Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month 2020 Begins Tomorrow

by Tracy C. Brown

Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month (TAAM) begins tomorrow (September 1, 2020) all across the state of Tennessee. That is the good news. The bad news is that most of the in-person archaeological activities and public demonstrations, like those held in September of past years, have been cancelled for September 2020 because of the  COVID-19 infection risk. I think that was a very wise decision. Those governmental organization and private archaeological/historical organization managers who made it deserve a public safety award. The overall TAAM celebration is sponsored each year by the venerable and excellent Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA), but numerous other governmental and private sector entities join in each September with their own special programmatic contributions to the overall celebration.

I am happy to report that the annual 30 Days of Archaeology Blogfest is still being held as part of the 2020 TAAM celebration. Each day in September, a professional archaeologist, archaeology student, museum worker, or guest author writes a major blogpost summarizing one of their archaeological  projects or highlighting some special archaeological or museological subject of interest. The blogposts are almost always fun and interesting to the maximum, and they are usually accompanied with maps, photographs, and/or video clips. You may click on the following safe link each of the 30 days in September 2020 to read the blogpost for that day:

30 Days of Archaeology Blogfest 2020

The first blogpost will be available tomorrow at around 10:00 a.m., and a new blogpost will be available at about the same time each day for the next 30 days. Once posted, all of the blogposts remain permanently available to the public on the TCPA website. Information relevant to each blogpost is usually posted on the TCPA Facebook page, and people can post comments on each blogpost there. You may click on the following safe link to go there:

Facebook Page for the TCPA

Have fun everyone!!!

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Paleo-Indians: Famous 20th Century “Early Arrival Hypothesis” Wins!!!

by Tracy C. Brown

Wow!!! You may read a summary article about this new discovery by clicking on the safe link below:

Humans Reached the Americas 11,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought, Archaeologists Discover

You may read even deeper by taking a close look at the recent archaeological write-up in the journal Nature. If you do not have an on-line subscription to this famous scientific journal, you will need to go to the periodicals room of a large university library to find and read this particular issue. Most of the state university and large private university libraries in Tennessee should have a copy.

A Big “Thank You” for My Readers and a Few Choice Words about President Trump, the Upcoming 2020 Election, and Cultural Resources

by Tracy C. Brown

The Archaeology in Tennessee blog has experienced and is continuing to experience an enormous explosion in regular readership so far in the year 2020. I have no idea what is causing this large increase in readership, but I am glad to see it. Any blogger would be happy to see it, and I just wanted to pause for a moment and offer a heartfelt “Thank You” to every person who visits the blog and reads herein.

Who you are matters not to me. All people are welcome to read here. If you are a professional archaeologist, retired anthropology professor, archaeology student, museum director, museum employee, K-12 school teacher, K-12 student, amateur archaeologist, artifact collector, or ordinary American citizen, you are welcome to read here and learn new things. All that matters here is your continuing interest in Tennessee archaeology, American archaeology, archaeology in general, and American history.

I was not consciously aware of it until a few minutes ago, but the Archaeology in Tennessee blog just had a birthday. On June 25, 2020, this blog turned eight years old. That is right! The blog has been here for eight long years! Wow! Time seems to pass so fast when you are having fun.

How much longer will the Archaeology in Tennessee blog persist? No one knows——not even me. Some people in Tennessee would no doubt like to see it end today. So sorry to inform you, this blog is not going away anytime soon. Those few of you who have known me personally for many years know that two of my strongest personal traits are firm loyalty and dogged persistence. That was true back in my university archaeology days and throughout my past work life. It continues into my current retirement. With but few exceptions (like clearly hopeless causes or situations), I am the person who “stays with it” after everyone else collapses from exhaustion or just plain gives up and heads for home. Therefore, I intend to continue operating this blog for as long as possible. I suspect only extremely bad health or death will stop me, so please stick around folks and let us have more years of fun together with Tennessee archaeology.

Finally, I would like to offer an apology for not spending as much time as I should writing for the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. So, here goes: “I apologize.” Unfortunately, I may not be able to spend more time here for at least another four months. Why is that?

Well, I own and operate another blog with national and worldwide readership. Here is the safe link to click if you would like to visit that blog and do some reading:

Flee from Christian Fundamentalism

Over the past five years, that other blog has taken up an enormous amount of my time—–so much so that I have posted less on the Archaeology in Tennessee blog to make more time available to persist in posting there. For example, I have only 206 blog articles on the Archaeology in Tennessee blog but more than 700 articles on that other blog.

There is purpose in the work I am doing at the other blog. Christian Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals are the people who elected President Donald J. Trump in 2016. Everyone agrees that he would have never been elected president without this specific religious voting block, which is the core of his so-called political base in the United States. Some friends of mine, such as Reverend John Pavlovitz, and I have spent the past four years doing everything within our power on-line to fight against this Christian Fundamentalist and Conservative Evangelical religious faction and their religio-political power. You may visit the blog of Reverend John Pavlovitz (a.k.a The Pastor of the Resistance Against Trump) by clicking on the following safe link:

Stuff That Needs to Be Said

Right now, our goal is to do everything truthful, reasonable, and legal that is within our power to ensure that President Donald J. Trump is not re-elected President of the United States on November 3, 2020. People of a similar mindset at The Lincoln Project (a.k.a. Republicans Against Trump), and people such as Reverend Pavlovitz and I, have basically “pledged our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to this cause. In one way or another, we work persistently and doggedly at this effort day and night on our social media platforms.

