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 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 nests) 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 Walking 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 a college 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 plans? 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.

Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month 2019

September is officially Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month (TAAM) in the Volunteer State. That month is upon us already—what a fast summer it was—and the month long celebration of Tennessee archaeology is already in full swing. My favorite aspect of the TAAM celebration is the blogfest where a Tennessee archaeologist or guest archaeology writer posts a new blog piece on Tennessee archaeology for each day in September. That is 30 blog posts plus an occasional bonus post that spills over into early October. You may visit the 2019 TAAM blogspot by clicking on the following safe link:

2019 TAAM Blogfest

Just to whet your archaeological appetite for the blogfest, Dr. Kevin  E. Smith at Middle Tennessee State University has just posted an update on his archaeological research at the Noel Cemetery in Nashville—a large Mississippian period site with huge mortuary significance. This blog piece is really excellent, and it involves some classic gumshoe archaeological detective work. You will love reading it!!!

Some additional information on TAAM 2019 and its associated activities is available at the Facebook page of the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA):

TCPA Facebook Page

One of those activities is a huge archaeological celebration being held at Pickett State Park in Pickett County this weekend (September 7, 2019). If you are interested in sandstone bluff shelter archaeology in Tennessee, you will want to attend this celebration and tour the new archaeology museum located near the main office for the park. This museum is in a former ranger residence house. I have yet to visit this museum, but from reading various snippets about it here and there, it sounds like a fun place to go and learn a few new things about Tennessee archaeology.

Beware: More on the Madison Tablet

Our past article entitled The Continuing Search for the Madison Tablet has been permanently deleted from the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. It now rests in oblivion. If any of you kind visitors or regular readers have ever downloaded a copy of this article to your personal computer, laptop, electronic tablet, smart phone, etc., I would kindly encourage you to destroy your copy.  I need you to do that so no person can ever find your copy and misuse it for supporting science denial, creation science/intelligent design (like that stupid Bible museum in Kentucky), or any other unscrupulous or nefarious purposes.  Just remember that I legally own the copyright to that article, and if I see you replicating (all or any part of it), using, misusing, or abusing it in any context without my written permission, you are going to court.

This message is for all artifact collectors and museums all across the United States and in foreign nations. If any person ever uses or attempts to use that article as “written proof” that the Madison Tablet is an authentic, prehistoric American Indian artifact, you need to walk away immediately and inform your fellow artifact collectors and museum personnel about the scam that someone is trying to unload on you. In the text of that article, it plainly says that the Madison Tablet may be a fake artifact. Neither is it a replica of any other prehistoric or historic artifact that has ever been deemed an authentic American Indian artifact.

We now believe that this incised limestone slab is at best some sort of weird garden rock or item of folk art that was made sometime in the 20th century—perhaps as part of a public school art class. Furthermore, it was most likely associated with one of the past Caucasian families that lived on the site where it was found during the Historic period (A.D. 1765 – 2019) in the Nashville area.

Note for the Owner of the Madison Tablet

After taking a closer look at the field circumstances under which the Madison Tablet (Figure 1) was found and after obtaining a better understanding of the person who found it in the field—and their now known inability to properly interpret what they were seeing in the field, I have concluded, beyond any reasonable doubt of my own, that the Madison Tablet is not a prehistoric or Historic period American Indian artifact. It is most likely an odd-looking piece of 20th century folk art, a piece of personal art created by a rather untalented student in a high school or college art class, or a decorative garden rock. In fact, for many years, a gardening and nursery business was located at the curb of Gallatin Road in a location very near to the large archaeological site where the Madison Tablet was found.

Madison Tablet

Figure 1. Freehand Drawing of the Madison Tablet

(Tablet Measurements are 14 in. x 10 in. x 3 in.)

As previously noted on this blog, the incisings on the Madison Tablet do not contain any of the typical artistic motifs and themes associated with traditional Mississippian period art in Tennessee or the American Southeast. In other words, the Madison Tablet does not fit in with the now well-understood canon of Mississippian period artistic styles and related mythologies. I now feel certain that my fellow professional archaeology colleagues here in Tennessee and elsewhere would agree with my revised assessment of the Madison Tablet. Indeed, I strongly suspect that my colleagues, bless their hearts, have been snickering and joking behind my back about what an idiot I was to even entertain the possibility that the Madison Tablet might be a piece of prehistoric art. Fair enough!!! This change of my mind is the primary reason why the Madison Tablet and the images incised on it were no longer used as the logo for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute after May 2018.

The Madison Tablet was found in 1968 at a time when massive earthmoving was underway on a portion of a large Mississippian period archaeological site in preparation for construction of a “big box” Zayre’s discount store, quite similar to K-Mart and Wal-Mart stores. This earthmoving had most likely impacted the human burial wherein the Madison Tablet was found. Given the presence of a Historic period component associated with the occupation of an old house on the site, such soil disturbance would easily explain the presence of the oddball artifacts found in the grave, including a complete broken-off rim from a Mississippian period ceramic vessel and a dinner table knife with a bone handle. Both the Madison Tablet and these other artifacts were likely redeposited in this human burial from some nearby location by the operation of large earthmoving equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes.

