Jabberwock and an Issue With an Archaeological Site Name

by Tracy C. Brown

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” He chortled in his joy.

I am in the joyful process of analyzing a small collection of lithic artifacts from a multi-component archaeological site (40DV434) in Davidson County, Tennessee. Actually, the Jabberwock might argue it is really in Williamson County, but that would not be the only schizoid thing about this site. The lithic artifacts were collected from the ground surface of the site on August 17, 1972, which was about three days after deep plowing, disking, and a really good summer rain on 40DV434. The other schizoid thing about 40DV434 is its site name, and that is the subject of this post to the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. The primary purpose of this post is to set the record straight on the site name for 40DV434 so Middle Tennessee professional archaeologists, avocational archaeologists, and other folks will no longer be confused about the correct name.

About six months prior to this surface collection activity, several artifact collectors who lived in the Nashville area, led by Mr. Richard Norman (now a Nashville attorney) and Mr. Malcolm Parker (Director of The Parthenon), began excavation work on 40DV434. These were not 3-dimensional, spatially controlled archaeological excavations in the sense that we professional archaeologists apply today when excavating a site. However, this was also at a time when, for all intents and purposes, professional archaeology as we think of it today did not really exist in the Nashville area. Indeed, most of the known archaeological excavations and information concerning the Nashville area had been generated by 19th century and 20th century antiquarians, avocational archaeologists, and artifact collectors during the 150 years preceding 1972. Therefore, these 1972 excavations at 40DV434 were simply a continuation of that local archaeological investigation tradition.

The excavators at 40DV434 were interested in more than just taking home artifacts for their collections.  They actually took some notes on their excavations as they went along; paid for two of the first radiocarbon dates in Nashville area archaeology; prepared a short preliminary report on the site; made the report available to the public; and put many of the more interesting artifacts from the site on display in The Grotto Gallery at The Parthenon for public education purposes. This exhibit was present at The Parthenon for many years, and millions of local residents and tourists from all over the United States and much of the world viewed the exhibit.

After the excavations were completed, the preliminary site report was published (Parker 1974), and it has been cited occasionally by professional archaeologists and avocational archaeologists. In the years since 1974, it has become apparent that at least some professional archaeologists and avocational archaeologists are confused about the correct site name for 40DV434. Some have referred to this site as the Hart site. Some have referred to it as the Owl Creek site. Others have referred to it as the Hart site or Owl Creek site. This confusion is no doubt related to the card stock cover Malcolm Parker bound onto his written report. The top portion of his cover is a 1974 photograph of the backing in the exhibit case at The Parthenon. This photograph shows a hand drawing of an owl and reads as follows:

THE OWL CREEK PEOPLE 3660 B.C.

This was merely a reference to the various groups of ancient men, women, and children who occupied this site during prehistoric times―and nothing else. Below this photograph of the exhibit backing, the report cover reads as follows:

THE HART SITE AT NASHVILLE, TENN. 1972-1974

During the 1970s, I knew and frequently interacted with Malcolm Parker, Richard Norman, and several of the other people who were doing the excavations at 40DV434, so I know what I am about to say is an absolutely certain fact. Either informally or formally, 40DV434 was never named or referred to by the excavators as the Owl Creek site—not at any time whatsoever. From the very beginning, it was named the Hart site, and that name never evolved or changed at any time subsequent to when the excavations began in 1972. The site was named after Mr. Rodes H. Hart, the Brentwood, Tennessee, resident who owned the site in 1972 (Parker 1974). This naming of the site was both a courtesy and a memorial to the family of the man who provided permission to excavate the site and supplied some limited financial support for the excavation work. Therefore, henceforth and forevermore, professional archaeologists, avocational archaeologists, and other folks working with archaeology in Middle Tennessee and elsewhere should always refer to 40DV434 by its original and only correct name―the Hart site.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

How did the Jabberwock get mixed into this blog post?  In addition to being the Director of the Parthenon, the metropolitan museum of art in Nashville, Tennessee, Malcolm Parker was an occasional archaeological writer; a book reviewer for Nashville public radio and The Tennessean, an artist who enjoyed hand drawing with graphite and grease pencils, a published newspaper cartoonist with his own serial comic strip; a writer of feature stories for local newspapers; and a poet who wrote a substantial amount of very good poetry he chose not to publish for personal reasons. Lewis Carroll was one of his favorite writers, and he especially loved the Jabberwocky poem.

References

Carroll, Lewis 1983.  Jabberwocky. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. Available at the Poetry Foundation website: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171647. Accessed February 9, 2016.

Parker, Malcolm 1974.  The Hart Site at Nashville, Tenn. 1972-1974.  Metropolitan Department of Parks and Recreation, Nashville, Tennessee.

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