I have numerous major reasons for engaging in this effort, and one of those reasons is the future of Tennessee archaeology, our historic properties, our other cultural resources, and the natural and social environment in Tennessee. President Donald J. Trump is——without any doubt whatsoever——a clear and present danger——to the future of Tennessee archaeology, Tennessee archaeological sites, our historic properties, and the natural and social environment of the Volunteer State——including the worldwide effort to fight against man-induced global warming. President Trump and his political enablers, such as “Moscow Mitch” McConnell and his radical right Republican cronies in the U.S. Senate, must go down at the ballot box on November 3, 2020. If we and other Americans fail in this nationwide effort, everything important the American people have rightly valued for the past 244 years may be lost forever in a second Trump administration.

Happy July 4th Holiday Weekend and a Newly Mutated COVID-19

by Tracy C. Brown

Hi everyone. I just wanted to take a few moments to wish you a happy July 4th Holiday Weekend. We are having a good time here at our house in Oak Ridge. I spent most of July 4th munching on Bar-B-Q and fixin’s and watching the all-day historical documentaries on The History Channel. George Washington. What a guy!!!!  When I look at his life, I have to wonder just how much lower President Donald Trump can go. He has already passed rock bottom and is now descending into the basement floors. George Washington would be so utterly ashamed to see that man sitting in YOUR White House!!!

The Brown nuclear family is still happy, locked down, wearing face masks, washing our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and doing social distancing when necessary to avoid the COVID-19 coronavirus. We hope you are doing the same!!!

As noted in a previous blog article, we did not cooperate with Governor Bill Lee’s premature, stupid, and reckless plan to quickly end the Tennessee lockdown and send Tennesseans back to work. To understand just how stupid and reckless it was, all you have to do is check out the latest COVID-19 statistics for Tennessee. You may see the latest daily COVID-19 statistics for the Volunteer State by clicking on the following safe link:

Daily COVID-19 Statistics for Tennessee

Tennessee is now one of the key states (like Florida, Texas, and Arizona) that is leading the summer 2020 nationwide resurgence of COVID-19 infections. Tennessee ain’t no safe place to be out and about, especially in any location that is indoors and crowded, such as a sit-down restaurant, favorite bar, church service, etc. Crowded outdoor events such as political rallies and concerts are not safe either.

You might not be aware of this, but it is true. Just a few days ago, scientists confirmed that the original COVID-19 coronavirus (Mutation D614) evolved into a new biological form (Mutation G614) in Europe sometime in late February or early March 2020—-and the new form then traveled on to the United States. The earlier Mutation D614 was responsible for the Wuhan, China, outbreak and the early infections in Europe and the United States. The new COVID-19 corona virus (Mutation G614) exploded in population and is now far more prevalent in the United States than the original COVID-19 virus. It is responsible for nearly all of the new COVID-19 infections we have seen since about the middle of March 2020.

There is both good news and bad news here. The good news is that Mutation G614 does not attack the human body more profoundly than the original COVID-19 coronavirus. The bad news is………well……..really bad. The new form of COVID-19 (Mutation G614) is three to nine times more transmissible than the original COVID-19 coronavirus. That means you can “catch your death” (old folk medicine language) three to nine times easier now than you could back in early March 2020. So, you need to be very careful dear readers——far more careful than you were back in early March 2020.

Archaeology Blogging: Two Things to Consider if You Want to Communicate with Me Here at the Blog

by Tracy C. Brown

I really enjoy hearing from the folks who visit and do reading on the Archaeology in Tennessee blog and the website for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute——for the most part. At both locations, readers have the option of making comments, which register themselves at the ends of particular blog articles or website pages. In addition, any person may click on the Contact Button at the top of any blog page or website page and use the e-mail address there to send a personal e-mail message to me. Sometimes, I will ask a person to contact me at my personal home e-mail address rather than at my work addresses. However, there are a couple of things I do not love—-very irritating things—–and you need to know about them.

(1) One reader left a comment at the end of the Regions of Focus page on the website for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute. I am not going to use his real name or handle name here, so I will just call him “Billy.” Here is his verbatim comment, which includes the original typographical errors:

Can you tie any specific Woodland or Mississippian cultures to Anderson County? I’m aware of the Owl Hollow and McFarland cultures that presumably built Old Stone Fort and on a larger scale, the Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient cultures. I also have learned about the Mississippian Dallas Phase Chiaha Chiefdom, Omalico… ect… but I can’t find any documentation on any specific cultures in Anderson County. Any ideas would be appreciated.

That was a nice question, a reasonably knowledgeable question (not that it had to be), and one that I could answer to a certain extent—–with some important nuances that deserved discussion. I preferred to respond privately by e-mail rather than risk a long response that might overrun any WordPress character limitations on the length of comment responses. I also wanted to ask Billy a few private questions. Here is the comment message I sent to Billy in response the next day:

Hi Billy. Thanks for commenting. Please send me an e-mail message at the following address so we can exchange a few messages and discuss this in more detail:

[My personal home e-mail address was listed here.]

