$20,000 Reward for Information about Stolen Moundville Artifacts

Moundville Hooded Bottle

Need a bit of archaeological funding? Need to pay off your credit card debt? Need a great party story? Boy-oh-girl, does the University of Alabama Police Department and the Associates for the Return of Moundville Artifacts have a deal for you?  You may read the whole story and take a look at some of the stolen artifacts by clicking on the following safe links:

Story of the Stolen Moundville Artifacts and the Current Reward

Take a Look at the Stolen Artifacts

Someone out there must know something about what happened to these artifacts.  Think hard.  When you were a kid, did you ever overhear your Uncle Jimmy talking about the night his buddies got a “10-finger discount” on a bunch of American Indian relics at some museum in Alabama? If you know or think you know anything about this theft of artifacts from Moundville in 1980, please call the Confidential Tip Line at (205) 348-2800.

What happened to all of these stolen Moundville artifacts over the past 40 years? I grew up among artifact collectors in the Nashville area in the late 20th century. Although I have never been an artifact collector myself, I know the unique subculture of American Indian artifact collecting inside out. In my honest opinion, a person would have been an absolute fool to fence and sell these stolen artifacts to artifact collectors here in the United States. News travels secretly and fast within the American artifact collecting community.  While some collectors are not particularly moral about jumping a fence and digging a hole in some stranger’s field, many artifact collectors feel rigidly moral about artifacts stolen from another collector or a museum. Therefore, it would have been extremely hard to fence and sell these artifacts to collectors here in the United States. Buying and concealing easily identifiable stolen artifacts from Moundville would have been a matter far too hot to handle in the ranks of American artifact collectors.

My best speculation is that these stolen Moundville artifacts were fenced very soon after they were stolen and sold to extremely wealthy American Indian artifact collectors in foreign countries.  Indeed, a foreign receiver and potential buyers may have been lined up even before the Moundville theft took place—so disposal for profit would have been quick and easy—involving as few hand-to-hand transfers as possible. My best bet for a theft that occurred in 1980 would have been an artifact transfer to someone(s) in Japan, West Germany, or a country in the Middle East.  Why those countries?

You have to look at where money outside of the United States was concentrated in 1980. Here in the United States, ancient American Indian ceramics from the Southeast were selling for only about $1,000 to $2,000 per vessel in the American collector market. Overseas markets were an entirely different matter.

In 1980, very few small towns in Tennessee had cable television access. Oak Ridge, where I lived,  was one of the first in Tennessee.  We had full cable channel access at our house in the early 1980s, and I actually watched major antiquities auctions in places like Japan on cable TV. I saw well-decorated but still fairly run-of-the-mill prehistoric American Indian ceramic vessels selling for as much as $40,000 each in those auctions on the international antiquities market. Just from the monetary perspective alone, a person would have been an absolute fool to sell the stolen Moundville artifacts for the low going rates here in the United States when they could have obtained far more money per vessel on the international market.

Therefore, based on my knowledge of that time in American artifact collecting and where money was concentrated on the globe, my best speculation would be that all of these stolen Moundville artifacts ended up in the hands of wealthy overseas collectors of antiquities. By wealthy, I do not mean the kind of person who has a couple of million yen.  I am talking about people who have tens or hundreds of millions of yen.  They are people with all the physical and monetary resources necessary to buy stolen artifacts, hide them in a secret museum room in a palatial foreign mansion, and successfully conceal them from the FBI and Interpol for many decades.  This is most likely the reason why no one in the United States has seen hide nor hair of these Moundville artifacts since the day they were stolen in 1980.

If Moundville is hoping to find these artifacts somewhere in the United States, I think they are making a mistake. They are more likely to find them somewhere overseas. Forty years have passed, and the wealthy overseas people who first received these artifacts are probably quite old and near death. When such deaths occur, as often happens to collectors in the United States, their surviving heirs (i.e., family members) usually know little to nothing about the artifacts that are left behind. Their first impulse is to sell the artifacts or donate them to a museum. Because antiquities still sell for very high prices overseas, I suspect that these Moundville artifacts will show up in major auction house lots (think Sotheby’s, etc.) sometime within the next 10 years. In my honest opinion, Moundville, the FBI, and various police authorities need to keep a close eye on these and other famous auction houses overseas (and on overseas museums) to see whether any of these Moundville artifacts come floating to the surface—as it were. Now is about the right time for that to start happening, and now is the time to begin the watch. This may be Moundville’s best chance for recovering at least some of their stolen artifacts.

