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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

Articles:

REDISCOVER ING THE ALAMO BY RICHARD A. MARINI
An archaeological project is playing an important role in an effort to make this iconic site more interesting to tourists.

A SENSE OF PLACE BY MIKE TONER
A Hohokam rock art study takes the unusual approach of examining not only the images, but also their surroundings.

A NEW VIEW OF MOUNDVILLE BY ALEXANDRA WITZE
For years this Mississippian site was thought to be a political capital, but recently some researchers have arrived at a different conclusion.

FINDING LUNA BY TAMARA J. STEWART
Archaeologists have recently discovered the first permanent European colony along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

HOW WERE THE AMERICAS COLONIZED? BY DAVID MALAKOFF
Experts are struggling to develop a plausible colonization model from the latest archaeological and genetic evidence.

New Acquisitions:

EARLY LIFE IN THE AMERICAN BOTTOM
The McCarty Mound could offer a glimpse of the American Bottom’s prehistory.

MAKING MEYER POTTERY
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.

Routine Maintenance at Stallings Island Preserve

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | Our Regional Offices put in a lot of hard work to maintain our 550 national preserves.  Site maintenance can include regular mowing, stabilization work, and installing No Trespassing signs, surveillance cameras, and fencing to protect it.  However, some of our sites have unique conditions that require more innovative solutions.

One of the Island’s gentle donkeys grazing during Nikki Mattson’s recent visit to the preserve. | Photo: Nikki Mattson (2021)

One such site is Stallings Island Preserve located just outside of Augusta. Stallings Island was the center of excitement last August as an aggressive male donkey was relocated from the island by a handful of volunteers and a couple of boats. Both donkeys and goats were introduced on the Island in 2008 to control plant overgrowth, which was difficult to maintain with traditional mowing equipment.

On a more recent visit, Southeast Field Representative Nikki Mattson delivered an artifact display and educational poster for Stallings Island Preserve to the Columbia County Visitor Center. The artifact display and poster can be viewed at the visitor center inside Savannah Rapids Park in Martinez, GA, which is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Visitor Centers Employees with our new education poster. | Photo Nikki Mattson (2021)
Southeast Field Representative Nikki Mattson

Nikki also visited the Preserve where she conducted routine maintenance such as checking surveillance cameras and posting additional No Trespassing signs.  Trespassing is a continual threat to the site as the Island is a landmark along a popular kayaking route.

Stallings Island Preserve is one of the most archaeologically significant sites in the southeast. The site contains a large prehistoric shell mound and has yielded examples of the oldest, documented Native American pottery in North America.  Stallings Island was donated to The Archaeological Conservancy by the Knox family in 1997.  Since then, massive stabilization efforts have taken place on the Island to help ensure its preservation. This includes filling over 300 looter holes, installing fences, increasing the number of No Trespassing signs, and adding surveillance cameras to monitor illegal activity.

Kayakers stop to take photos of the goats as they float by Stallings Island. | Photo Nikki Mattson (2021)

The work necessary to maintain these Preserves is funded solely by the generous donations of our Members and Supporters. We want to thank you all for your continued support!

| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021

Learn more about our Eastern Preservation Efforts on 4/7!

Join us on April 7 at 5 pm Mountain Time as our Eastern Regional Director Kelley Berliner presents “The Archaeological Conservancy’s Preservation Efforts in the East: from the Paleoindian through 20th-Century Industrial Sites.”

This lecture will focus on The Archaeological Conservancy’s Preserves in the Eastern Region which span in time from the Thunderbird site, with one of the earliest Paleoindian structures discovered in the Nation, to the Pamplin Pipe Factory, a manufacturing facility that produced pipes from local clays.  Our eastern preserves are diverse and include Iroquois/Haudenosaunee villages, prehistoric quarries, French and Indian War fortifications, and more. On April 7, Kelley will highlight some of these important sites and discuss The Conservancy’s efforts to preserve them.

There are two ways to attend live! To attend via the Webex digital event platform, you can register at this LINK.  You can also participate via livestream by visiting our Facebook page.