Thanks!!! Have a wonderful day!!!

Six days passed, and I did not hear a word from Billy. Some people are shy and skittish about communicating with archaeologists, so I sent another nice comment to Billy:

What is the problem Billy? Send me an e-mail message. I am a really nice person, and I don’t bite. Answering your request here in the comments is not as simple and straightforward as you might think for a variety of reasons involving nuances and holes in Woodland and Mississippian research for Anderson County. I will be looking forward to hearing from you.

Months have now passed. I have not heard a word from Billy at my home e-mail address or anywhere else——and suspect that I never will.

Please dear readers. If you indicate you want to communicate with me in a comment or by e-mail, then please do it.  Follow through!!!  Please do not leave me hanging out here on the edge of a cliff waiting forever to hear back from you, especially if I have spent my personal time doing some extra research on your behalf. It is really irritating—-and if you irritate me like this for months on end——-like Billy did——I may not respond at all if you finally do get in touch with me.

(2) Please do not send me any blog comments or e-mail messages that are designed (cleverly or not so cleverly) to trick me into revealing to you the specific locations of intact archaeological sites so you (or you and your buddies) can go loot them for artifacts. As a matter of personal and professional policy, I do not give out the specific locations of intact archaeological sites to anyone who is not a fellow professional archaeologist or a deeply trusted avocational archaeologist who does not dig for artifacts. Purely for archaeological purposes, I and other professional archaeologists will sometimes (on a need to know basis) reveal a site location to a deeply trusted avocational archaeologist such as John Dowd or the late H.C. “Buddy” Brehm because we know them well and they share concretely in our professional archaeological ethics. Anyone else:

Rubber biscuit: You go hungry—–bawe, bawe, bawe!!!

Most other professional archaeologists abide by the same policy to prevent the looting of archaeological sites.

We professional archaeologists have seen or anticipated just about every minor trick and complicated ruse in the book, across many years, when it comes to strangers who want to know the specific locations of archaeological sites. I and all other professional archaeologists are always on hyper-alert for any aspect of communication with us that even remotely smacks of a desire to know intact archaeological site locations—and we are especially suspicious of strangers—-meaning people we do not already know. By intact, I  mean existing archaeological sites that still have fully intact or partially intact archaeological deposits that need to be preserved.

If you are a stranger and you contact any professional archaeologist with any sort of suspicious-sounding messages or questions, you may not receive any response at all. If you sound suspicious, some professional archaeologists will just flat-out stonewall you——and never respond. Academic archaeologists at colleges and universities are often so busy that they only respond to inquiries from their students and a few other professional archaeologists they already know. Numerous professors receive hundreds of e-mail messages per day. They cannot respond to all of them every day. It is just impossible to do it. Sadly, a handful of professional archaeologists will not respond to inquiries from the public (or even other professional archaeologists) because of personal ego problems that keep them from interacting with people they wrongly regard as mere “stinkards” in this world. (Check the Natchez historical accounts). You know how it goes:

Ah-ah-ah!!! Do not expect any response from me. I am a truly important archaeologist. I am famous. I am too good to interact with you and other people like you. Please. Do not contact me. Do not touch my Holy body. I have not yet ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father.

Many professional archaeologists will just automatically assume that any stranger who  contacts them is an artifact collector or artifact dealer minion who is acting under cover and up to no good. (Been there. Seen that.) In fact, such professional archaeologists often make the knee-jerk assumption that a looter has just contacted them and quickly fire an insulting message straight back to the person who contacted them. (Been there. Seen that one too.) Sometimes that stranger turns out to be a totally innocent person or a professional archaeologist they have never met (Uh-oh!!! Pie on face——Three Stooges style).

Personally, I do not like professional archaeologists who make a priori negative assumptions about the strangers who contact them—-and then automatically fire back insulting messages at them. As a matter of policy, I try not to make such assumptions because they can easily be wrong.

Instead, I first seek further information from any stranger who has contacted me. I nicely ask deep and incisive questions of that person. Based on the answers received, I carefully call around and otherwise check out the person and his background to see if he is a safe person or some bad actor who is likely up to no good. You would be surprised at how easy it is to find the real goods on a person just by making a few telephone calls, sending out a few e-mail messages to the right people, or investigating people on-line (either through pay people search services or just personal investigation on the Internet). If a stranger contacts me, but refuses to answer my deep and incisive questions, that person is not going to get very far with me on anything. They will certainly not get any archaeological site locations.

But hey. I am a nice and friendly kind of guy, and I really do enjoy hearing from my readers.  Really!!! All I kindly ask is for you to be polite when you contact me, be straight-up with me in your message, and avoid ulterior motives——such as wanting to know the specific locations of intact archaeological sites. Have a happy day!!!!