Please pass the news of the $20,000 reward and this blog article along to all of your social media friends, contacts, and acquaintances here at home and around the world.  Someone is bound to know something about this theft of artifacts and where the artifacts are located.  The more people who read about it, the higher the chances that this message will fall into the hands of a person who needs money and has true information about this theft and/or the stolen Moundville artifacts.

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When Did American Indians Quit Making Flint Arrowheads?

The title of this short post is a digital search term that caused a net surfer to land on the Archaeology in Tennessee blog yesterday.  Unfortunately, this person did not find an answer to their question on the blog because I had never written anything on this subject. So, quick and dirty just off the top of my head, here are a couple of useful answers:

(1) As the kids in the Middle Tennessee neighborhood where I grew up used to say in response to similar questions:

“Any time they won’ted to.”

There may be more truth in that simple statement than you might otherwise imagine. Read Item No. 2 below, and I think you will see why. It probably involved an individual decision that confronted different Native American males on different days and in different places and times in the course of their normal lives.

(2) Chert projectile points had one huge problem throughout the many centuries before Europeans reached the shores of the New World. Chert (better known to some as flint) is a cryptocrystalline silicate stone that is very dense and brittle—almost like window glass—but not quite fully there.  That made it easy to break. Ancient Native Americans who used atlatl dart points and arrow points made of chert would often fire their projectile, only to have its chert tip hit something hard and easily break.

The ancient Native Americans in Tennessee and the rest of North America never really learned how to smelt metals.  The best they could do with metals, usually copper, was to find naturally occurring nuggets and malleably craft them into certain shapes by beating them with primitive tools and sometimes applying limited heat from a fire (a process called annealing) to help with the pounding and shaping process. The ancient Old Copper Complex sites in areas near the Great Lakes are famous for yielding projectile points, lance points, and other tools made by working copper nuggets. However, in the ancient United States, the making and use of copper projectile points was never frequent or widespread. Chipped stone projectile points were overwhelmingly dominant throughout the prehistory of our country.

Then some fine Thursday, not too long after Christopher Columbus arrived on a Caribbean island in 1492, Europeans showed up on the shores of the mainland United States. Their ancient Caucasian ancestors had learned how to smelt and alloy various metals (iron, bronze, copper, lead, tin, etc.).  European trading with the Native Americans populations began. Various objects made of metal went coursing along the ancient trails of the United States, and metal objects of European origin started showing up for use in Native American villages, hamlets, and camps. Such objects included, but were not limited to, items of military armament and protection, sewing needles, thimbles, cooking pots and other kitchen items, jingling Spanish bells, items of personal decoration, and so forth. The Native Americans quickly learned that items made of iron would break, but items made of copper, brass, bronze, or silver would bend rather than break. Moreover, Native Americans discovered that metal tools and weapons would take sharper edges than bifacial stone tools and would last longer without breaking. When such metals became easily and consistently available to Native Americans, the use of stone tools began to wane. Just like video killed the radio star, metal projectile points (and later firearms) killed the chipped stone projectile point.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, performed numerous archaeological excavations on Historic period Overhill Cherokee village sites (sometimes called “towns”) in the Little Tennessee River valley—all as part of the Tellico Archaeological Project in the 1960s and 1970s. Numerous metal objects were found during these excavations. For example, at the Tommotley site (the third largest Overhill village) in 1976, Ann Maginnis and I spent most of a day delicately excavating a Cherokee burial (female flesh inhumation) that included many metal sewing needles and thimbles as burial furniture. These were all metal items that had been traded into the site by people of European origins.

Native American metal cooking pots eventually wore out or acquired unfixable holes. One of the popular things Native Americans did in the Historic period was to make projectile points out of the thin walls and bottoms of expended copper cooking pots. They would just cut the metal into thin pieces of the desired shape, somewhat  similar to modern Xacto knife blades, and haft them onto the ends of arrows. They were then ready to go hunting or go to war with an arrow point that would bend—but not break like chert arrow points. If a copper point got bent, they just quickly straightened it back out, and they were ready to go.