Finally, I feel fairly certain that the current owner of the Madison Tablet has seen my assorted metropolitan newspaper and social media pleas for the past 12 years—all pleas for him to get in touch with me and provide me with an opportunity to closely examine this tablet. For some unknown reason, this person has perpetually sat on their bottom and never gotten in touch with me—and so have his artifact collector friends who know he owns it. That refusal was certainly within their rights to do. I have no idea what their motives were, and I refuse to speculate any further on that matter.

For the current owner of the Madison Tablet, whoever you are, I have just one crystal clear message for you this afternoon. Here it is:

One thing all professional scientists know is that our understandings of various objects, phenomena, and processes change over time as we obtain more information and data——and revise our perspectives in light of it. This is normal in the world of science. My recently revised understanding of the Madison Tablet has hereby officially removed it from its former status as a quite possibly authentic prehistoric American Indian artifact. As a result of this change in status, the Madison Tablet that you bought from the late Danny Lea or someone else for $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, or $10,000 is now officially worth maybe—just maybe if you are lucky—$2.98, meaning just shy of three dollars. As the old saying goes, “Karma can be a real bitch!!!” Life is just like that sometimes.

I will close with a brief warning to the current owner of the Madison Tablet and all other artifact collectors who read this message. If the owner of the Madison Tablet tries to sell you this tablet as an authentic prehistoric American Indian artifact from a Mississippian period site in Tennessee, he will be committing a felony crime called fraud——-that is if he has read this blog article first. Any artifact collector who reads this message and is stupid enough to buy the Madison Tablet, or trade an authentic artifact for it, will lose a huge bundle of money or trade value for nothing. I know how much responsible artifact collectors try to avoid prehistoric artifacts that are not authentic. The Madison Tablet is now officially one that you definitely need to avoid.

Archaeology and the Oxford Comma


Most people have never heard of the term Oxford comma. Some of you know what it is when you see it, even if you do not know its name. Others of you never learned about it at all because your English teachers just gave up on you and your ability to remember where to insert it in a sentence.

I remember when that happened. It was circa 1971 here in Tennessee. That was the year Tennessee K-12 English teachers ripped the clothes off their bodies with their bear hands in great frustration because only three out of every forty students in a classroom could remember where to put it in a sentence. Standing there naked in front of their English classes, they and the English textbook writers got together and said:

Just forget that comma and leave it out.

Personally, I have always had a love affair with the Oxford comma. Whenever I am editing some fellow scientist’s work, which I have done very often across many years, it goes something like this with me:

Happy!!! Bouncy!!!  Happy!!!  Bouncy!!!  Happy!!!  Happy!!!  Bouncy!!! Bouncy!!! Blood Curdling Scream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not one of them again!!!!!!!!!  He left out the Oxford comma!!!!!!!!!!

(Editing is not just a job for me.  It is a highly emotional experience.)

What is the Oxford comma?  When you are writing a sentence and you string three or more items together in a series, the Oxford comma is inserted immediately before the coordinating conjunction  (and, but, or, nor, for, so, etc.)  Here is a good example:

John bought grapes, oranges, pineapples, cherries, and apples.

That last comma right before the “and” is the Oxford comma. That is indeed its official name in the realm of English literature and grammar. Anyone who writes scientific journal articles, reports, work plans, procedures, book chapters, and books should always use the Oxford comma to ensure their writing is crystal clear.

Really bad things can happen, and people can even get killed, if you do not use the Oxford comma regularly and correctly in your archaeological writing or any other scientific writing, especially in writing engineering manuals, ES&H plans, and industrial procedures.

How does omitting the Oxford comma screw things up? Check it out by clicking on the following safe link:

The Oxford Comma: A Science Writing Must-Have

Failure to use the Oxford comma in your writing can be extremely expensive. If you do not believe me, take a look at the horror stories in the article at the following safe link:

The Single Commas That Cost Companies Millions of Dollars

If you do not use the Oxford comma regularly in your archaeological writing, you need to start doing it. A famous old saw says:

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

My favorite Princeton University alumnus, an English major and fellow writer who detests opaque scientific writing, had something different to say:

Clarity in writing is next to godliness.

Some American archaeologists aspire to becoming gods in their discipline. Please do not ask me why—because I do not know. When I was in college studying anthropology and archaeology in the 1970s, the reigning god of American archaeology was Lewis R. Binford at the University of New Mexico. (Young archaeologists tell me there is no reigning god in American archaeology today.) Binford was a poor writer. He became a god by creative thinking and hiding his poor writing from his fellow archaeologists and the American public. His first wife (Sally Binford) cleaned up all of his messes on paper before they were issued as final documents. If you want to obtain god-like status in American archaeology and do it the right way, reach for clarity by using the Oxford comma regularly in your archaeological writing.

Warning: Field Archaeology and Blood-Sucking Arachnids

It is springtime in Tennessee!!! Actually, as far as the weather is concerned, spring came in early February here in East Tennessee. Spring, summer, and early autumn (the warm months of the year) are the most important times for doing field archaeology in Tennessee and throughout much of the southeastern United States. Summer has traditionally been the highest activity period for field archaeology. Field archaeology is associated with numerous environment, safety, and health (ES&H) issues. One of those issues involves blood-sucking arachnids and the transmission of dangerous and debilitating diseases.