For more details, be sure to visit the official event page HERE.  The full lecture will also be available afterwards on the official page for the event, as well as our YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our events calendar and follow us on Facebook for the latest updates on our Virtual Lecture Series.  
| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021

Join us for our next Virtual Lecture on 3/24!

Join us on March 24 at 5 pm MST as our Midwestern Regional Director Philip Millhouse presents “Native American Mining in the Upper Mississippi Valley: Industrial Production, Conflict and Dispossession Across the Lead Mining Frontier.”

This lecture will focus on the critical role of Native American lead mining in the Upper Midwest where the Meskwaki and Ho-Chunk conducted mining operations on an industrial scale. The mines eventually drew thousands of prospectors that resulted in tensions leading to the Winnebago and Black Hawk Wars. In this upcoming lecture, Phil will discuss Indigenous mining history in the upper Midwest and the subsequent treaties that led to the forced removal and dispossession of Native Americans.

There are two ways to attend live. To attend via the Webex digital event platform, you can register at this LINK.  You can also participate via livestream by visiting our Facebook page.

For more details, be sure to visit the official event page HERE.  The full lecture will also be available afterwards on the official page for the event, as well as our YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our events calendar and follow us on Facebook for the latest updates on our Virtual Lecture Series.  
| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021

The Tale Of The Textiles | American Archaeology

By Tamara Jager Stewart

This is an article excerpt from the Spring 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription. 

Perched above Beaver Creek and the fertile Verde Valley in central Arizona, the Dyck Cliff Dwelling has sat quietly tucked away on private land for centuries. This tiny habitation site, which dates between A.D. 1150 and 1300, consisted of nine rooms and likely housed about thirty members of the southern Sinagua culture. It has been protected by artist and rancher Paul Dyck and his family for nearly half a century.

A mural from Awotovi, an archaeological site on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, shows a corn maiden wearing a tie-dyed garment. A number of tie-dyed garments have been recovered from the Dyck Cliff Dwelling. | Credit: Keith Greiner
These finishing needles (top four) and finishing battens were used to make textiles found at Dyck. | Credit: Todd Bostwick
This is one of over thirty agave needles with fibers still attached that were found at the site. | Credit: Todd Bostwick
A fragment of a Dyck cotton textile with oblique interlacing. | Credit: Todd Bostwick

Dyck bought the 312-acre property containing the dwellings in 1938, operating a ranch there and later spending his days painting in the two-story studio residence he built in the 1960s. Concerned about the deteriorating condition of the cliff dwelling and its vulnerability to vandalism as the area became more developed, Dyck invited Charles Rozaire, assistant curator at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, to professionally excavate the site. In 1962, Rozaire, who had extensive excavation experience and specialized in prehistoric basketry and weaving, began his excavations of the cliff dwelling. Over the next ten years, he and his team recovered some 50,000 artifacts that included a well-preserved collection of textiles.

The dry rock shelters and natural alcoves of the arid Southwest protect fragile artifacts made of cloth and wood from damaging ultraviolet light, temperature fluctuations, rainfall, mold, mildew, fungus, and other sources of deterioration, enabling some of them to remain more or less intact for centuries. Despite that, “rampant looting of rockshelter sites over the last century and a half undoubtedly destroyed most textiles, or ripped them from context without records to link them to any useful data,” said Kelley Hays-Gilpin of the Museum of Northern Arizona, in Flagstaff. “We simply don’t have that many assemblages of ancient textiles that were excavated scientifically. The information about context, provenience, and association makes the Dyck collection important as much as its remarkable state of preservation.”

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Rediscovering Tenochtitlan | American Archaeology

By Rodrigo Pérez Ortega

This is an article excerpt from the Spring 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription. 

Raúl Barrera Rodríguez and his team had excavated almost the entire building in the heart of Mexico City. After digging twenty test pits, they had found evidence of the Spanish occupation and had reached the pre-Hispanic levels. But they were only finding slab floors and there was no sign of anything more exciting. “We were surprised we hadn’t found it yet, because we knew it was there,” said Barrera Rodríguez. The excavation season was coming to an end in two weeks and the team was growing anxious. Eventually, hundreds of skull fragments started to appear. They had finally found it—it being the Huei Tzompantli, a giant rack dedicated to the Aztec war and sun god, Huitzilopochtli, built with the skulls of several thousand human sacrifice victims.