Therefore, discounting the far earlier Old Copper Complex, the Native American transition from chert projectile points to metal projectile points (and later firearms) occurred during the Historic period (broadly 1513 – 2018 A.D. in the American Southeast.) The beginning of the Historic period varies across the geographic areas of the United States. It usually begins with the date of first European contact in a particular geographic area and lasts to the present day. For example, the Historic period here in the mainland United States began in the 1500s in Florida and Arizona because the earliest Spanish conquistadors made their first contacts with mainland Native Americans in the 16th century.  Technically, here in Tennessee, the Historic period really begins with the first contact between Native Americans and the Hernando Desoto Expedition—shortly after the year 1540 A.D. This occurred first in East Tennessee. However, more generally for the whole state of Tennessee, archaeologists will often kind of ignore Desoto and designate the Historic period as 1600 A.D. to the present day.

A Few Thoughts about Ground Surface Artifacts in Plowed Fields

Broken Artifacts

Some Typical Broken PP/K’s (Sometimes Referred to as “Brokes”)

I am just going to list these thoughts as follows:

(1)  I suspect most of my professional archaeology colleagues never visit on-line artifact collector forums to read the various discussions that go on there. It might pay them to start doing it because some really interesting things a person might need to know occasionally show up there.  I will leave you with just one example that I have run into more than once over the past five years.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up in Middle Tennessee, artifact collectors who walked plowed fields were only interested in finding whole, unbroken, bifacial chipped stone artifacts to take home with them.  They were the so-called gold standard for the collectors at that time in history—and they still are. However, these same collectors would also pick up and take home broken bifacial artifacts. Because these artifacts were broken, many collectors would have a box over in the corner of their man caves for what they called brokes. The brokes box was not quite a trash can—but was getting there. It seemed wrong to throw away even a broken lithic artifact that some nice Native American had made 6,000 years ago—so the brokes box was more of a File 13 than a true trash can. The surface collectors of that time would not pick up and take home unifacial tools, utilized flakes, items of debitage, or pottery sherds. They were considered to be worthless junk that no one wanted.

I sojourned longer than most in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the 1970s and early 1980s, and on a few rare occasions, I spent the night in my office on Gerald Klein’s old U.S. Army cot. Gerald and I shared an office for several years way, way down the hallway in South Stadium Hall—just beyond Paul Parmalee’s stinky zooarchaeology laboratory—the classic home of road-kill rendering. More than once, I sat close by when our lithic artifact specialists were having discussions. In those assorted discussions, they lamented the fact that artifact collectors took home scads of whole, temporally diagnostic pp/k’s (projectile points/knives) and other bifacial artifacts. These lamentations were usually followed by some version of the following:

Thank goodness the artifact collectors leave the unifacial tools, utilized flakes, and debitage in the fields.  We know that portion of the lithic sample at any given site is not skewed, so we can always be confident when working with that portion of the overall lithic sample from the site.

Now, let us fast forward to about the year 2013.  By that time traditional deep plowing of most fields had long since ceased. It had become illegal to collect artifacts on federal lands and in federal waters.  It had also become illegal to collect artifacts on state-owned and controlled lands. In short, fewer and fewer, and fewer places were available for artifact collectors to do legal surface collecting. Many novice artifact collectors were not wealthy and could not afford to buy expensive artifacts from other collectors or artifact dealers. Outside of digging—God forbid—the only way they could afford to easily build a collection was to do surface collecting in the few fields that were still deep plowed. However, the problem there was the fact that many of those fields had been stripped of most whole pp/k’s and bifacial tools by intensive surface collecting in those fields during past decades. What was a novice surface collector to do?  Here comes the meat of the matter.  They said:

I know!!!  If I can’t afford to buy artifacts and most of the whole arrowheads and other neat bifacial tools in a field are gone now, then I can build a collection by surface collecting for unifacial tools, cool utilized flakes, some really interesting items of debitage, and pottery sherds!!!

I have seen various versions of this expression on the artifact collector forums, such as Arrowheadology and Arrowheads.com, more than one time since 2013, and it may be the beginning of a long-term trend. If this is indeed the beginning of a trend, you professional archaeologists out there will no longer be able to just assume that your sample of unifacial tools, utilized flakes, and debitage has not been skewed from some previously prevailing and pristine site norm. You will be working with surface lithic samples that have been substantially and selectively messed with at all levels of lithic classification, and your analytical results from controlled surface collections may not be wholly dependable like they once were. Because most professional archaeologists do not visit on-line artifact collector forums, I just wanted to let you know that this problem already exists to a small degree, and it may be getting much worse as time goes by—and surface artifact collectors find that they have fewer and fewer fields where they can do surface collecting.

