Home Blog

American Archaeology Magazine Winter 2016 is Here!

AA winter 2016-17 Cover. Rediscovering the Alamo

The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, WINTER 2016, is now available!

  • COVER: A researcher operates a ground-penetrating radar machine at the Alamo in search of buried artifacts and features.
  • Credit: Reimagine The Alamo


An archaeological project is playing an important role in an effort to make this iconic site more interesting to tourists.

A Hohokam rock art study takes the unusual approach of examining not only the images, but also their surroundings.

For years this Mississippian site was thought to be a political capital, but recently some researchers have arrived at a different conclusion.

Archaeologists have recently discovered the first permanent European colony along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Experts are struggling to develop a plausible colonization model from the latest archaeological and genetic evidence.

New Acquisitions:

The McCarty Mound could offer a glimpse of the American Bottom’s prehistory.

The Meyer Pottery Kiln contains information about nineteenth- and twentieth-century ceramics production.

Get your Copy of WINTER 2016 Now! Receive a subscription to American Archaeology Magazine with a $30 annual donation. Please visit our Membership page for details on how you can become a member.

Also available at Newsstands and Bookstores near you.

Browse Articles Summaries from our last issue, FALL 2016.  Explore Back Issues. Back issues, 2 years old or older, are available online to search and download.

Emergency Acquisition Opportunity at Fortified Hill Earthwork – UPDATED


SOUTHWESTERN OHIO  |  In September, The Archaeological Conservancy joined forces with local conservation organizations in Ohio to try our hand at the winning bid for one of the Hopewell Culture’s most enigmatic earthworks, Fortified Hill. Located in Hamilton, Ohio, the site is one of six Hopewell Culture earthworks on the Great Miami River included on a map in Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1848. The site was initially documented in 1836, but it has never been excavated. Today, it is the only one of the six earthworks that survives.  The perimeter earthworks enclose some 17 acres on the top of a high hill.



Years ago, a local physician with an interest in the past purchased the land containing Fortified Hill in an attempt to protect it from the urban sprawl of Dayton and Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he passed away this summer without leaving instructions for the site, and although his intentions to see the earthwork permanently protected were well known within his circle of friends, some heirs insisted that the property be auctioned to the highest bidder. The Conservancy had reached out earlier and offered to pay a fair market price for the property but were denied. After months of delay, we were informed that an auction date was set for September 28th, and we had five weeks to raise funds. The auction would be the one shot at preserving the earthworks; failure would lose the cultural resource forever.

Its survival was critically threatened. Given the booming population of southwestern Ohio and the scenic views offered by property, the highest bidder may well have been a builder of McMansions. Needless to say, this scenario would destroy the earthwork and its potential for any future archaeological research. With this in mind, the Conservancy partnered with local land trusts and the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum, located immediately east of the earthwork. The sculpture park had long wanted to own the earthwork and was a crucial part of the auction process.

Due to a ground swell of support, both locally and nationally, the Conservancy raised $400,000 in pledges and all four parcels containing the Fortified Hill site were successfully bid! We will receive an ownership interest in the property allowing us to manage the cultural resources and ensure the preservation of the site. Preservation of the Fortified Hill site will contribute to public knowledge about the site’s significance and the importance of cultural resource preservation. The preserve will be used as open space and protected against future development. Fortified Hill will be preserved for posterity and will be made available for research under strict terms set by the Conservancy.

Thank you to everyone who has pledged and donated to this significant project!



FALL 2019 | Recovering from the Ashes

The following is an article excerpt from the Fall 2019 Issue of American Archaeology MagazineBecome a member to subscribe and read the full story! 

By Gayle Keck

Jasper, a border collie with a mottled black, white, and brown face, picks his way through ashes, melted blobs of glass, jutting rebar, and hundreds of smashed terra cotta roof tiles—sniffing, always sniffing. This devastation was once Tim and Becky Muser’s house in Paradise, California, one of nearly 14,000 homes destroyed by the Camp Fire in November, 2018.