A codex written after the conquest by a Spanish priest depicts Tenochtitlan’s enormous skull rack, which is referred to as a tzompantli. | Credit: 1587 Aztec Manuscript, The Codex Tovar/ Wikimedia Commons
Archaeologists discovered of vestiges of that pre-Hispanic palace and the remains of a house that was built after the palace. Hernan Cortes and his men stayed at the house. | Credit: Raúl Barrera Rodríguez / PAU-INAH
ARaúl Barrera Rodríguez (center) and other researchers analyze human skulls that were recovered from the Huei Tzompantli. Isotope and DNA studies are expected to reveal that victims came from all over Mesoamerica.| Credit: Ignacio Urquiza / INAH

No one had seen the Huei Tzompantli since the Spanish and their allies destroyed it after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, on August 13, 1521. (Though they are often called Aztecs, the residents of Tenochtitlan referred to themselves as the Mexica.) Spanish historical documents mentioned it, but experts warned that details of their accounts might be inaccurate. Finding it not only helped archaeologists have a better understanding of the controversial Aztec practice of offering human lives as tribute to their gods, it also helped them understand what the great Tenochtitlan, the axis mundi of the empire, looked like 500 years ago.

The discovery, which made headlines when it was announced in 2015, was just the latest one from the Programa de Arqueología Urbana (Urban Archaeology Program), or PAU, which features a sixteen-person team led by Barrera Rodríguez, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). For the last thirty years, the PAU has dug into Mexico City’s past, unearthing everything from important Aztec buildings to colonial artifacts. And with every excavation more of Tenochtitlan is exposed in so-called archaeological windows—glass floors that offer a glimpse of the ruins underneath modern-day buildings of downtown Mexico City. These ruins are a constant reminder of the powerful empire that once ruled the Basin of Mexico and most of northern Mesoamerica.

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A Copper Conundrum | American Archaeology

By David Malakoff

This is an article excerpt from the Spring 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription. 

In the late 1990s, William Reardon, a U.S. Forest Service employee with a keen interest in archaeology, was using a metal detector to scout for artifacts on the shores of Eagle Lake in northern Wisconsin when it sounded an alert. Digging into the dirt, he found a sharp, conical spear point nearly four inches long. Close examination revealed that a chunk of the point’s wooden shaft was still attached; researchers later found it had been carved from maple.

These are various sized copper awls are in the collections of the Milwaukee Public Museum. Testing by archaeologist Michelle Bebber showed that copper awls were more effective than awls made of stone. | Credit: Michelle Bebber
Michelle Bebber prepares to test a replica copper point with a bow. Her tests indicated that copper points were not superior to stone points. | Credit: Robert Christy
The Hopewell people made copper earspools like these. | Credit: NPS Photo/ Mark Seeman
Archaeologist William Reardon found these copper points. The top point, which was found at Eagle Lake, is 8,500 years old. The bottom point, which was found near the lake, is approximately 8,100 years old. | Credit: Bill Reardon/Eagle River Historical Society

The find wasn’t a big surprise to archaeologists. Copper artifacts are relatively common in the region. Scholars know that many were made by Native Americans who were part of the prehistoric Old Copper Culture that once stretched across the Great Lakes region. During the Archaic period these hunter-gatherers became some of the world’s first copper miners and metal workers. They learned to identify copper nuggets that had eroded from the bedrock and to extract ore from the region’s abundant deposits—the largest and purest copper lodes on Earth. And they pioneered techniques for shaping the copper into a vast array of tools, including projectile points, knives, axes, awls, and fishing hooks. Still, in 2014 some researchers were surprised to learn just how old the Eagle Lake point is: radiocarbon dating of the maple shaft indicated that the weapon was made about 8,500 years ago.