(2) We professional archaeologists—well at least the smart ones—now know it is highly unlikely that artifact collecting will ever become totally illegal in the United States. Artifact collecting is most likely here to stay, and nothing archaeologists can say or do will ever stop it. However, they can make peace with artifact collectors to some meaningful degree and kindly ask for their help. There is one major thing all artifact collectors can do to help archaeologists—and by so doing—contribute substantially to our archaeological knowledge of the ancient human past in the United States.  What is that?

I would like to use this space to nicely and kindly ask American surface artifact collectors to do just one very helpful and useful thing that would be very easy for you to do. Rather than picking up the brokes in a field and taking them home to the File 13 box in the corner of your basement man cave, please leave all the basal pp/k’s you encounter in the field. Just let them lie where you first see them on the ground.  By the term basal pp/k, I mean the bottom halves (or a little less) of broken arrowheads and atlatl dart points. Why?  In most cases, the basal halves of pp/k’s are sufficient to identify what type of pp/k the whole artifact was at one time. If we archaeologists find lots of broken pp/k basal halves in fields, we can use those both now and in the future to determine which prehistoric cultures occupied a site and the points in prehistoric time when they occupied the site. In other words, we archaeologists can obtain about as much useful knowledge from them as we can from whole, unbroken pp/k’s. This is critically important for us in order to begin the process of fully understanding what ancient men and women were doing on any given prehistoric archaeological site.

So. if you surface collectors out there are are going to take all of the whole, unbroken chipped stone artifacts you find home with you to be great prizes in your collections, then please just leave the brokes behind in the fields for us archaeologists, especially the basal half pp/k brokes. That would be so very useful and helpful to archaeologists and American archaeology—rather than just letting the brokes pile up in your rarely looked at or used File 13 box of damaged and near worthless artifacts at home. While they may be worthless to you from a collector’s perspective, they are not worthless to us archeologists. They are of great scientific importance. We professional archaeologists can often tell about as much about certain aspects of a site’s prehistory from the broken basal halves of pp/k’s as we can if we actually had the whole pp/k’s. If you tend to see brokes as just field junk or “the good one that got away,” please just leave them in the fields for us archaeologists. American generations and American archaeologists who have not even been born will one day thank you for it. and you will be making a wonderful contribution to American archaeology for now and for the future.

(3)  Yes, I understand the main overall problem with what I have written here. I do realize that the few artifact collectors who are now settling for unifacial tools, utilized flakes, debitage, and pottery sherds would be overjoyed to find and take home the lower half of a broken pp/k. However, I am hoping—perhaps against hope—that a true, large-scale trend of collecting brokes, pottery sherds, unifacial tools, utilized flakes, and interesting items of debitage will never fully develop. If it does not and you can cooperate by leaving all your brokes in the fields rather than taking them home to File 13 in your basements, the sites you surface collect will still be valuable to archaeologists in the future. Those brokes, especially the basal half pp/k brokes, will tell us a lot more about the sites than we would have otherwise known.

If you have any thoughts, positive or negative, on what I have said here, please feel free to let us know in the comments space beneath this main blog post.  Have a wonderful day!!!

Photograph Credit: Etsy.com (Quincy Relic Supply)

A New Book Review

Book Review

of

 Chiefdom on the Cumberland: The History and Evolution

of Middle Tennessee Archaeology

 

Book Author:  Donald B. Ball

Purchase: Amazon

Mr. Ball’s book was a most enjoyable read and chocked full of useful information. It was highly interesting, informative, and—quite frankly—a fun experience. The multiple chapter presentation on the history of Middle Tennessee archaeology in the 19th and 20th centuries was particularly worth the read. In addition to being an excellent read, this volume doubles as an outstanding reference source to be kept handy on the bookshelves of Tennessee historians, professional archaeologists, and avocational archaeologists.

This book is a product of both in-depth historical research and archaeological research relevant to the Middle Cumberland region of Middle Tennessee. Most professional archaeologists in the United States are experts in anthropology and archaeology. The author of this book was uniquely qualified to write this particular volume because he has university degrees in both history and anthropology/archaeology—and he was once a citizen of Middle Tennessee.

