An Important Note on the Christmas Time History of Oak Ridge

Christmas at Oak Ridge Post Office in 1944

Christmas Mailing at the Oak Ridge Post Office in 1944

It is Christmas season in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and I have been cleaning up my office at the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute (ORARI).  A couple of months ago, I ate lunch at the historic Jefferson Fountain, which is located on Jefferson Circle. As I was getting into the ORARI archaeology van to leave, a nice man by the name of Lloyd E. Stokes stepped up to the van and introduced himself. Lloyd is affiliated with the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association. He had not yet heard about ORARI, and was surprised and very happy to find an archaeologist living and actively doing research in the Oak Ridge-Anderson County area.  He gave me his business card and a copy of a nice new publication entitled the Manhattan Project Secret City Pocket Guide, which is a synoptic guide to the history of Oak Ridge during World War II.  As I was finishing up my cleaning job this evening, I ran into this publication once again, thumbed through it, and saw an interesting human behavioral item relevant to one of the earliest Christmas times in Oak Ridge. Before presenting this item, a little background information is necessary for you to understand it.

I grew up in the Central Basin Physiographic Province of Middle Tennessee. This province consists of the Inner Basin and the Outer Basin. The Inner Basin is well known for isolated ecosystems that are referred to as cedar glades. Cedar glades are both small and large areas of land where eastern red cedar trees (Juniperus virginiana) grow in large numbers (Figure 1). The soil in these areas has a high calcium content, and Ordovician limestone bedrock is usually exposed on the ground surface or located under the ground surface at shallow depths.  In the botanical realm, red cedar trees are often referred to as calcifers because they require a lot of calcium from the soil to thrive.


Figure 1.  Eastern Red Cedar Christmas Trees

Red cedar trees are also very common along rural fence rows in the Central Basin and in the adjacent Highland Rim Physiographic Province, which is underlain by geologically later limestone formations.  Song birds eat the seeds on the red cedar trees, fly off to perch on local barbed wire fences, and sometimes defecate whole seeds that are still viable along the fence rows.  These seeds sprout and populate the fence rows with long lines of red cedar trees.  Red cedar trees also grow individually and in small groups in open land that has sufficient calcium and other nutrients for their growth.

The City of Oak Ridge is located in the Ridge and Valley Physiographic Province of East Tennessee.  Many Tennessee citizens are not aware of this fact, but Oak Ridge has protected cedar glade areas within its geographic limits.  In addition, red cedar trees in this area grow along rural fence lines and in many open areas where the underlying bedrock is either limestone or dolomite. The young red cedar trees in the Central Basin and Highland Rim Physiographic Provinces have a deep, rich, heavy, evergreen aroma that diffuses throughout the air inside a warm home, and this aroma is the very essence of Christmas. Unfortunately, and I know this from personal experience, the red cedar trees that grow in the Ridge and Valley Physiographic Province are far less aromatic than those in the Central Basin and Highland Rim. Just speculating, this may be a result of some subtle ecological difference between these physiographic provinces.

In the 19th century, the red cedar became the traditional pioneer Christmas tree in Middle Tennessee and here in East Tennessee. This is not at all surprising because of their natural abundance.  The young red cedar trees were often just the right size and shape for a wonderful household Christmas tree. They were easy to cut, easy to transport by hand—and that evergreen aroma—oh my goodness!!!  Even well into the 20th century, they were the Christmas tree of choice at my home in Gallatin, Tennessee, and at my grandmother’s house on top of the Highland Rim near Bethpage, Tennessee.  I dare say that they had been the continuous historical Christmas tree of choice ever since the Brown and Durham families first arrived in that area of Tennessee in the early 19th century.

Oak Ridge and its massive government facilities under the Manhattan Project were built—more or less—all at one time between 1943 and 1945. They were constructed on a combination of government-confiscated farmlands and associated woodland areas. The “streets” and other areas of early Oak Ridge were often referred to as seas of mud because so many areas were stripped of vegetation and subject to massive earthmoving as part of the local construction efforts. National security concerns were paramount and constant because of the war effort, and the government security apparatus was clamped down tightly on the local residents to prevent the release of Top Secret information and to maintain a rigid sense of social order within the new community.  It was quite literally a Secret City surrounded by a security fence. The 75,000 residents were people who had emigrated in from all parts of the United States, including many parts of Tennessee.

With all of the foregoing as background information for you, here is the small Christmas item, left over from the World War II era, that was reprinted in the recent Manhattan Project Secret City Pocket Guide. Notice the stern tone of the U.S. Army intelligence officer who wrote this item to the citizens of Oak Ridge.  I feel certain that Ebenezer Scrooge could not have done it better—and yes—he is talking about naturally growing red cedar trees of a certain small size and shape that were still alive and located within the Oak Ridge security fence.  Get a load of this:


Cutting of Christmas trees within the limits of the reservation is strictly prohibited.  Methods and means are in effect to apprehend offenders and severe reprimand may result.

Efforts are being made to have a supply of trees for sale in the near future at a nominal price and full cooperation is expected.