Now, new research that reexamined every radiocarbon date associated with an Old Copper Culture artifact has concluded that the Eagle Lake point is the oldest reliably-dated copper artifact ever found in North America, making it one of the world’s oldest documented copper tools. And Reardon’s find is just one piece of evidence that is prompting archaeologists to reassess their views of the Old Copper Culture. Some recent studies suggest that the heyday of Archaic copper working both began and ended much earlier than once believed. And other research is offering fresh perspectives on a longstanding mystery: why did these prehistoric metal workers, after making finely crafted copper tools for thousands of years, abandon the practice and return to seemingly inferior stone and bone implements, relegating their copper production primarily to decorative and ceremonial objects?

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Collaborating With Collectors | American Archaeology

By Gayle Keck

This is an article excerpt from the Spring 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription. 

Warner Williams stood before a fresh grave in the United Methodist churchyard. The seventeen-year old wasn’t a mourner; he was out behind the small, white, clapboard building in Asheboro, North Carolina, for a different reason: his passion for discovering Native American artifacts.

Williams, now eighty-six years old, remembers the moment well. “Every time they dug a grave, they’d turn up chips,” he said, referring to the flakes left behind from stone-knapping. “That day, they had buried someone and there were little chips all over the ground. Dirt had been rounded up over the deceased person, and on top of that red dirt, there was a chipped-stone axe head. They’d thought it was just a rock, but I knew.”

Collector Richard E. Martens recovered these Clovis points from the Martens Clovis site in east-central Missouri. The site was subsequently destroyed by development. These and other Clovis items Martens recovered will be curated at the Illinois State Museum. | Credit: Richard E. Martens
The late archaeologist George Frison (seated) addresses a number of collectors in his lab at the University of Wyoming in this 2019 photo. Frisson, who was a noted Paleo-Indian expert, worked with collectors throughout his long career. | Credit: Tom Westfall
Archaeologist Teresita Majewski records a nineteenth-century stone wall that she found while conducting a survey on private land in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri. Because of the relationships she established with the landowners there, some of them donated artifacts they had found on their properties to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. | Credit: Gregory L. Fox

Williams had been collecting since age twelve, scouring for arrowheads that were turned up in fresh-plowed fields. But unlike many collectors, he kept a notebook listing the artifacts he found and where they were located. “Every point is numbered,” he said, “I painted a little strip of clear fingernail polish on it, then wrote a number on top of that” matched to a notation. He now has 2,400 projectile points that he considers to be “tens, on a scale of one to ten,” and he has given away thousands of less-perfect ones to children who came to see his collection during its annual display at the local library.

This avid collector’s story might make some archaeologists cringe, but others view him as a potential partner, with valuable data to share. The cringers claim that collectors are diminishing the archaeological record—and in some cases selling artifacts for profit—while professionals who work with collectors see them as allies, essential to their work.

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Down by the River | American Archaeology

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By Wayne Curtis

This is an article excerpt from the Spring 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription. 

Not much is left of the Remer property. Located in Philadelphia’s Kensington-Fishtown neighborhood, the lot wasn’t very large to begin with— just shy of twenty feet wide and a shade over 150 feet deep. It contained a house that was occupied from the late-eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries by the descendants of Matthew Remer, who immigrated here from Germany in the 1750s. When the last of the Remers moved out, the lot passed through various hands over the decades.

The Remer property was eventually acquired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) in the 1960s to accommodate I-95, the new interstate highway being built along the East Coast that stretches from Maine to Florida. Not long after came the earth movers and cement mixers and hard-hatted workers, who built a tall and imposing concrete abutment on the property that had all the subtlety of a medieval fortification. All that remained of the lot was a narrow, weedy strip that served as a repository for discarded coffee cups and windblown litter.