The first six chapters delve deeply into the long but rarely broached history of things archaeological in Middle Tennessee. Professional archaeology in the truly modern sense did not arrive in the Middle Cumberland region of Middle Tennessee until 1972. Prior to that time, matters of archaeology consisted almost entirely of work by 19th century antiquarians and 20th century artifact collectors—and perhaps just as importantly—numerous regular folks who accidentally plowed up or dug up large numbers of fantastic ancient artifacts on their farms. In turn, this work and these finds gave rise to highly entertaining interpretive mythologies about races of pygmies and giants who once lived and battled across the Middle Cumberland landscape. Mr. Ball has lice-combed numerous old newspapers, highly obscure reference sources, and many other sources to assemble a detailed, delightful, and fun scholarly look at the history of archaeology in Middle Tennessee from its beginnings to the present day—all meticulously undergirded by numerous detailed footnotes and an extensive list of reference sources at the back end of the book.

For three centuries, most of the archaeological activities and research in Middle Tennessee were focused primarily on the Mississippian period (1000 – 1475 A.D.) inhabitants of the Middle Cumberland region, which Mr. Ball has renamed Cumberlandia. Most of the Mississippian peoples of the Southeast are believed to have lived under what cultural anthropologist Dr. Elman R. Service, and many others since, have called a chiefdom level of social organization. Simply put, chiefdoms are ranked societies based on lineage social relations. Mr. Ball argues that most of the Mississippian period research in the Cumberlandia region from the earliest times to the present day has been piecemeal in nature—often driven by individual interest in particular sites, construction-related salvage archaeology, and CRM archaeology.

Until 2015, Mr. Ball rightly argues that no one had ever attempted to pull together all of the disparate, but key, published information on local Mississippian archaeology to formally assess whether a chiefdom level polity, in the true modern anthropological sense, actually ever existed in the Cumberlandia region. In Chapters VII – IX of this book, Mr. Ball makes the first archaeological attempt at actually doing this formal synthetic analysis. His detailed archaeological analysis results in the positing of a paramount chiefdom that for a while (1050 – 1250 A.D.) held significant socioeconomic and sociopolitical sway over the entire Cumberlandia region. His results indicate that the center of authority for this paramount chiefdom was the ranked lineage elite who lived at the large and quite famous Mound Bottom site (40CH8) in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Whether you agree with his analysis and its results or disagree with them, they are important in the annals of Middle Tennessee archaeology for being the first formal, unified, published attempt at such an analysis.

Mr. Ball completes his book with an appended collection of interesting papers and lists on various archaeological subjects relating to the main body of the text. This book has 12 interesting appendices ranging from ancient human remains preserved in Copperas Cave to a long list of ancient mineral springs in Cumberlandia, which could have been used for Mississippian salt procurement. One particularly interesting paper deals with Mississippian period animal effigy tetrapodal ceramic vessels, primarily crafted in the shape of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). This is a must read paper with many photographs of such vessels. Archaeologists doing research on ancient dogs in North America will no doubt enjoy reading this paper.

Tracy C. Brown

President

Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute

Why Do So Many Professional Archaeologists Dislike Irresponsible Artifact Collectors?

El-Hibeh

Sad Results from Looting of the El Hibeh Site in Egypt

This question has numerous answers—and I could write you out a whole list of reasons based on about 50 years of personal experience with both professional archaeologists and artifact collectors. In my opinion, one of those reasons is what I call whataboutisms. They usually begin with the words:

Now, what about this situation?

Numerous whataboutisms usually arise under circumstances where a professional archaeologist is attempting to answer deeply probing questions posed to him or her by artifact collectors.  The collectors are convinced that the laws and regulations applicable to hunting for artifacts on federal or state lands contain potentially beneficial loopholes that might allow a person to collect artifacts on such lands—and take them home without getting arrested, prosecuted, and convicted. From the collector perspective, the key thing is to ask the right probing questions so the archaeologist will be tricked into revealing the supposed loopholes in the law. Some irresponsible collectors feel that whataboutisms are the clever Socratic way to go about this. Let’s do a hypothetical example of a whataboutism?

Now, what about this situation?  Let’s say I have a friend named Buford, and he is just an occasional collector. He sometimes uses indelible ink to write a catalog number and his name on his artifacts.  Now Buford has a bunch of artifacts in a box in the trunk of his car, which is parked in the woods right next to his house. Buford doesn’t know it, but that box has a hole in one corner of it. When he takes that box out of his trunk and carries it toward the house, a really nice 3 -inch drill drops out of that hole onto the ground without Buford noticing it. Later that afternoon, one of the last surviving ivory-billed woodpeckers lands on a low-hanging, rotted tree limb in Buford’s woods. That limb and the ivory-billed woodpecker crash onto the ground just right—and the business end of that drill gets rammed clean up that woodpecker’s rear end. He gets frightened and flies off with that drill still stuck up his anus. Now, what if that same ivory-billed woodpecker flies straight from Buford’s woodland driveway over to TVA land? He lights on a tree limb, has to poop, and when he poops, that ancient drill fires straight out of his rear end and right smack dab onto that TVA land. Let’s say that later that morning, I’m walking across that TVA land, look down, and see that drill on the ground. That drill doesn’t belong to TVA. It belongs to Buford, and his name is written right there on it. Under ARPA or those other federal laws, can TVA arrest me for picking up that drill and taking it home with me?