The chances are slim that Jasper will find what he’s looking for: the cremains (cremated remains) of Tim’s father, Harry, a military veteran who died in 2001. The air temperature is 105 degrees; the ground temperature, nearly 125. Six rainy, snowy months have passed since the fire, and the family has disturbed the site while searching for keepsakes. All these factors impact the dog’s ability to catch a scent.

These urns containing the cremains of Tony Eglant’s two daughters and his wife’s father, were recovered by archaeologists from the area where Piper, a specially-trained dog, alerted in the Eglant family home. | Photo by Lynne Engelbert
Human cremains that have been through a fire are quite distinctive in color—they can range from pinkish to golden—and they usually have tiny bone chips, and sometimes tooth fragments. Identifications tags like the one in the center of this picture include the name or number of the mortuary or crematorium and a number that is signed to that specific individual.
Kris Black (plaid jacket) and her dog Annie watch as the archaeologists begin the process of recovering cremains. | Credit: Susanne Martin
Adela Morris and her dog Jasper search the remnants of a burned home for cremains. | Credit Lynne Engelbert


Tim and three volunteer archaeologists stand by, watching Jasper’s every move as his handler, Adela Morris, directs her dog toward the area that was once the Musers’ den. This, Tim had showed the team, is where his dad’s cremains were kept, in a wooden box on a shelf. The only thing standing here now is a stub of concrete foundation.

“He has a scent,” archaeologist Alex DeGeorgey says, as Jasper pokes his nose into a buckled piece of stucco a few feet away. “Sometimes when a stucco wall fell and is still intact, they alert on that because that’s where the scent is collecting.” Camp is the fourth wildfire aftermath for which DeGeorgey has helped organize archaeologists, who partner with dog handlers from the Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF)—all volunteering their time—to hunt for cremains.

Become a member to subscribe to American Archaeology magazine.  

PHOTO TOUR | 2019 Chaco Canyon In Depth

Explore the vast cultural system of Chaco Canyon and the extensive network of outlying communities with our recent tour, Chaco Canyon In Depth.

Scroll through the slider below for a virtual tour, and check out our latest tour schedule to find out how you can join the next adventure! 

Dr. John Roney explains the midden at Casamero Pueblo, a small Chaco outlier.

We get a very informative lecture on Navajo rugs at Richardson’s Trading Post in Gallup.

Ladder at Acoma Pueblo

The Chacoan great kiva at Salmon Ruins. Salmon is a large Chaco outlier on the San Juan River.

Dr. Susan Ryan tells us about Haynie Pueblo, a large Chaco outlier near Cortez, Colorado. Haynie is a Conservancy preserve currently being excavated by Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Chimney Rock Pueblo is a Chaco outlier high on a mountain in Colorado. It has important ceremonial and astronomical status.

At the northern lunar standstill every 18.6 years, the full moon rises between the twin peaks of Chimney Rock.

Conservancy President Mark Michel tells us about Aztec Ruins which was built in the early 1100s as a possible replacement center for the Chaco Culture.

In Chaco Canyon, we visit Pueblo Bonito, the largest Chaco great house.

Pueblo Bonito had some 800 rooms and was five stories high at its peak in A.D. 1100.

Multiple kivas, including great kivas, are important parts of Pueblo Bonito.

The full moon rises over Pueblo Bonito.

At our camp in Chaco Canyon, we practice throwing spears with an atlatl.

Our group climbs to the north rim of Chaco Canyon for a spectacular view of the ruins below.

Pueblo Bonito from the canyon rim.

Casa Rinconada in Chaco Canyon is the largest great kiva at about 65 feet in diameter.

Our group poses in front of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, the site of the sun dagger an astronomical observatory.

IN THE NEWS | Butler Co. residents hoping to preserve land of ancient Hopewell earthwork up for auction

Published on September 13, 2019 by Alexa Helwig from WKRC News in Ohio:

HAMILTON, Ohio  | A sacred piece of land is up for sale in Butler County, and the community is trying to preserve it.

Fortified Hill is a 2,000-year-old earthwork built by the Hopewell Tribe. The hilltop enclosure is thought to be a ceremonial site where members would come to worship.