Message for President Trump, Governor Bill Lee, and Fellow Tennesseans: “Hell No!!! We Won’t Go!!!”

by Tracy C. Brown

How many of you remember the sociocultural turbulence of the 1960s? I sure do because I lived through it——-all of it. College students who were against the Viet-Nam War and did not want to get drafted into the killing fields of South Viet-Nam had a slogan that was regularly shouted as they burned their U.S. Selective Service System draft cards. That slogan was:

Hell no!!! We won’t go!!!

I have a message for President Trump and Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee with regard to their plans to quickly, prematurely, and dangerously end the COVID-19 lockdown in Tennessee on May 1, 2020. This is also a message for Tennessee business owners and all the citizens of Tennessee. Listen up and listen up good:

Hell no!!! We won’t go!!!

Our family is not going to cooperate with this premature reopening. It is both stupid and dangerous to go along with this reopening madness while COVID-19 infections are still rising in Tennessee. Indeed, Tennessee is one of the worst COVID-19-infected states in the American South with nearly 10,000 recorded cases and no clear end in sight for new COVID-19 infections.

I will not be going back to work at a paying job in Tennessee. (I am officially retired now.) In addition, our family will not be doing full business as usual with retail stores, sit-down restaurants, or any other American businesses. Businesses can open their doors and post “Open” signs in their front windows if they like, but we will not be going to their places of business as customers until COVID-19 recedes significantly and it is safe to do so. That will be many, many months from now because lifting of the current lockdown in Tennessee will make COVID-19 infections climb ever higher in our state. What should have been just two more months of lockdown in Tennessee will soon turn into official reinstatement of the formal lockdown and many, many more months of home isolation and social distancing for Tennesseans. This rapid reopening madness on May 1st is destined to backfire on President Trump, Governor Lee, and all the citizens of Tennessee.

The only business we will be doing is with our grocery store (rarely), our pharmacy (rarely), and our local Dollar General Store (rarely) [near and convenient in my neighborhood], an occasional restaurant takeout or delivery meal, and a mail order firm or two like Amazon——-if we happen to need something besides food or medicine. That is what we have been doing throughout the current COVID-19 lockdown, and that is what we shall continue to do—–along with the other members of our household. We are staying in full lockdown mode.

I shall not sacrifice my life and the lives of my family members to COVID-19——-just so some greedy millionaire or billionaire business owner——like Donald Trump or Bill Lee——can hurry things up and bathe in more riches at the expense of our suffering, our lives, and the lives of our friends and neighbors. Human lives are far more important than money and material things—–always. The Holy Bible and good common sense tell us so. Just ask any of the medical personnel who are working so hard to heal COVID-19 patients at your local hospital.

Would you like to know what is really driving this lunatic rush to ignore the advice of infectious disease experts, ignore the tragic COVID-19 infection statistics, and rush on back to work and business as usual in the private sector sphere? If you are a Christian Fundamentalist or Conservative Evangelical, you probably think the driver is something Biblical because you think President Trump is The Anointed One of the Lord. You would be dead wrong about that on both counts. The main driver is a corrupt, man-made, secular philosophy that is well known in the halls of the Department of Philosophy at your local state university. That philosophy is officially known as utilitarianism. Some of this philosophy can be good, but after a certain point, it has big moral problems. You may read about this philosophy by clicking on the following safe link:

The Dangerous Morality Behind the “Open It Up” Movement

It is my sincere hope that you and your family here in Tennessee will refuse to listen to the really bad COVID-19 reopening advice from President Trump and Governor Bill Lee. In fact, my best advice would be to simply forget that those two men even exist. Instead, you need to listen to the daily advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, and the rest of the medical doctors and epidemiologists on the federal COVID-19 task force. They have established a three-phase plan for safe nationwide business reopenings, and the details of that plan have been made available to American business owners and the American public. Governor Bill Lee’s hair-brained plans for early reopening of Tennessee businesses are not in compliance with these federal plans. In fact, they are far from it!!!

I believe President Trump is using Tennessee and Georgia as guinea pigs in a bizarre personal experiment aimed at determining what would happen if all American businesses were to suddenly and fully reopen right now. I suspect Governor Bill Lee and the Governor of Georgia are complicit in this bizarre experiment under behind-the-scenes political threats from President Trump. Despite any other thing he might say, deep in his heart of hearts, President Trump wants the United States fully open for business right now—and yes—I firmly believe he is willing to risk your life and the lives of your family members in a macabre state-level experiment to see if it is possible to do so. That is why he is so hot to make Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas reopen first.

President Trump’s sole major desire is to be re-elected President of the United States on November 3, 2020, even if your life and the lives of your family members must be sacrificed to achieve it. In the moral squalor of his mind and the depths of his personal selfishness, he knows that his re-election is unlikely to happen with a locked-down economy.

Please do not risk your life or the lives of your family members as part of this dumb and dumber Trumpian experiment in the premature reopening of Tennessee and American businesses. Continue your home isolation, hand washing, social distancing, mask wearing, and all other valid human health recommendations until Tennessee and the other states fully comply with the CDC reopening plans and their appropriate timing, as laid down by Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, and their team members. You will be saving your own life, the lives of your family members, and the lives of many other Tennesseans.

Which One Came First in Tennessee: The American Indian or the Flint?