The archaeologist smiles and quietly thinks to himself  or herself:

Oh no.  Whataboutisms.  My God.  Get me outa here.

Then the archaeologist attempts to answer the question—and just as he or she finishes—another collector raises his hand and says:

Now, what about this other situation?  Let’s say…

Then he or she attempts to answer that question—and just as he/she finishes—another artifact collector raises his hand and says:

  That’s interesting.  Now what about this situation.  Let’s say…

Why do questions like this encourage professional archaeologists to dislike irresponsible artifact collectors?  Here are my three opinions on the matter:

(1)  Questions like this are not easy to answer—if they even have an answer—and it forces the archaeologist to speculate about a situation that has probably never occurred or might never occur—and any answer offered might be wrong—and maybe even the people at TVA or an attorney could not clearly answer a question like that.

(2)  Questions like this are asked by artifact collectors who are desperately trying to find some sneaky way—any way they can possibly identify—to break cultural resources protection laws and get away with it. People who are in the serious business of protecting and preserving cultural resources see such questions for what they are—and they do not like them.

(3) People eager to spend a whole afternoon asking questions like this instantly identify themselves to professional archaeologists and government agency representatives as: People I might need to keep a close eye on and ask my agency enforcement authorities to be on a close lookout for when they come onto agency land. Knowing for sure that people like this are lurking around looking for opportunities to  break the law and get away with it would make any responsible archaeologist or agency representative feel—uneasy.

You know what is going to happen now—right?  Later today, my Microsoft Outlook inbox, a ringing telephone, or the comment space below this main blog post is going to have a message for me:

Hey there.  You remember that big peckerwood with the ancient drill rammed up his anus?  What’s the real life answer to that question?  I really need to know.

How would I know?  How would any other archaeologist know the answer to that or 1,000 other similar whatboutisms that you, Bugs Bunny, or the ghost of Walt Disney might dream up?  Give me a break!!!  Give everyone a break!!!  Please!!!  LOL

Photograph Credit: El Hibeh Group

Old 1930s Archaeology Film about Moundville

Late this afternoon, Mr. Donald B. Ball, a professional archaeology colleague in Louisville, Kentucky, sent me a hyperlink to an old black and white film about Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) archaeology at the Mississippian period Moundville site (1TU500) in Moundville, Alabama. I have been around things archaeological in nature for most of my life, but I had never seen this old film. It occurred to me that you might not have seen it either.  This really interesting film dates to 1937, and you may watch it by clicking on the white triangle below.

It shows the Moundville site actually under excavation by CCC members in the 1930s, discusses the human mortuary remains, shows artifacts in situ, and ends with a close pictorial examination of Moundville ceramic vessels—some of which I had never before seen.  If you love Mississippian pottery, I think you will love this old film. It runs about 18 minutes in length, is well narrated, and covers a lot of ground. Some of the anthropological and archaeological opinions expressed in this old film would not hold up to academic scrutiny today, but time and understanding always march on together.

Please note that the film will appear to end about two-thirds of the way through it.  This is some sort of break or splice point in the film.  When it comes, just hang on for about a minute or so and keep watching.  The film will resume on its own.  Have fun watching the film!!!