The folks at Georgia Outdoor News have just published a really interesting and up-to-date article on this subject. It is a must read item for anyone planning to do field archaeology in overgrown fields or woodland/forest environmental settings. You may read this excellent and timely article by clicking on the following safe link:

Danger of Life-Changing Illness from Tick Bite

This article is not just for professional archaeologists. It is for any young person who has enrolled in their first archaeology field school class. If you are one of the many Tennesseans who likes to participate in the major archaeological site tours (really hikes) led by archaeologists at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology or an archaeologist at one of our colleges or universities in Tennessee, the above article is for you too. Indeed, it is for anyone who has ES&H concerns and associated plans for warm weather outdoor activities in Tennessee or any other state where these little blood suckers live.

An Unusual Bifacial End Scraper from 40DV434


This is a complete and very unusual bifacial end scraper in the overall shape of an elongate trapezoid―with the small end of the trapezoid being the base of the end scraper at its proximal end.

It may have been knapped from the broken-off distal end of a very thin, narrow, lanceolate pp/k of indeterminate type, time period, and date. The tip end of this broken-off distal pp/k forms the base (proximal end) of the end scraper.

The proximal end of the end scraper is a long, narrow, thin stem that is slightly expanded on one of its lateral edges and straight on the other lateral edge. The stem is 7.5 mm in length. Moving toward the distal end of this end scraper, along both lateral edges, the stem ends with opposing half notches in each lateral edge. Two opposing full notches (one on each side) are located just beyond the half notches, meaning this scraping implement required a long stem and double notches for secure hafting.

Still moving toward the distal end, the lateral edges of this implement continue expanding outward toward the wide bit end of the end scraper. This bit end is gently excurvate, and it has a vertical slope of approximately 45°. A small nick is present on one lateral edge of this end scraper, and another one is present near the center of the scraping edge. The sloped scraping edge is smooth from wear. This small end scraper [33 mm long × 22.3 mm wide (bit end)] is remarkably thin (6.5 mm maximum thickness).

The prehistoric time period and prehistoric cultural association for this end scraper is unknown. Site 40DV434 is a multi-component site. The most intensive occupations of this site occurred during the Middle Archaic and Late Archaic periods. Only one radiocarbon date is available for the Archaic period occupation at this site. This date was obtained from a human bone collagen sample (Burial 57), which yielded a date of 6601 – 6280 cal BP (Deter-Wolf and Straub 2019:26).

An interesting question arises here. What type of prehistoric scraping task(s) would require so strong a haft for such a small and delicate scraping implement? Quite frankly, I have never seen such a small and delicate bifacial end scraper with double hafting like this one.

Any criticism of the above text is welcome, especially with regard to the notion of it being knapped from the broken off distal end of a thin pp/k. I know I am on thin ice about that—–more intuition than any hard evidence observable on the artifact. What do you think? Comments are open.


Deter-Wolf, Aaron and Leslie Straub 2019. Archaic Shell-Bearing Site Investigations in the Middle Cumberland River Valley. In The Cumberland River Archaic of Middle Tennessee, edited by Tanya M. Peres and Aaron Deter-Wolf, 15-41. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida.

Some Archaeological Ramblings: “No. I Do Not, and How Big is Yours?”

by Tracy C. Brown

Golly!  Am I ever glad to be retired—finally. If I had known 46 years ago what I know now, it is highly unlikely that I would have ever pursued an education and a career in American archaeology. Most likely, I would have settled for a B.S. degree in geology and maybe an M.A. in education—and set my eyes toward finding a steady, reliable career as a journalist, church pastor, environmental geologist, or high school earth science teacher. Fortunately, just in the nick of time, I bailed out of archaeology for many years, beginning in 1982, and later had a 27-year run as an environmental scientist doing work on well-funded federal environmental projects. The work was relatively steady, and I was paid very well for what I did—with wonderful fringe benefits.  It was great!!!

As a teeny bopper (wet behind the ears) way back in 1971-1972, I had a true passion for the subject matter of American archaeology—and I still do. However, I never dreamed that so many other factors would intervene on my early plans to be a professional archaeologist. For example, I did not know it would be so very hard to one day get a job with the title Assistant Professor in the department of anthropology at an American college or university. Yes, if you want to do that today, a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University, the University of Michigan, University of California (Berkeley), or some other such stratospheric place really is your best option if that is what you want to do. The colleges and universities that can afford to pay you really well in terms of salary and benefits look first to hire new professors from just such places.

No. Suicide is not an option for you if you have a new Ph.D. from some lesser university, and you cannot find a job as an Assistant Professor. No one should ever sacrifice their life because of anything to do with American archaeology. Far better and happier things to do for a living—and play—are out there on the American landscape. Go find them. I did——and I did not have to get more college degrees to do it.