The owner of the land, who passed away, registered the property to be a historical site in the ’70s. After passing, Dr. Jeff Leipzig, a community activist, said they ran into a problem.

“Lou and his wife Donna knew this site was here and they wanted this to be a special place. The only difficulty was he didn’t put it in his will that he wanted to turn it into a special place,” said Leipzig.

Fortified Hill is up for auction on Sept. 28. The Archaeological Conservancy and community members in Hamilton hope to raise $400,000 in pledge money to acquire the land. If they are unsuccessful, it is a missed opportunity to preserve and learn more about Hopewell land.

“That’s the beauty of this place. If you ask the archaeologists, it’s a blank slate. It’s a place that really has been unstudied,” said Leipzig.

The Ohio History Connection is working to make land like Fortified Hill a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It could potentially bring more tourism to the area.

To help preserve Fortified Hill earthwork, make a pledge to the Archaeological Conservancy here>>See Original Article Here 

Thank you to all who have pledged so far! Please help us spread the word! 

FALL 2019 | The Beginnings Of Slavery

The following is an article excerpt from the Fall 2019 Issue of American Archaeology MagazineBecome a member to subscribe and read the full story! 

By Paula Neely

David Givens pointed to a trash pit that archaeologists had unearthed this summer in Colonial National Historical Park in southeast Virginia, which includes the site of the Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World.  In addition to ceramics and food remains, the pit contained two cowrie shells, symbolic of wealth and fertility, that were used by Africans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for rituals and personal adornment. They were also used by traders to buy slaves. A late-seventeenth-century black and white glass beadlike the ones used by the English to trade for slaves in Africa, was also discovered in the pit.

Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists Lee McBee and Bruce McRoberts excavate a seventeenth-century storage jar from the upper level of a trash midden filled with domestic debris from Jamestown's early settlers. | Credit: Chuck Durfor
A variety of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century artifacts found during the 2019 excavation season. | Credit: Paula Neely
COVER PHOTO: Director of archaeology David Givens (right) and site supervisor Lee McBee (blue shirt) discuss numerous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century features at the northeast corner of the Angela site. | Credit: Paula Neely
A4 Lee McBee outlines one of the three seventeenth-century graves that were discovered at the sites. | Credit: Paula Neely

The remains of an eighteenth-century clamp kiln, used for making bricks, could also be seen. Over 200 years ago, the heat from the clamp had scorched the earth, turning it an orangish-red color, likely obscuring any earlier archaeological features beneath it, according to Givens, the director of archaeology for Jamestown Rediscovery, a project that investigates Jamestown.

In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), which owns the land, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists are searching for evidence of the house where “Angela,” one of the first Africans forcibly brought to English America in August 1619, lived while working for Captain William Pierce, one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. They hope to learn more about her life and her world, and shed light on the struggles of the first Africans to help commemorate the 400th anniversary of their arrival. The story of Angela and thirty-one other men and women, who were traded for food, has been distorted in historical accounts and dismissed for centuries. Monuments to the English and one to Pocahontas dot the Jamestown landscape, but there are none to Africans. African Americans were at one time even denied admission to Jamestown.

Become a member to subscribe to American Archaeology magazine.  

FALL 2019 | The Omnipresence Of Telepresence

The following is an article excerpt from the Fall 2019 Issue of American Archaeology MagazineBecome a member to subscribe and read the full story! 

By David Malakoff

One evening this past May, maritime archaeologist Michael Brennan was driving to his house in Jacksonville, Florida, when he received an urgent email: Could he help identify a mysterious shipwreck that had just been discovered hundreds of miles away, deep in the Gulf of Mexico? Moments after arriving at his home, Brennan, who works for the cultural resource management firm SEARCH, opened his laptop and clicked through to a high-resolution video stream that was being broadcast live over the Internet from a robotic submarine hovering over the wreck. Then he joined a conference call with other archaeologists and marine experts from around the United States to discuss what they were seeing. They were all linked by satellite to the crew of Okeanos Explorer, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research ship that, while on a cruise to test its submersibles and other equipment, had unexpectedly discovered the wreck.