 

See the New Website for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute

Good morning.  The Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute (ORARI) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has upgraded its website to a new and much better looking WordPress format. You may visit our new website by clicking on the safe link below, but before doing that, you really do need to read the rest of this blog post below the link and then come back up to here and click on the link when you are finished with the reading. Otherwise, you will miss a lot of important and interesting context. Here is the safe link to our new website, and please be sure to click on all of the buttons at the top of our main page so you do not miss anything:

https://archaeologyinoakridge.wordpress.com/

Several important and attractive changes have been made to improve the website and make it more inviting to visitors. Here are a few of the changes and some related observations:

(1) The official logo image for ORARI has been changed.  The old logo image, the incised scene on the long-missing Madison Tablet, is now gone forever. Given the questionable origin of the Madison Tablet, the ORARI logo was changed to something more clearly and definitively associated with the prehistoric past in Tennessee. I grew up in Sumner County, Tennessee, and the new logo involves a well-known prehistoric archaeological site in Sumner County that is near and dear to my childhood heart. I put a lot of late night archaeological research, Exacto knife precision, pigment selection, and careful colorization effort into creating the new logo. The story behind its almost-from-scratch creation is provided in the form of a short but interesting archaeological essay under the Logo button on the new website. If you would like to read it, just click on the Logo button at the top of the page when you visit the new website.

(2) Some mighty strange coincidences happen in life. For example, I have a doppleganger who lives here in Oak Ridge.  I was standing in a checkout line at the Food City store here in Oak Ridge one day about 20 years ago. The woman standing right in front of me turned around suddenly, looked straight into my face from only 15 inches away, and said, “Well, aren’t you going to say hello?” I had never seen this lady before, so I asked how she knew me.  Then she said: “You must be kidding!!!  I worked for you for eight years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.” Then there was that time at the Walgreens prescription counter. I stepped up to the counter for the first time, and the pharmacy technician said: “Why are you back here?  I told you your prescription would be ready in just a few minutes!!!”  I shrugged in startled disbelief—and told her that I had just arrived. Then she got upset and wanted to argue about it.

It had to happen—eventually. It was a Saturday here in Oak Ridge, and I was standing at the meat cooler in Kroger. I happened to glance across my right shoulder and saw a guy standing at the end of a grocery aisle about 30 feet away.  It was ME!!!  I kid you not!!!  He was an exact phenotypical carbon copy of me in all respects—like we were identical twins who had been separated at birth. Even his haircut was like mine—with the same part in it. His beard was the same.  He was even wearing clothing items that were exactly like ones I owned. It was so shocking that I just froze in place in bug-eyed amazement. To this day, I still do not know who this guy is or where he lives.

Why am I telling you this story? Well, my daughter, Ms. Leah C. Decker, has an equally amazing doppleganger. The WordPress Lodestar format that I used for the new ORARI website comes with a teal-shaded cover page photo of a young woman working at a computer station. My daughter has long, straight, blonde hair now and sometimes wears glasses. The young woman in the WordPress stock photograph looks exactly like my daughter (with glasses on) in profile view. I was planning on using a different cover photograph for the new ORARI website, but after thinking on it for a while, I decided to go with the Lodestar stock photograph because my daughter volunteers at ORARI in her spare time, helping out with computer issues, photography, and graphics. In addition, she sometimes serves as a volunteer archaeological field technician for ORARI. I love my daughter and enjoy watching her work. Whenever I go to the new ORARI website, it is nice to see “her” working for us on the cover page.

(3) The old ORARI website was drab and poorly illustrated—with only one old black and white photograph that was historical rather than archaeological. Otherwise, it was all words. Our new website is much better illustrated and more colorful with many paintings, photographs, drawings, and graphite rubbings. Some of these illustrations involve archaeological work ORARI is doing, and others are items associated with the unique history of Oak Ridge and Tennessee.  These illustrations are strategically placed throughout our various web pages. Each illustration has an interesting story associated with it. If you would like to know more about the various illustrations, just click on the Website Graphics Log button. Each illustration is presented again there along with its unique story.  If you love Tennessee archaeology and history, I think you will have fun reading these brief stories.

(4)  The Archaeology in Tennessee blog  is now five years old, and ORARI is four years old. Yes, it has been that long!!! Blog visitation and views have far exceeded my original expectations. I have sat here for all of those years writing blog posts; creating the ORARI organization from scratch; helping colleagues, friends, and strangers with Tennessee archaeology issues; peer reviewing colleague papers for publication; and doing all sorts of other useful things in support of Tennessee archaeology and history. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that most of you have never seen the place where my work is done. Therefore, I took some office photographs for you. If you would like to see them, just click on the Office button at the top of the new ORARI website.  When you get there, please notice the large framed poster of the antlered American Plains Indian shaman by Frank Howell. I am not normally a believer in silly conspiracy theories or paranormal activity—but there is something really strange going on with that poster. Be sure and read our paranormal activity footnote at the end of the Website Graphics Log section.