Furthermore, so long ago, I had no idea that a time would come when so many archaeologists could not find steady jobs, or they would have to live like American nomads as CRM archaeologists. You know how it goes—a three-month CRM job in Ohio and another six-month job with another CRM company in Louisiana—forever and ever on the road—and just how will you get that U.S. mail forwarded to the six different places you will live in next year. It goes on and on like that with low pay until you either die fairly young like my old friend Harley Lanham did, or you quit and do something else happier, easier, and more profitable. If you try to start an archaeology blog, forum, website, or Facebook page on-line, CRM archaeologists really wish this on you deep down inside:

M-a-a-a-a-a-n. I don’t wanna read stuff like this. Why don’t you turn it into an open-jobs-in-archaeology bulletin board? I need work m-a-a-a-a-a-n. My trowel’s gonna rust before I find my next short-term job.

Then—for me—came the totally unexpected or not-well-thought-out things. They might come your way too. Therefore, if you are thinking about a career in archaeology, please listen closely while I tell you about some of them. You might want to consider such things as part of your own life planning.

Archaeological fieldwork? I was an excellent and highly dependable fieldwork guy who was not a slacker and always went the extra mile to help my fellow excavators in the field. My fellow fieldworkers and I always got along very well and happily with each other in the field——no interpersonal drama——no trouble at all——no complaints. However, much to my surprise, I was one of those people who discovered along the way that I neither liked nor enjoyed doing archaeological fieldwork. If you are a young person and are thinking about a future career as a professional archaeologist, I strongly suggest that you take an archaeological field school course as early as possible, preferably in your freshman year of college, if they will allow you to do it that early in your anthropology curriculum. If you find out that you do not enjoy doing field archaeology, then run away fast. Do not waste your college money on more archaeology courses. Try out some other aspect of anthropology or switch to another college major that shows potential for a happy work life.

Then there was coping daily with a chronic disease I never really expected to have—but later understood had been present for a very long time. I will not write anymore about that disease and the coping here, but I may do so someday in another blog post.

I have a hyper-sensitivity to poison ivy. The poison ivy, often present on archaeological sites, made it clear that archaeological fieldwork was no place for me. I had to get injections and take pills for the big breakout caused by poison ivy roots in my excavation squares at the Icehouse Bottom site (40MR23) in 1977.

Dr. Terry Ferguson’s horror story football hand, courtesy of Big South Fork archaeology and poison ivy, was about all I needed to see beyond that experience at 40MR23. Terry lived right next door to me at one time in west Knoxville. I was lying on the sofa in my living room one weekend afternoon when he came over to show me his super-swelled hand. It looked just like an NFL-regulation football wrapped in Caucasian skin. I had never seen anything like that before that precious moment, and I have never seen anything like it since that moment.

The late archaeologist Bob Pace, a friend of mine for many years, was doing a Phase I survey for my company on the proposed site for the Spallation Neutron Source on the Oak Ridge Reservation in summer 1997. I was the archaeologist on staff at my environmental services company, and my boss ordered me to go out and supervise Bob and his field assistant. At one point in the survey, Bob tried to climb up a short cliff by grabbing onto huge, thick, old-age poison ivy vines with super-large leaves. I tried to keep him from doing it——all the while frantically thinking:

Bob!!!  What in the hell are you doing!!! You’re gonna get Ferguson Hand. Oh my God!!! I may have to see another Ferguson hand!!!

Bob told me later that he was one of that wonderful group of nonallergic people who never get poison ivy breakouts. I am not sure that I really believed him—and kindly asked him to avoid coming too close and asked him not to hand me anything. The oil in poison ivy spreads on the same model as radioactive contamination.

One day I paid a visit to my medical doctor, Dr. Tom Jenkins, in Oak Ridge. I was there for something simple like renewing a prescription. It was warm weather, and I was wearing shorts that day. For no apparent reason, Tom looked down at my knees. He wanted me to stand up and then lie down—and he then examined my legs and knees in various manipulated positions. He then said:

Yep. You have definitely got it. No doubt about it. Well, I’ll tell you one thing for sure. With this particular biomechanical syndrome, you sure as hell better not take any job that requires you to work bent down on your knees a lot—like laying flooring. You’ll be one physically messed up man in your later years.

Field archaeology is a down-on-your-knees job. Fortunately, I was long out of most field archaeology by that time and working an environmental office job here in Oak Ridge. Getting out of hard-core field archaeology (long ago) had been the right medical thing for me to do.

As some of you know, I am the President of a small organization called the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute (ORARI). Retired scientists here in Oak Ridge create small businesses or small organizations like mine, often working out of their homes, to extend their scientific research or engineering efforts into their retirement years. ORARI allows me to do some of that now that I am an old guy. The ORARI website is at the following safe link:

With the possible exception of construction work, I have long suspected that American archaeology is the only field of endeavor where nearly everyone is sniffing around more or less constantly for their next archaeology job. It also may be the only field of endeavor where people measure themselves against other people in the discipline according to the criterion of penis size.

Yes, American archaeology is the only discipline I know of where both the male and female practitioners have a penis. Both male and female archaeologists participate in this tried-and-true penis measurement exercise——so sorry to say. I have worked with all sorts of other people in all sorts of different scientific disciplines across my long scientific career here in Oak Ridge. I have never seen any of this penis size stuff going on with my nonarchaeology colleagues——never.  What do I mean by this?

Every few days, a person who has never visited the Archaeology in Tennessee blog or the ORARI website shows up for their first visit. (My WordPress statistical packages tell me so by where certain people head to first). The first place they head to is any clickable tab that indicates or suggests active archaeological projects. Why there? Such visitors are archaeologists wondering if I might have a current or upcoming archaeology project that is hiring new people——and they need a job——often desperately.