Uh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h? Okay. Without getting into the famous terminological argument of flint vs. chert, the first flint (as you call it) arrived in Tennessee through purely natural geological processes many, many, many, many millions of years before the first American Indian (or Native American) arrived in Tennessee circa 11,000 B.C. (13,000 years ago).

Anything older than about 13,000 years ago crosses the line into a debate that began in the middle of the 20th century. When this debate began, it was called the Early Arrival Hypothesis vs. the Late Arrival Hypothesis. I have no idea what the Paleo-Indian archaeologists call that debate now—about 70 years later. However, the approximate 11,000 B.C. date (or thereabouts) is the earliest first arrival date that is definitively known for Tennessee. The actual earliest arrival date for Tennessee is still an open question with no firmly decided upon answer. My heart has always been with the Early Arrival Hypothesis, but the hard evidence has always been—at least in my mind—a bit sparse, threadbare, and questionable to one degree or another.

I guess you can tell that Paleo-Indian archaeology in Tennessee or anywhere else is not one of my favorite subjects that I spend a lot of personal time studying or pondering. If anyone has more up-to-date Paleo-Indian information for Tennessee, please provide it in the comments.

The World Famous William M. Bass III Collection of Native American Skeletal Remains from South Dakota Is Heading Home to the High Plains

Yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail message containing a bit of shocking news from a fellow archaeologist. He was passing on a message from an old friend of ours, Dr. Tony Cavender, who is an Emeritus Professor of Cultural Anthropology at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. The William M. Bass III Collection of Native American human skeletal remains, which has been housed by the Department of Anthropology at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) for the past 50 years, is leaving for the Northern High Plains in Spring 2020.

Two Native American tribes (Arikara and Mandan) will be happy to receive and rebury the skeletal remains of their ancestors. I understand why this needs to happen. However, strictly from a general scientific standpoint and my personal scientific viewpoint, it is kind of sad to see them go.

It was one of the largest Native American skeletal collections in the United States, and this collection was a tremendous nationally and internationally recognized scientific resource. Thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in physical anthropology and American archaeology cut their baby teeth in anthropological learning via this wonderful collection. Dr. Bass used elements of it to teach me and many other archaeology students the fine art of identifying and siding human skeletal remains—particularly badly fragmented remains. In addition, we learned how to determine age at time of death, sex, and stature. We also learned how to identify paleopathological lesions and how to perform standard anthropometric measurements on crania and other complete bones in this collection.

I would also like to add the fact—and it is a fact—that Dr. Bass (a.k.a. Dr. Death) taught us to always treat these Native American remains with gentleness and respect because the bones of each person represented the ancient loved ones of our Native American friends and neighbors. In other words, each set of human skeletal remains represented a flesh and blood person who was deeply loved and cared for by the members of their families and tribes. Long ago, tears and heartfelt human grief were associated with the death and burial of each person.

Therefore, no weird college student horseplay or careless shenanigans were ever allowed or tolerated with the elements of this skeletal collection or any other human skeletal collections in the Department of Anthropology at UTK or at the on-campus Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. Any shenanigans, horseplay, or failures of respect with these collections would have incurred a certain student death sentence from Dr. Death——all students understood that——and they also understood that no college student on Earth had ever tasted true death until they had experienced it at the hands of Dr. Death. Needless to say, the collections remained safe, and no students died. Dr. Bass made sure the skeletal collections at UTK were appropriately curated and cared for at all times.

You may read a short news article from the Cable News Network (CNN) about the impending departure of the William M. Bass III Collection from UTK. Please click on the following safe link:

2,000 Native American Remains, Which Sat at a University for 50 Years, Will Soon Go Home

Easy Access List——Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists


How Archaeology Is Like a Math Test

We get numerous visitors and views at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog each day of the year.  However, I have noticed that very few visitors ever read our 13 blog articles (thus far—and more to come) in our ongoing series of articles entitled Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists. Over my past six decades, most artifact collectors and other citizens I have ever known hope for an opportunity to pose a few questions to professional archaeologists, and they hope even more to obtain a longer and better answer than what they often get. I had hoped this series of blog articles would answer some of the common questions artifact collectors and ordinary citizens on the street often ask. Perhaps you found it hard to navigate from one question to another on this blog.  If that was so, I kindly apologize and have a solution to the problem.

It occurred to me that I could make such navigation much easier for you by creating a list of the questions, stating the main subject matter of each question, and leaving you the proper hyperlinks to click on——and go immediately to whichever questions interest you. I have done that for you in the list below. Have fun—and if you think of any new questions you would like to ask, you may click on the Leave a Reply button to the left under the title of each blog article and leave a comment containing your question. You may also send a question to me by e-mail.  Just click on the Contact Button at the tops of our blog pages. Here is the list of questions and the safe hyperlinks to click:


Question No. 1

Archaeologists, How They Work, and Their Rectangular Artifact Curation Boxes



Question No. 2

Misunderstandings and Weird Interactions Between Professional Archaeologists and Artifact Collectors



Question No. 3

Why Archaeologists Write So Much!!!