As an addendum to that footnote herein, this was the only corner of the office where I could not get a decent, nongrainy photograph with my Canon SLR camera. It may just be the fact that this office is a poorly lighted and framed-reflective-glass nightmare. Perhaps I am just not the world’s best photographer. However, it is at least marginally possible that the shaman and weird paranormal activity in that corner of the office might have been at work on my camera.

(5) Humorous Confession Time: Many of my colleagues in American archaeology, especially in the world of CRM, believe the world of American business does not take American archaeologists seriously. Therefore, when not covered with dirt from a 2-meter square, we archaeologists must strive to always “look professional” and present to the business world a very serious public image that jibes with that of the typical be-suited CEO or corporate attorney. If we look like that and present an image like that, someday we archaeologists will receive the same level of high corporate respect other professionals receive in the business world.

As many of you know, I left American archaeology for a very long time to pursue a separate career as a corporate environmental scientist. When I worked for Science & Technology, Inc. and Battelle Memorial Institute (the world’s largest not-for-profit research organization), I took on that deadly serious private sector professional image. I was expected to do so and wanted to do so. I had to dress up every day in really nice dress clothing (like our dapper, bow-tie colleague Jeff Chapman has always done when not working in the field) and play that very serious corporate role with our many clients—and I did it very well and quite comfortably—and enjoyed it for many years. However, I must honestly say that my clients did not respect me and my colleagues because of the professional image we presented to them. They respected us because we were professional scientists who did an excellent job for them on their various projects.

I later worked for similar environmental organizations that did not require us to dress and behave that way. The respect factor did not change when we dressed down and behaved far more loosely and casually with our clients. The key factor in that sustained level of respect over time was not a matter of presenting a serious professional image. The respect was entirely a matter of who we were as people, our chosen professional discipline in science or engineering, and the high quality of the work we did for our clients.

Therefore, I do not share this notion that archaeologists, particularly CRM archaeologists, will someday receive the private sector respect they crave just because they present a professional image that rivals that of a corporate CEO or attorney. Based on my own experience and that of my environmental science and engineering colleagues, I think the whole notion of it is pure bullshit. If American archaeologists, particularly CRM archaeologists, do indeed suffer from some sort of Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome, the problem is not one of professional image. The problem is that few people in American business take archaeology itself seriously. (Been there.  Seen that.) No amount of professional image polish and presentation is going to change that sad fact. If we want corporate CEO or attorney-like respect as archaeologists, we need to find a way to make private sector businessmen and businesswomen fall in love with the ancient past, American archaeology itself, and the quality of the archaeological work we do for them. When they come to love those three things together, they will love and respect us too.

Let’s be honest here. At heart, really at heart, most American archaeologists are fundamentally tee-shirt and a-good-beer people. We do not behave like corporate attorneys because that is not who most of us are as people. If anything, we are likely to tell a few corporate attorney jokes over that good beer at our favorite bar. I live in and do most of my archaeology work in a tee-shirt and shorts—sometimes even in winter—both out in the field and in my office.  So what is my confession?

Well, go to the Staff button on the new ORARI website and click on it. Nice photograph of me, huh? I am wearing an expensive pinpoint Oxford dress shirt and a tie worthy of any shelf at Brooks Brothers. It is the kind of image many archaeologists feel we need to project to our business public to gain respect. The truth? In that photograph, from the waist down, I am wearing shorts, socks, and a beat-up pair of New Balance cross-training shoes. My daughter Leah was visiting at our house that day and had a few spare minutes to snap a photograph of me for the blog. I shot back to our master bedroom, threw on a shirt and tie I almost never wear, and my daughter quickly snapped the picture. Who is that guy above my waist line in that photograph—the guy with the crisply starched and pressed shirt and the nice tie? Beats me man? I guess he is some archaeologist exhibiting his professional image. The authentic American archaeologist in that photograph is the guy below the waist line in shorts and grubby cross-training shoes.

(6) Most of the words on the new ORARI website are still the same as the ones on the old website. However, I did do some editing, clarifications, and other tweaking on them for the new ORARI website. We have a lot of new words in the Logo section and the Website Graphics Log section.  You might like to take a look at those.

I worked really hard on creating the new ORARI website.  It was done with the needs of the ORARI organization in mind, but it was also done with YOU in mind. By that I mean that I was trying to create a more interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and enjoyable place for you and the rest of the general public to visit—and maybe learn a few new things about Tennessee archaeology and history.

Much love to all of you and have a wonderful day.