AECOM crew excavates a portion of the Dyottville Glass Works factory complex. The archaeological work revealed a wealth of information about the construction and frequent alteration of this building throughout the nineteenth century, the evolution of the landscape on which it was built, and the myriad glass products and “whimsies” manufactured by the skilled Dyottville artisans. | Credit: Image courtesy of FHWA, PennDOT, and AECOM
Intact early nineteenth-century domestic artifact deposits found in a box privy feature. Numerous wood-lined box and barrel privy features have been found during the investigations of the I-95/Girard Avenue Interchange Improvement project and they have frequently contained voluminous artifact deposits that help archaeologists learn about the specific families and households that lived on these properties. | Credit: Image courtesy of FHWA, PennDOT, and AECOM
Archaeologists recovered these childhood artifacts. (Left to right) The pearlware child’s plate entitled “Keeping School” dates between 1825 and 1840. The two glazed china doll heads are of molded porcelain and were sewn or pasted onto coarse cloth bodies, perhaps with matching porcelain arms and legs, and likely date between the 1830s and 1870s. Boys probably used the porcelain marbles and iron jack. These artifacts are in scale except for the plate, which is approximately 6.5 inches in diameter. | Credit James Burton
These assorted glass condiment containers, dating to the second half of the nineteenth century, were recovered from the Cramp-Bumm Site in Kensington-Fishtown. | Credit: Thomas J. Kutys
Rockingham vessels typically featured a buff or yellow ceramic body with a distinctive brown mottled glaze and elaborate relief molded decoration. Rockingham had its origins in the late eighteenth century, but the more mottle glazes—as seen on these pitchers—did not become common until the 1840s. These streaked glazes peaked in popularity during the 1850s and 1860s, remaining the prevailing style through the 1870s. This particular pair of pitchers is unique due to the combination of their plain, hexagonal shapes and “North Wind” pour spouts bearing identical bearded faces. | Credit: Images courtesy of FHWA, PennDOT, and AECOM

But that strip has yielded a vast treasure trove of local history. Archaeologists excavating it have recovered some 250 Native American artifacts dating from approximately 1200 to 500 B.C. They have also found a series of ten barrel and box privies, which contained some 25,000 Euro-American artifacts ranging from a single domino to an English pearlware bowl.

“And at the bottom of one of them, we found a pair of eyeglasses,” said Doug Mooney, a senior archaeologist with AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering firm that is involved in the reconstruction of the Girard Avenue interchange segment of I-95 as well as the archaeological work that, mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, precedes the construction. The team sought advice from experts in historic eyewear. ”And they looked at (the glasses), and they were like, you guys have no idea what you have here,” Mooney said. Eyeglass experts have flown over from Germany just to inspect them. It turns out they may be the oldest eyeglasses ever found in America.

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Fall 2021 Tour Scheduled Announced

We are excited to announce our Fall 2021 Archaeological Tour Schedule!  Take an adventure to some of the most thrilling archaeological wonders in the U.S. and Mexico and immerse yourself in the wonders of the past.

From the Pueblo villages of the American Southwest to the American colonies of the East and into Mexico for Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead celebration, The Archaeological Conservancy’s fall tour schedule has something unique and exciting for every traveler.

To find out more, click HERE. Be sure to visit our events calendar and follow us on Facebook for the latest updates on all of our upcoming tours and events.  

| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021

Don’t miss our Virtual Lecture on March 10!

Join us on March 10 at 5 pm MDT as our Southeastern Regional Director Jessica Crawford presents “Preserving a Prehistoric City Beneath a Modern Town: The Archaeological Conservancy’s Troyville Preserve.”

From about AD 400 to 700, a great settlement was constructed at the confluence of the Tensas, Black and Ouachita Rivers in Louisiana. The Troyville site originally consisted of nine mounds, the largest was nearly 80 feet with two “terraces” that were topped with what was described as a “flattened cone or dome.” In this upcoming lecture, Jessica will discuss the archaeological research that has been conducted at the site and the Conservancy’s efforts to acquire and preserve what remains of it.

There are two ways to attend live. To attend via the Webex digital event platform, you can register at this LINK.  You can also participate via livestream by visiting our Facebook page.

To find out more visit the official event page HERE.  The full lecture will also be available afterwards on the official page for the event, as well as our YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our events calendar and follow us on Facebook for the latest updates on our Virtual Lecture Series.  
| The Archaeological Conservancy 2021