Question No. 4

An Endless Supply of Artifacts for Artifact Collectors



Question No. 5

The Importance or Unimportance of Artifact Rescue



Question No. 6

Artifact Collector Suggestion on How to Seek Vengeance Against Professional Archaeologists



Question No. 7

How the Word “Looting” Is Actually Defined in American Archaeology



Question No. 8

A Legendary Archaeology Book



Question No. 9

Archaeology, Artifact Collecting, and Playing Social Roles



Question No. 10

Famous Archaeologists’ Con Game to Steal Artifacts from Artifact Collectors and Citizens



Question No. 11

A Few Thoughts on On-Line Artifact Collector and Treasure Hunting Forums



Question No. 12

Why Your Artifact Collector Buddy Was Arrested



Question No. 13

Some Basics on Understanding Federal/State Laws and Regulations Affecting Artifact Collecting



Question No. 14

“We Artifact Collectors are Better Quality Human Beings Than You Archaeologists: You Archaeologists Hide Most of Your Great Artifacts from the Public—but We Artifact Collectors Put our Artifacts on Display for the Public to File Through and View. Nya-Nya-Nya-Nya…..Nya.”

Next Question to be Addressed—TBA


An Unusual Circumstance in the History of Tennessee Archaeology

by Tracy C. Brown

Brown and Chapman II

(Left) Graduate Student Tracy Brown and (Right) Dr. Jefferson Chapman at 40MR23 in the Summer of 1977

The Archaeology in Tennessee blog presents this reminiscent blog article and the accompanying photograph as its official contribution to Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month for September 2019.

Do you have one or more favorite subjects in Tennessee archaeology or American archaeology? I sure do. The history of Tennessee archaeology is one of my favorite subjects. To be quite honest, I never expected to have any sort of appreciable, front-and-center recognition for my small role in that history. However, on that count,  a strange circumstance and fickle fate caught me by total surprise one day between 10 and 15 years ago.

On that particular day, I was in the midst of performing archaeological research here in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and it suddenly became necessary for me to examine some items on file in the archaeology laboratory at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture on the main campus of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). When I arrived at the museum, the laboratory double-doors were locked, as they always are, even when multiple people are working inside. Therefore, elsewhere in the building, it was necessary to find a museum employee who already knew me to gain quick entrance into the laboratory.

I proceeded into the laboratory, face moving forward, and continued on my business of finding and examining files. After being there quite a while, I happened to turn my head back toward the entrance doors and—much to my surprise—there it was! Someone at the museum had used a plot printer to print out a huge (4-ft X 2-ft), poster-size version of the above photograph showing Dr. Jefferson Chapman and me examining a large sherd of prehistoric pottery. This photograph was tacked to the back side of one of the laboratory entrance doors, and it remained there for many years. Dr. Chapman soon entered the laboratory that day, and I just had to ask the obvious question. Out of the thousands of 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s photographs taken during the Tellico Archaeological Project, why did the museum feel compelled to pick out that one photograph, blow it up to poster size, and tack it to a laboratory entrance door?

According to Dr. Chapman’s response, they were looking through the old Tellico Archaeological Project photographs for some university public relations event, and they suddenly noticed something important—and even a bit shocking. The field photographs for the Tellico Archaeological Project contained no clear, outward visual indication that UTK archaeologists or UTK student archaeologists were wearing or wielding anything clearly showing that UTK personnel were part of the Tellico Archaeological Project. For example, no UTK archaeologist or UTK student archaeologist appeared to have been photographed wearing a UTK tee-shirt or sweat shirt while doing archaeological fieldwork on the project. After looking through all of those old Tellico archaeology photographs, I was the only person who just happened—quite by fickle fate—to be wearing a University of Tennessee tee-shirt when doing Tellico archaeological fieldwork—and at the exact same moment when an official visitor to the site needed to take an archaeological photograph.

Solely for the history of Tennessee archaeology, let us take a closer look at the above photograph and its contents. This photograph was taken in June 1977, during the Tellico Archaeological Project. The Department of Anthropology at UTK was conducting excavations for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that summer. Our first excavations of the season were conducted (as shown in the photograph) in the Middle Woodland component at the Icehouse Bottom site (40MR23) near Vonore, Tennessee. Dr. Chapman was the Principal Investigator that summer, and Ms. Patricia Cridlebaugh was his Field Director.

The main channel of the Little Tennessee River was located approximately 31 meters to the right of the location where Dr. Chapman is standing in this photograph, and our waterscreens were operating only a few meters to the right of where Dr. Chapman is standing. I was working at the waterscreens in the late morning when an official photographer (probably from TVA, the National Park Service, or National Geographic Society) arrived at 40MR23 and wanted to photograph what we were finding. Because I was working close by, Dr. Chapman quickly asked me to come over and be part of the shot. In the photograph, Dr. Chapman and I are holding a large ceramic sherd from one of the 5-foot excavation squares in the background. It was most likely a sherd of sand-tempered Connestee series pottery dating to the Middle Woodland period. (In the old days, southeastern archaeologists used the English system of measurement rather than the metric system, and the standard southeastern excavation square measured 5 feet X 5 feet).