Robert Ballard (left) discusses the dive plans of a remotely-operated vehicle with the science and operations team aboard E/V Nautilus. | Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live
The operations team aboard E/V Nautilus bring Hercules, a remotely-operated vehicle back on deck after a dive. | Credit: Erin Ranney/Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live
Robert Ballard (left) discusses the dive plans of a remotely-operated vehicle with the science and operations team aboard E/V Nautilus. | Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live
COVER PHOTO: Archaeologists onboard Nautilus and scientists ashore get a close view from Hercules' camera of one of the F9C-2 Sparrowhawk biplanes that went down with USS Macon in 1935. | Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live

“This is exploration at its finest!” exclaimed one of the archaeologists as they asked the NOAA crew to steer their submersible along the 124-foot-long hulk. The cameras revealed that the wreck sat upright on the seafloor, a ghost-white crab perched picturesquely on its bow. But only the lower part of the wooden hull, which was clad in copper that had turned a turquoise-green, remained. The rest had likely been “consumed by marine organisms,” one of the experts explained to his colleagues. Members of the public, who had signed up to get emails and social media messages about this project, were made aware of it about two weeks later, and they sent in their questions and comments. “We were getting messages from all over—Kentucky, you name it,” recalled archaeologist Joe Hoyt, NOAA’s acting National Maritime Heritage Coordinator, who was monitoring the action from the agency’s headquarters near Washington, D.C.

Become a member to subscribe to American Archaeology magazine.  

FALL 2019 | The Saga Of The Snakes

Arqueologa Anya Shetler limpiando el friso de Holmul en el momento de su hallazgo. Foto Estrada-Belli

The following is an article excerpt from the Fall 2019 Issue of American Archaeology MagazineBecome a member to subscribe and read the full story! 

By Mike Toner

A riveting story of dynastic intrigue and bloody conflict is unfolding that’s reshaping long-held notions about the Maya, one of North America’s most studied ancient cultures. A gusher of discoveries—in tombs and temples, on polychrome vases and limestone stairways, and from state-of-the-art airborne laser surveys—is spurring interest in an alliance of kings, overlords, and vassals known as Kaanul, the Snake dynasty. In contrast to other Maya polities, the Snake kings were little understood until recently. But researchers now know that they wielded immense power throughout the lowlands of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize for more than two centuries.

COVER PHOTO: Archaeologist Anya Shetler cleans an inscription below a frieze discovered at Holmul in 2013. The frieze contains information about the Snake dynasty.  | Credit: Francisco Estrada-Belli
This is a reconstruction of Holmul during the late Classic period. Holmul was one of numerous cities controlled by the Snake dynasty. | Credit: Holmul Archaeological Proyect/PACUNAM
This panel discovered at La Corona by archaeologist Marcello Canuto in 2005 links La Corona’s ruling family to the Snake kings. | Credit: Roan McNab of Wildlife Conservation Society.
Lady K’abel, a daughter or granddaughter of the Snake ruler of El Peru-Waká, is portrayed in Stelae 34. | Credit: Cleveland Museum Of Art, purchase from the J.H.Wade Fund #1967.29.

Tikal, located in what is now northern Guatemala, was once thought to have been the unchallenged superpower in this area during the Classic Period (A.D. 250 – 950). But archaeologists now say the Snake dynasty—using strategic intermarriages, trade policy, diplomacy, and military might—not only challenged Tikal, but, under a leader some describe as the Mesoamerican equivalent of Alexander the Great, twice defeated it. “This has been a breathtaking time for Maya studies,” said archaeologist David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis.  “We are caught up in a veritable tornado of intellectual discovery. In addition to new archaeological discoveries, we are finding new texts and new history.”  

Become a member to subscribe to American Archaeology magazine.  

IN THE NEWS | Museum of Idaho offers tour to Wasden-Croft Archaeological Preserve

Published on August 19, 2019 by Adam Forsgren from EastIdahoNews.com:

IDAHO FALLS | The Museum of Idaho is gearing up to take local ancient history lovers on a trip to explore a local archaeological site.