The next tab these same people head for is the “My Profile” tab to see if I am anyone important in American archaeology——all the while wondering if their archaeological penis is bigger than my archaeological penis. After reading my short biographical sketch, they immediately bypass the links to my archaeology resume, my environmental science resume, and my Linked In page——and head straight to my publications list. You see. In American archaeology, the importance or unimportance of a person is judged by the size of their archaeological penis. The archaeological penis is a person’s publications list. He or she who has the largest number of archaeological publications——with the highest project complexity and the best quality reports——published in the most highfalutin places——has the biggest archaeological penis. Just like the pubescent kid caught masturbating by his mom, each of these archaeologists would quickly say:

Oh…….uh…….I was just looking to see if you have published something really interesting that might be useful for my research.

Sure you were. That is what they all say, but you are not fooling me. I have been around American archaeology and American archaeologists far too long across my lifetime. I know how you think and the things you most value. Archaeological penis size is one of those things you most value. You use the results from the Archaeological Penis Comparison Test (APCT) to feel good about yourself and to give yourself a little pat on the back when your archaeological penis turns out to be bigger than that of another archaeologist. If another archaeologist has an archaeological penis that is big enough, and you are not deeply jealous of it, you might even say to yourself:

Hey! I might need to get to know this person a little better.  He might be useful to me someday.

Ah-h-h-h-h!!! Now we have come to another repetition of that key word——useful. Unfortunately——today——many so-called archaeological friendships, if you can call them that, are based on one-way human usefulness. That highlights the other thing I know about numerous professional archaeologists. They tend to be takers and users who suck a person dry for information and data pertinent to their own research, while being extra careful to give little back in return if you need something from them for your own research. Then, when the person is sucked dry like a candle fly under a spider, they will throw him or her away like a piece of trash. One would sincerely hope that human relationships (professional or otherwise) could be based on something better, less shallow. and more virtuous than that kind of behavior.

But hey, you guys know me from my past writings, and some of you know me personally. You also know that I have had a longstanding love—hate relationship with many things in American archaeology, so none of this should be surprising to you. I strongly suspect that many archaeologists have their own unique and quite personal love—hate relationships with many things in American archaeology. However, unlike me, you are careful to keep it clammed up inside of you for fear that even the slightest open expression of it might cost you your next job in American archaeology——and maybe your entire future career in American archaeology.

I wish it were not so for you, but that happens because American archaeology has so few practitioners—and nearly everyone knows everyone else in at least some capacity——-be it small or large. Furthermore, the small size of the archaeology discipline creates what amounts to a perverse system of classic European feudalism/manorialism in professional relationships where finite research territories are laid out and practitioners play the roles of  lords, vassals, and serfs. The Ph.D. archaeologists are the lords over their research territories, which are often vigorously defended in low-down ways. The M.A. archaeologists are their vassals. The vast numbers of so-called “common people” with B.A. degrees (or less) in archaeology are the serfs, often unkindly and disrespectfully referred to by the lords and vassals as mere “dig bums.”

I have never liked the term “dig bum” and see nothing funny or endearing about it. Its use is disgusting——plain and simple——like the n-word. I love, respect, and appreciate every kind-hearted person with a B.A. degree (or less) who does professional work on archaeological sites. Perhaps that is because I grew up as a poor kid in a rundown urban neighborhood on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. Every fiber of my being revolts at the existence of this Medieval social system in American archaeology in these post-modern times—and because of that (among other things)——I chose long ago to have zero part in it. My fundamental mindset is egalitarian in nature. I do not respect or bow down to college degrees or professional titles——nor do I expect their holders to bow down to me. I appreciate people for whom they are (the content of their characters)——not by what title they hold or what college degrees they possess.

I appreciate individual freedom and independence. I value the ability to speak out independently and publicly about archaeological issues that concern me. I do not like being tied down by another person’s sense of their own importance or some overpowering personal agenda they might be pushing. Up until a few years ago, I spent my entire life worrying about all of the weird interpersonal and social crap that goes on in American archaeology——and sometimes hating myself for putting up with it——and I reached a point where I refused to do that anymore. I have decided to just relax and be comfortable being me. If you do not like that, as my close friend Dr. Patricia Cridlebaugh used to say, “…then that’s just tough darts on you.”

Just to quickly help you out and reassure you, neither the Archaeology in Tennessee blog nor ORARI has any open archaeology jobs——so you may kindly move on down the road until you find one. I feel sure a good one is out there somewhere, and it was made just for you. I wish you the very best of luck in finding it. If I can be of any reasonable help to you sometime, please let me know. Just click on the “Contact” tab in the black strip above if you would like to get in touch with me.

Finally, I can reassure you that your archaeological penis is far bigger than mine——no reason for you to even do the APCT with your publications list and mine. I do not care how big or how small your archaeological penis is. Archaeological penis size and today’s Medieval archaeological subculture of selfish taking and using are just not my thing. If I like you personally and you ever need a real archaeology friend based on something more genuine, loving, and profound than simply taking what you can and using people, you know where to find me.

Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists: Question No. 13

Question No. 13:

You professional archaeologists jaw bone a lot about federal statues and regulations that are designed to adversely impact us artifact collectors and our collecting. In easy language I can understand, can you define what you archaeologists mean when you use the words “statue” and “regulation”?  I always thought the federal government had one centralized place where all federal law is made. Then once a law is made, it automatically applies to all men, women, children, and organizations across the entire United States. Is that right?


No. That is not right. Federal law is highly complex, multi-layered, sometimes applicable to persons in one place but not in another place, and hard for a lot of people to understand. Off the top of my head, I am going to offer you some basic information about the federal legal system, mention a little bit about related state law, and throw in some archaeological information along the way. I will do that in easy language (best I can), but you will have to learn some new words along the way. My presentation is in a listing format. Here goes:

(1) First things first—–the word statue. Among artifact collectors and everyday citizens, I see this word quite often in written or oral discussions about federal law and artifact collecting. The on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “statue” as follows:

…a three-dimensional representation usually of a person, animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting.

The Statue of Liberty is just what the name says—a statue. The official Tennessee State Artifact named The Ancestor is also a statue. The word statue has nothing to do with the law. The legal word you need to use instead is statute, which is something quite different entirely from a statue. Look closely and notice that third letter “t” in the word. In the American legal system, the word statute refers to a law created by a legislative body. Statute is just a fancy word that is synonymous with the simple word law. Got it?

(2) At the federal level of government, a final statute is a law passed by vote in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate (both together constitute the U.S. Congress) and then signed into law by the President of the United States. The written text of a statute refers to itself as “the Act.” The overall process of voting on a proposed statute in the U.S. Congress and having the president sign it into law is called “enactment.”  Statutes are enacted.

A whole bunch of people on the street think federal statutes are short little statements of law like this ancient Jewish law from the 10 commandments in the Holy Bible. You know:

Thou shalt not kill.

Then—all done. Right?  Wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do you seriously think the federal government does anything that simple, short, and inexpensive?

In truth, the official text of most federal statutes is long, complex, and broken down into assorted sections and subsections identified by unique numbers and letters that constitute an outline of the statute. The text of each statute is written in that famous attorney language called legalese, which is often hard to understand if you do not know certain Latin terminology and are not accustomed to reading it. Because these statutes tend to be so long, they usually begin with a formal table of contents to ease reader navigation through the text. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 is a perfect example of a typical federal statute.

(3) What is a federal regulation? Federal regulations are different from statutes. Basically, a federal regulation is an administrative rule that is made by a specific federal agency to officially implement the requirements of a statute and ease management of the implementation process by employees of the federal government. The enactment of a statute is one thing, but implementing the terms of a statute within the federal government is quite another matter.

You might think of it like an exercise bicycle that comes to your house in a box—but you have to assemble all the parts yourself. The original engineering specifications for the bicycle are the statute. The makers of the bicycle parts have to meet those specifications according to a set and sequence of manufacturing rules inside a factory. The rules the factory workers must follow and the assembly instructions you must follow on that piece of paper in the bicycle box are the regulations.

The text of each statute contains within it a formal statement that legally delegates to a specific federal agency (e.g., U.S. Department of the Interior) the authority to implement the statute and create the new regulations necessary to implement, administer, and enforce the requirements of the statute. The formal word the federal government uses for the process of making new regulations, reviewing them, revising them, and issuing them in their final form is—get ready for a big new word—promulgation. Here is the proper language to use when  working with new statutes and regulations:

New federal statutes are enacted, but new federal regulations are promulgated.

Now, here is the most important thing to remember about all federal regulations. Because a statute (passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President of the United States) gives a federal agency the formal authority to create new regulations, these new regulations carry the full weight and authority of law—and they are legally enforcible by law enforcement officers and the federal courts—just like statutes. Using an automobile analogy, federal regulations are not the weak Cooper Mini of the legal world. They are just as important in the federal legal realm as the Rolls Royce statute. Federal regulations are also the law. The federal regulations promulgated by all federal agencies are available online in the Code of Federal Regulations, which you can easily Google. A particular set of federal regulations is cited according to the following alphanumeric format: 36 CFR 800. In this set, 36 is the number of the “momma” federal agency responsible for this set of federal regulations—the U.S. National Park Service. The CFR is a simple abbreviation for the Code of Federal Regulations. Number 800 is the part number that begins this set of regulations. This part has the title Protection of Historic Properties.

In summary, federal regulations usually have a “momma” statute that authorized their creation. A “momma” statute authorizes a specific federal agency to promulgate and administer a set of federal regulations. These regulations are the law too—just like statutes. Many different federal agencies promulgate their own very different sets of regulations.  Got it?  This where you say:

Wow!!! That must be a whole lot of different regulations covering all sorts of different stuff!!!

You are quite correct. If federal regulations were large steel bolts, there would probably be enough of them to sink a huge freight ship.

(4) All federal statutes and regulations are not created in one centralized place—and then they automatically apply to every man, woman, child, and organization in the United States. It is not that simple. Federal statutes are created on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., but the President of the United States usually signs off on them at the White House.