Now, we take a close look at the objects and people in the background of this old photograph. Please take a look at the instrument with the white legs? That was our analog transit, which was used to take horizontal and vertical measurements on our site and to maintain 3-dimentional spatial controls on our excavation work and what we were finding. The digital Total Station most archaeologists use today either did not exist in 1977, or it existed only as a very early version that was far too expensive for UTK to purchase. (Personally, I suspect Total Stations did not even exist at that time.) One of the quirks of the old analog transits involved summer heat. The instrument would get so hot under a blazing sun that it required manual recalibration several times per day to maintain the consistency and accuracy of the field measurements taken with it.

Summer of 1977 was my happiest, ever before and ever after, site excavation work in Tennessee archaeology—with one very important exception. The excavation units at 40MR23 had poison ivy growing at the ground surface on top of them. Its roots extended straight down into the soil about 46 to 71 cm. Apparently, I was the only person on the site who was allergic to poison ivy, and as a  direct result of troweling down squares, I was soon taking steroid injections and prescription pills to deal with a major-league breakout from skin contact with the poison ivy roots. All of those poison ivy block chemicals young archaeologists slather on today to prevent breakouts did not exist way back in 1977. Neither did many of the modern UV-ray blockers, which protect skin from sunburn and skin cancer.

Those thick, gray and yellow, parallel lines far in the background of this photograph are limestone rip-rap and loose, hay-covered soil to prevent soil erosion.  They are associated with Fort Loudoun, which was under archaeological excavation by Dr. Karl Kuttruff and his large field crew. Fort Loudoun was a British colonial fort built and occupied by colonial militia from South Carolina in the middle 18th century.

The one thing that rendered these 1977 Tellico excavations so much fun was the unique collection of people on our field crew. We all got along fabulously with each other, and as Patricia Cridlebaugh noted in the Acknowledgements section of her final written report on our Middle Woodland excavations at 40MR23:

My deepest appreciation goes to my field crew who daily performed professionally; often gave more than required, and worked, lived, and played together in unity and good harmony despite an oppressively hot, dry summer. To always have a crew comprised of Bob Asreen, Tracy Brown, Mona Butler, Judy Canonico, David Denny, Leslie Hickerson, Vera Mefford, S. H. Roderick, and Kathy Sarten would be the ideal. Each crew member possessed at least one skill at which he [or she] excelled; however, since a crew runs on its stomach, Sarten’s excellent culinary skills deserve special mention. Also, a very special thanks goes to Judy Canonico who worked harder than the rest of us even though she did so for room and board only.

The people (left to right) in the background of this old photograph are Vera Mefford (a UTK archaeology student wearing her authentic pith helmet), David Denny (a tall UTK archaeology graduate student who had a wonderful sense of humor), Judy Canonico (with her signature white head bandana and navy blue overalls), and probably Bob Asreen (standing next to Judy on her right and slightly behind my shirt sleeve). Patricia Cridlebaugh, Leslie Hickerson, and Mona Butler are working in excavation units somewhere farther to the right and behind me in the photograph.

Ms. Sarten and Mr. Roderick were stationed at our archaeology field camp and its archaeology field laboratory, located far away by road from 40MR23, on Highway 72S, right next to the Carson Island Baptist Church. It was an evangelical church camp with individual wooden cabins. Each cabin (and its interior overhead wasp colonies) could sleep eight archaeologists in bunk beds. The camp also had a separate, wooden kitchen building with a large, screened-in dining area and another large, separate wooden building that served as our archaeological field laboratory. Our camp also had two widely separated concrete block restroom/shower buildings, each associated with the all-male and all-female cabins. The male cabins were distributed in a straight linear pattern along an old fence line on the north side of the camp. All but one of the female cabins were distributed in a long arc behind the kitchen/dining building. The camp cook occupied a more isolated cabin right next to the kitchen/dining building.

With the possible exception of a tiny office in the field laboratory building, our Tellico field camp facilities had no air conditioning. During one week of the 1977 field season, the temperatures (not the heat index) climbed to 100 degrees F. or more—and stayed there for several consecutive days. On one day, which was a regular fieldwork day for us, we had a recorded temperature of 107 degrees F. That was the summer Elvis Presley died. At the end of that long, hot day in the field, we sat around the tables in the dining area—baking in the late afternoon heat—eyes glazed over—staring blankly into the distance—and listening to the latest radio news reports on the death of The King of Rock and Roll. (Think archaeological zombies and The Living Dead.)

Tennessee archaeology and American archaeology students need to know something important. On some of your worst days, I know many of you quietly mumble the following question beneath your breath like so many other college archaeology students have done in the past:

Is there some sort of worthwhile life out there for me after being an archaeology student?

The members of our 1977 Tellico archaeology field crew pretty much proved that there is, but you have to be smart, focus down, and work hard to make it come true. Our Tellico camp cook (Ms. Kathy Sarten) and I got married (for 40 years now), and we both had long and successful environmental science careers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Judy Canonico went on to earn a B.S. degree in nursing and worked successfully in the healthcare field. Together, Vera Mefford and her husband (David Mefford—now deceased) started their own corporate consulting company and successfully provided values-based management and employee evaluation/improvement training to major corporations and small businesses. Mona Butler went off to The University of Texas at Austin (UTA) to get an M.A. degree in anthropology—but soon switched over to the law school at UTA. After earning her J.D. degree, she went on to become a highly successful attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia. David Denny moved back to his native Virginia and became a successful businessman.