The museum is hosting a field trip to the Wasden-Croft Archaeological Preserve this coming Saturday. The trip provides a unique opportunity for archaeology buffs to explore the site and connect with people who inhabited east Idaho in the distant past.

“This site is significant in that it has some wonderful evidence of early human interaction with some of the early mammoth and bison that were in this region,” Museum of Idaho Curator Carrie Anderson Athay told EastIdahoNews.com. “We’re going to be able to take some folks out to the site and discuss the need for preservation on these archaeological sites and talk a little about what has happened at that site.”

The trip is the result of a partnership between the museum and the Archaeological Conservancy, who purchased the site some time ago. The goal of the trip is to not only provide the public with an excellent opportunity to learn about the lives of ancient Idaho residents but also to raise awareness of the importance of working to preserve such sites.

“This opportunity for the public to go out is a very rare opportunity because the site is owned and administered by the Archaeological Conservancy,” Athay said. “Because their mission is preservation, we’re not often able to take groups of people out there.”

The site itself consists of three collapsed lava tubes. Inside the tubes, evidence of all kinds of activity has been found, including bison drives. The practice of bison driving (also called a buffalo jump) involves herding a bison into a cave or off a cliff so it can be processed by people.  >>READ FULL ARTICLE 

Find out more about the tours offered by the Museum of Idaho here.  

IN THE NEWS | Learn more about the Saturday opening of Ebbert Spring Archaeological Preserve!

Published on July 30, 2019 by Joyce Nowell at The Herald Mail Media:

PENNSYLVANIA — Nestled amongst the Greencastle-Antrim area’s commercial and industrial boom is the community’s newest historical feature — one that will give visitors a unique view of the past and also make connections to the future.

Ebbert Spring Archaeological Preserve and Heritage Park at 12633 Molly Pitcher Highway will officially open to the public with a grand opening from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. The preservation project was inspired by former owner Al Bonnell and followed through by The Archaeological Conservancy, with the assistance of the Allison-Antrim Museum, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Antrim Township.

“We have over 10,000 years of history in one spot,” said Kelley Berliner, field representative with The Archaeological Conservancy, a national nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of archaeological sites. “You don’t see that a lot.

“I hope people come see what a fantastic resource this is archaeologically, historically and ecologically.”  >>READ FULL ARTICLE 

For more about Ebbert Spring please contact the Conservancy’s Eastern Office at tac_east@verizon.net or 301-682-6359.

IN THE NEWS | Out of the Limelight, Onto the Mesa

Read about Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project Founder, Katherine Wells in the June 21, 2019 article from Rio Grande Sun:

This is the seventh entry in “Women of Distinction,” a series of profiles being published weekly this summer about women who make a difference in Northern New Mexico communities.

Being publicly recognized for her work was a feat Katherine Wells was never supposed to accomplish.

Not because she wasn’t deserving of the honor, but because she originally moved to New Mexico to escape the limelight and the crowd.

Katherine Wells and her dog Shaggy pose for a picture on Mesa Prieta in 1995 (from article). 


Wells received the 2019 National Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division on May 17 at the Meem Auditorium in Santa Fe.

It was just the icing on the cake the founder of the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project deserved to taste after starting the nonprofit organization in 1999 in an effort to preserve what is now estimated to be 100,000 petroglyphs on the Mesa.

“I was very surprised,” Wells said of receiving the award. “I would not have been surprised to get an individual award because other people in the Project have gotten individual awards in the past, but the Lifetime Achievement was a huge surprise. Some people who have won it before me are big heroes, so I’m in great company. I’m astonished, so to say.”

Moving to New Mexico from California in 1992 was supposed to be a lifestyle change to smaller surroundings. Something less crowded and more peaceful, she thought.

But the 188-acre property Wells and her partner, Lloyd Dennis, purchased on Mesa Prieta in 1992 had ideas of its own.  >>READ FULL ARTICLE