Federal regulations are written by federal employees with subject matter expertise and federal agency attorneys at widely distributed federal agency offices in Washington, D.C. and sometimes in other parts of the nation. It all depends on where the federal expertise is located for a certain type of regulation. Federal employees in different federal agency offices around the nation may help with drafting, reviewing, and revising regulations to be administered by their particular federal agency.

The applicability of a statute or regulation to a man, woman, child, or organization often depends on the specific subject matter and content of a statute or regulation. Some criminal statutes——like those covering theft of federal property——apply to everyone (with “sticky fingers”). No person or organization, anywhere in the nation, is authorized to steal federal property.

Other federal statutes and regulations are more specific. For example, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1984 (RCRA) and the regulations promulgated under it apply to persons and organizations who generate, store, treat, and dispose of certain quantities of solid waste. The formal regulatory definition of solid waste includes everyday garbage and solid and liquid hazardous waste and mixed waste. Mixed waste is solid or liquid hazardous waste mixed in with low-level radioactive waste. As long as artifact collectors are not doing something incredibly weird with their artifacts and artifact collecting, the RCRA statute and the regulations promulgated under it would not apply to them. Just in case you wanted to know, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary “momma” agency for the RCRA regulations. A federal agency that regulates radioactive materials may serve as a second “momma” for the mixed waste regulations. Sometimes two or more federal agency mommas are better than just one.

Therefore, some federal statutes and regulations may apply to everyone. These are often referred to as overarching statutes and regulations. Others may apply only to certain persons and/or organizations, depending on the specific contents of certain statues and regulations—and what some limited number of people or organizations are doing.

(5) Why did I write Items No. 1 through No. 4 (above)? Well, it has been my experience that both artifact collectors and archaeology students (graduate and undergraduate) have a really hard time learning about the federal legal system, how it is structured, and the nuts and bolts of how it works. Worst of all, I have had some really Close Encounters of the Truly Weird Kind (CETWK) with artifact collectors. 

One night a few years ago, I had a really tense encounter with an angry and highly agitated artifact collector who did not (and apparently could not) understand how federal statutes and regulations work and to whom they apply. He seemed to think that a big central law building exists in Washington, D.C. All federal statutes and regulations are created in that one building. They apply equally to every federal agency in the nation, every organization, and every person—no matter what their specific circumstances might be and no matter what the specific contents of the statutes and regulations say.

For example, let us say that the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States enact a federal statute pertinent to some important issue with cattle grazing that involves only the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on five large tracts of BLM land out West. The BLM then promulgates a set of regulations to implement the new statute. Of course, BLM is the “momma” federal agency for these new regulations. This highly agitated artifact collector was insisting that every other federal agency, organization, and person across the entire United States was equally affected by that BLM-specific statute and the regulations promulgated under it—and every American individual and organization had to get busy and obey them.

Even if a nice, retired African-American man named Zach, who was allergic to beef and had nothing to do with cattle, was sitting quietly on his front porch in Dothan, Alabama, he had to get busy and comply with that BLM statute and the regulations under it. Why? Just like I said, this angry, highly agitated artifact collector apparently thought all federal statutes and regulations emerge from one building in Washington, D.C., and they all apply equally to everyone in the nation. No matter what the circumstances, Zach has to get busy and obey them. TVA has to obey them. Artifact collectors in Georgia have to obey them. Your teenage daughter in Massachusetts has to obey them—even though none of these agencies or persons ever has anything to do with those five large tracts of BLM land out West.

Bullshit!!!!! If you are not in any way grazing or supporting the grazing of cattle on those five tracts of BLM land out West, then that statute and the BLM regulations promulgated under it do not apply to you. If the BLM promulgates its own cultural resource management regulations for those five huge tracts of BLM land out West, that does not mean that those same BLM regulations apply to cultural resources on TVA lands here in the East. BLM is a separate federal agency from TVA, and it has no statutory or regulatory authority over cultural resources on TVA lands. TVA manages its own cultural resources.

I think American artifact collectors—such as this agitated guy—would like to convince themselves that the federal legal system is very simple, easy to understand, and all encompassing. They want to believe that all federal statutes and regulations come from one central place. They apply equally to everyone—in the same way as a simple Biblical law such as: “Thou shalt not kill.” Thataway (as my dad used to say), artifact collectors at least have some hope of quickly and easily determining whether they are violating some federal statute or regulation pertinent to their artifact collecting. Unfortunately, for most artifact collectors, that is just plain not true. The federal legal system is highly complicated and difficult to navigate for the average man or woman on the street—including any artifact collector who is not an attorney.

(6) Let us cover one last but very important thing. This is the interface of federal laws with state laws. How many of you have ever heard of the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution?  It reads as follows:

Article 4, Clause 2. This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.    

Lovely that. Can you say “crash and burn”?  When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal, numerous states rushed to enact state-level anti-gay marriage laws to nullify the high court ruling. These efforts were sponsored by Republican state legislators who knew most of their constituents were dumber than potato peels in a trash can. These legislators full-well knew that the Supremacy Clause makes it illegal to countermand or nullify a federal law, treaty, regulation, or court ruling with a state law, state regulation, or state court ruling. They went ahead and did it anyway to fool their ignorant constituents and make it look like they were doing something important, effective, and wonderful——when they were actually doing no such thing. You know:

Ah!!!!! Honey child. I tried so very hard to protect you from those gay blades with that new state law, but somehow it just wasn’t in the cards. Knowin’ how hard I worked for you, you’ll be sure to support me come election time. Now won’t you honey child?