Patricia Cridlebaugh, who was a very close and dear friend of ours long after 1977 at Tellico, went on to become the first-ever woman to earn a Ph.D. degree in anthropology (archaeology concentration) at UTK. She worked happily in southeastern archaeology for a number of years, but unfortunately, “Pitty Pat” (a nickname Leslie Hickerson loved), died young from colon cancer in the very early 1990s—leaving behind her beloved dachshund named Bentley and our mutual close friends who lived near her in South Carolina—Wayne Roberts and Carol Roberts. Even now, after 30 years have passed, we all have days when we feel a bit hollow inside over losing Patricia—and would do just about anything to see her alive again. Patricia was a very special person, and those of us who knew her loved her.

Dr. Jefferson Chapman moved on to become a Research Associate Professor of anthropology at UTK, and he later became the Director of the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. Under his long, wise, and dynamic leadership, the museum improved by leaps and bounds and turned into one of our nation’s best university museums. He retired in September 2019. Whoever succeeds him (be it a man or woman) will have some mighty big shoes to fill.

Unfortunately, we lost track of Leslie Hickerson, Bob Asreen, S.H. Roderick, and their accomplishments across several decades, but they were all outstanding folks,  and I feel certain they were successful in whatever they chose to do in life. Mr. Roderick no doubt retained the same placid face and stiff upper lip for which he was so famous among the members of our field crew.

Historical Lessons Learned:

(1) If you are doing archaeological fieldwork for your university, college, museum, or CRM firm and you feel that you will one day need to use fieldwork photographs for historical, marketing, public relations, or other significant purposes, make sure at least one or more members of your field crew are photographed wearing one of your university, college, museum, or corporate T-shirts on site during the excavations. Future historians of Tennessee archaeology and American archaeology will be glad you did, and that tee-shirt may even be a major clue a future archaeological historian can use to solve a problem in their research. Needless to say, it would be better if the people on your field crews are not photographed wearing tee-shirts or other clothing representative of other universities, colleges, museums, or CRM firms.

(2) Students who are new to Tennessee archaeology are sometimes unaware of the fact that they and their actions are actually creating history and creating (or adding to) Historic period archaeological components. We Tellico archaeology folks contributed our own part to the Historic period component at our archaeology field camp. Our old field camp is still completely above the high water line of Tellico Lake, but all of the wooden cabins and other buildings, which in retrospect were so near and dear to us, were torn down decades ago. The field camp soon became enshrouded with massive vegetation growth. In the early 1990s, Kathy and I picked our way through some of that vegetation to see if any archaeological surface features from our old field camp still existed. All we could find was the poured concrete floor of the screened-in dining room. The vegetation was too thick to search for the concrete floors of our laboratory building and the two restroom/shower buildings. Our cabins had wooden floors poised on corner piers of rock or concrete blocks.

The members of our many Tellico archaeology field crews are now old men and women in their middle 60s and 70s—and probably a few in their 80s or dead. A couple of years ago, I kindly asked Dr. Chapman to look through the official Tellico archaeology photographs to see if he had any candid shots of the kitchen/dining building and candid shots of people in our Tellico archaeology field camp. He could not find any.  Apparently, no one ever bothered to create an official historical/archaeological record (with photographs) for our Tellico archaeology field camp. That is not surprising. When we, as young people, were working, living, and playing there, it seemed so very “ho-hum” current and unimportant.

Now that 43 years have passed us by, Tellico archaeology is seen as a major part of the so-called Second Golden Age of Tennessee Archaeology. Our old Tellico archaeology field camp, and even the nearby Carson house, which housed the Toqua field crew at one time and the Fort Loudoun field crew, are now unique and important aspects of the history of Tennessee archaeology.

All Tennessee archaeologists and historians—you and I—and especially our young folks—need to be more cognizant of the fact that we are not just passing through Tennessee history. We and our activities are creating Tennessee history and laying down new archaeological components or new portions of already existing archaeological components. In the present, we should be recording and photographing what we are doing for posterity—like we should have been doing at our Tellico archaeology field camp.

For example, do we have exterior and interior photographs and recorded information on the West End Avenue building (in Nashville) that housed the Tennessee Division of  Archaeology Office in 1972? What do we know about that office building? Was it state-owned or just rented by the state? Does the building still exist? Do we have its floor plan? Do we know which rooms were the offices of Mack Pritchard and John Broster? I know that would have sounded so very unimportant in 1972—and perhaps even now to some. However, I can guarantee you a Tennessee archaeological historian or historical archaeologist in the year 2210 will be willing to give her eye teeth for those simple bits of information.

We who live in the historical and archaeological present need to be more mindful of recording the seemingly unimportant historical and archaeological details of the present as a gift to future Tennesseans. What seems so current, “ho-hum,” and unimportant today will be important to someone in the future.

Photograph Credit: Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture, Tellico Archaeological Project, Tennessee Valley Authority, and whoever else took official photographs for the Tellico Archaeological Project in 1977.