemetery. Mr. Belton’s ancestors were originally part of the Belton Plantation back in South Carolina. Locals who are interested in sharing the story of Prospect Hill attended and friends who have volunteered on clean up days came and archaeologists with interests in the site were there, too.
The house is still standing, but after years of neglect, it needs lots of work. In 2011, Prospect Hill was included in the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s list of of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites. Because the Conservancy purchased it to preserve the archaeology of Prospect Hill, we are hoping to find someone willing to purchase the house and land from us, while we retain a protective easement on the archaeology. (Help support our efforts Saving Prospect Hill) Its location near Natchez, Mississippi, a place known for its beautifully restored antebellum mansions, will hopefully result in a buyer. (Interested in becoming a partner? Contact us!)
Until last November, there was a resident peacock at Prospect Hill who moved in the house 12 years ago, when the last owner abandoned it. He was more than happy to be photographed by visitors and was like a pet to me. Then, suddenly, he disappeared. We named him Isaac.
While it is not typical of the Conservancy’s projects and it has required a lot of extra time and work, it has brought together an extraordinary and diverse group of people who care about it. In order to stop some of the deterioration of the house, the Conservancy recently put a new roof on the house. We applied for and received a $50,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and raised another $64,000 through individual contributions specifically for the roof. We’ve received support from locals, historians, Historic Preservationists, and descendants of the Ross family and descendants of the enslaved at Prospect Hill. As you can see this is how playing poker online works if you are playing poker in a poker room such as this Americas Cardroom or http://www.americascardroom.org/americascardroom.com
Just working on the acquisition of the site, trying to stop the house from falling into complete ruin has been a learning experience for me and as a Southerner, put me in the position of confronting some uncomfortable aspects of the place that is my home. Until just recently, I had never had an in-depth conversation about slavery with a descendant of someone who was enslaved. As an archaeologist, my research interests were in Archaic cultures of the Southeast. I’ve learned so much through my own research and contact with archaeologists working at sites related to enslaved Africans and those who work with descendant African American communities. I was able to take part in an overnight stay “Charles Towne Landing: Ground Zero for the Slavery that Existed in South Carolina” with Joseph McGill of The Slave Dwelling Project in Charleston, South Carolina and hope to host him at Prospect Hill. I’ve seen the descendants of enslaved people conducting excavations at slave dwellings and that’s important.
The Conservancy’s preserve at Prospect Hill has an important role to play in all of this. I’ve already seen it touch people very deeply. It has touched me very deeply. It’s an example of how as an organization, The Conservancy does much more than just protect archaeology. What we do touches lives and it’s far reaching. In this case, it reaches all the way to Africa. We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time and effort ensuring that Prospect Hill will endure to become a place for research and even reconciliation. It was obvious at this very special Open House Saturday, April 29th, that it is well on its way.
The Archaeological Conservancy and Binghamton University are very happy to announce the start of the 2017 Binghamton Field School investigating an 18th century Native American village site in northern Pennsylvania. The site, known as “Queen Esther’s Town,” is one of several sites on land preserved by the Archaeological Conservancy. The Queen Esther’s Town Preserve is located in northern Pennsylvania. The site, which is more than 92 acres, sits along an expansive floodplain near the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers. After working for over a decade to acquire the property, the Conservancy was finally able to purchase this historic site.
The locale was home to a community of Delaware Indians and led by Queen Esther, a prominent woman of French and Native descent, during the American Revolution. Historic records describe the village as having 70 houses and cattle grazing lands, all of which were destroyed in September 1778 as part of the American campaign against British-allied Native American villages. The area was surface collected by collectors and avocational archaeologists during the 20th century, but little is known about the village layout and individual structures. This is the first controlled subsurface investigation of the village site, guided by the results of a geophysical survey this spring. The project is being led by Professor Siobhan Hart and Dr. Nina M. Versaggi of Binghamton University.
The five-week field school includes intensive training in Northeastern Native American history, archaeological survey techniques and excavation, laboratory methods and artifact analysis, archaeological interpretation, and other kinds of evidence integral to interpretations of the past, such as geology, oral history, and written records. As the work is being done on a site preserved by The Archaeology Conservancy many non-destructive techniques are being employed, and much of the site will remain intact. Students started with metal detecting surveys. Now test pit excavations are underway, as the field school completes their second week.
The Archaeological Conservancy and Binghamton University are excited to learn what may be discovered about the true extent and layout of the site during this summer’s field school on this truly historic site.
About The Archaeological Conservancy
The Archaeological Conservancy, established in 1980, is the only national non-profit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving the best of our nation’s remaining archaeological sites. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Conservancy also operates regional offices in Mississippi, Maryland, Ohio, and Nevada. The Conservancy continues to be rated a 4 star charity by Charity Navigator. The Conservancy has preserved over 500 sites across the nation, ranging in age from the earliest habitation sites in North America to a 19th-century frontier army post. Learn More About The Archaeological Conservancy.
Andy Stout, Eastern Regional Director, (301)682-6359