With regard to the federal statutes and regulations that apply to artifact collecting, the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution makes it illegal to enact a state law, promulgate a state regulation, or issue a state court ruling to nullify one of these federal laws or regulations. A state entity may go ahead and do so without any state official getting arrested. However, any such state action is doomed to crash and burn in the federal court system.

However, it is legal for a state legislature to do one really interesting thing with a requirement in federal law. For example, with regard to ARPA, no state can nullify or overturn the ARPA statute and its regulations, in whole or in part, because of the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution. However, it is legal for a state legislature to enact a state law and for a state agency to promulgate state regulations under it that make assorted aspects of ARPA apply more stringently at the state-level of law. In other words, if a particular clause in ARPA calls for an artifact collector to be kicked hard in the butt one time for some offense, the State of Tennessee can enact a more stringent state law and promulgate state regulations under it that require five kicks in the butt for the exact same offense at the state level of government. Ouch!!! To the best of my knowledge that has not occurred so far here in Tennessee, but it can happen if a state legislature, a governor, and a state agency responsible for cultural resources want it to happen.

Another thing to remember is the double jeopardy clause in the U.S. Constitution (Bill of Rights). This is the famous amendment that says a person, once acquitted of a federal crime, cannot be tried again for the exact same offense by a federal court. That is true at the federal level. However, the American legal system has multiple, vertically tiered judicial jurisdictions. This means a person who kills someone in a federal building in Tennessee can be acquitted of that murder in a federal court, but that same person can be tried again at the state level of jurisdiction for the exact same crime in a state court of law because murder is illegal at the state level of jurisdiction in Tennessee. The American legal system calls this dual sovereignty. The same principle applies to any federal cultural resource protection statutes or regulations that exist at the federal level—but also exist in state statutes and regulations. You might be acquitted of an offense in a federal court room, but if the State of Tennessee has statutes or regulations that forbid that exact same crime, you could technically be nailed good for the exact same offense in a state court. Ouch again!!!  To the best of my knowledge, that rarely ever happens—but it can happen.

Finally, if you take out your digger shovel and dig deeply into the bowels of the ARPA statute, you will see some very interesting clauses stating that a person can be prosecuted under ARPA for violating a state cultural resources protection statute or regulation. For example, if you are caught removing artifacts illegally from state-owned land in your state, you can technically be prosecuted for that offense under the federal ARPA statute. A now nationally famous artifact collector by the name of Art Gerber, who is now deceased, found that out the hard way. He was prosecuted successfully under ARPA for the violation of state cultural resource laws that applied to the removal of artifacts from a prehistoric mound on private land owned by the General Electric Corporation (GE) in Indiana. You may read about that in depth, from the professional archaeologist’s perspective, by clicking on the following safe link:

Residual Effects of Grave Desecrations: The GE Mound Case

As you might guess, I agree with the professional archaeology perspective on this famous federal court case.

Many American artifact collectors hold to a wholly different perspective on The GE Mound Case. If you are interested in that alternative perspective, you may want to check out the following two items:

The GE Mound Case by Jim Fisher

Buy and Read the Book Entitled: “The GE Mound Case: The Archaeological Disaster and Criminal Persecution of Artifact Collector Art Gerber”

There is no typographical error in that second item (above). The American artifact collector community contends that Art Gerber was not prosecuted in a federal court. To this very day, collectors maintain that the federal government applied federal law in a twisted manner to unfairly persecute Art Gerber for his role in the events that led up to The GE Mound Case.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion American artifact collectors have about the American legal system and how it works. As always, if you insist on collecting artifacts, please be sure that you do so in total compliance with all of the federal, state, and local statutes, regulations, and ordinances that are applicable to your collecting activities. These statutes, regulations, and ordinances are not designed to make artifact collectors feel miserable or angry. They are designed to protect nonrenewable cultural resources from destruction and to conserve them for future generations of Tennesseans and Americans.

I know many of you artifact collectors out there are also game hunters. You know what the word conservation means and how important it is to your game hunting activities. You would never kill off the last male and female elk in Tennessee. So, why would you kill off our last remaining archaeological sites?  Yes, I know:

‘Cause I wants me a really great artifact!!! Besides, if I killed off them last two Tennessee elks, I’d jist go a Elk huntin’ in West Virginia. Bwa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!!!!!!!

Responsible artifact collectors.  All of you know a few artifact collectors who are just like that guy. Why do you tolerate them?  Why do you keep them as your friends? Inquiring professional archaeologists would really like to know? Comments are open.

Message for the Person Asking Where the Thruston Tablet Was Found

The Thruston Tablet was found at some unknown location along Rocky Creek in Sumner County, Tennessee. The exact year in which it was found is unknown. In the year 1870, the state government of Tennessee sliced off that portion of Sumner County, along with pieces of land from other adjacent Tennessee counties, and combined these lands to create a new Tennessee county called Trousdale County. Therefore, today the location where the Thruston Tablet was found is in Trousdale County, Tennessee.