That is truly dismal wording for Christmas time, when lightheartedness and joy were the normal civilian fare outside of the security fence in Knoxville and the other surrounding towns.  I still wonder how many small spruces, pines, and firs the U.S. Army was able to bring in and sell to the early residents of Oak Ridge.  If you consider one Christmas tree for each family of four, it would have required 18,750 Christmas trees—but actually—far fewer may have been needed. A great many of the first civilian residents were young, single people just out of high school or college. Many others were single officers and enlisted personnel in the U.S. Army. These folks lived in small or large groups in dormitories, barracks, and other group-living environments that would have required only one Christmas tree.

One thing seems certain though. If the cutting of free-growing red cedar trees had not been curtailed by this general order at Christmas time, the protected cedar glades in Oak Ridge might not exist today. Currently, one of the best local cedar glades is located between Fairbanks Road and Laboratory Road in downtown Oak Ridge. It is signed and posted as a protected area, and it has a nice walking trail within it. In the World War II era, this cedar glade was located right behind the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters, which was referred to by local residents as “The Castle.” It was the administrative headquarters for the entire nationwide Manhattan Project.

Photograph Credits: James E. Westcott and North Carolina State Extension


Stone Box Burials in Faraway Places

Earlier in the week, I took my son to a scheduled appointment and sat in a small lobby with a wicker basket nearly full of magazines. Peering into the basket, I spotted an interesting-looking magazine called Country. It contained a small article on the tiny vacation destination of Helen, Georgia. Helen is a village of about 500 people, and its major tourist draw is its architectural expression as a typical Alpine village in the Bavarian Alps of Germany. It looked like a fun place to visit, so I later searched for more information about it on-line. Lo and behold, a short article on Helen in Wikipedia clued me into the presence of a prehistoric Native American mound—a Mississippian period platform mound that just happens to have a German-style gazebo planted squarely on top of it (Figure 1).  I was more than a little surprised to learn that the large Mississippian component on this archaeological site [Nacoochee Mound site (9WH3)] has a few stone box burials somewhat similar to some of the Mississippian stone box burials found in the Middle Cumberland region of Tennessee.


Figure 1.  Platform Mound on the Nacoochee Mound Site in Helen, Georgia

The principal mode of Mississippian burial in the Middle Cumberland region was the “body-fitted” stone box burial wherein the interred individuals are usually lying on their backs in a fully extended position. Occasionally, square to slightly rectangular stone boxes containing partially flexed or tightly flexed individuals are also found in this region of Tennessee.  That was true at the Hart site (40DV434) in Nashville. A few stone box burials have also been found in the Chattanooga area of Tennessee. Some archaeologists in the Tennessee past have tried to tie these burials to the small Yuchi tribe of Native Americans who lived in that area of the state in early historic times. Mississippian stone box burials are also found in Central and Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Southwestern Indiana, and some parts of Eastern Missouri.

I feel sure that occasional Mississippian stone box burials, occurring either singly or in extremely small numbers, are found on Mississippian archaeological sites in locations outside of the foregoing areas.  The stone box burials at 9WH3 are an example of this. However, the stone box burials on the outer rim of the Mississippian world at 9WH3 are the farthest away ones that I have ever encountered. These stone boxes are few in number, and they appear to be larger and far less well constructed than the body-fitted stone box burials in the Middle Cumberland region. The articulated individuals are buried in extended or flexed positions. Other stone boxes appear to contain bundles of mixed bones from different individuals, possibly ritually defleshed individuals from charnel houses.

If you would like to read in more detail about the stone box burials and other archaeological findings at 9WH3, you may do so by clicking on the following safe links:

The Nacoochee Mound in Georgia

Nacoochee Revisited: The 2004 Project

Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month 2017

September is Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month in Tennessee. Each year at this time, and throughout the month, a wide variety of fun and interesting archaeological activities are underway. The Tennessee public is always invited to join in, participate, and have a good time.

My favorite part of the festivities is the month-long Tennessee Archaeology Blogfest, wherein each day a Tennessee archaeologist, archaeology graduate student, or archaeology undergraduate student posts an interesting and well-illustrated blog article on some aspect of Tennessee archaeology.

I had planned to co-author and post an article for the blogfest entitled Sage Advice from a Tennessee Archaeological Field Cook. My wife, Kathy J. Brown, was the Head Field Cook (and a part-time Field Laboratory Technician) for the Tellico Archaeological Project from 1975 to 1977. Many of the younger folks in Tennessee archaeology today like to read or hear folksy stories about the old days in Tennessee archaeology and what it was like to work on a huge, multi-year archaeological project like Tellico, which involved a residential field camp, field kitchen, and excavations at numerous archaeological sites. We were going to provide excellent field kitchen advice (just in case any of the young folks ever need to do a huge project like this and operate a field kitchen for 60+ archaeologists), and we were going to include some humorous field kitchen anecdotes along the way.  We had kindly asked Dr. Jefferson Chapman to find some candid field kitchen photographs from Tellico days, but it appears that none are available at this time—at least none that we can get in time to put together a blogfest article. (Jeff did try hard, and we much appreciated his effort). Therefore, Kathy and I have decided to shelve the blog article until next September 2018. That should give us enough time to check with old Tellico field personnel (if we can find them) to see if they have any candid field kitchen and cooking photographs taken at the Tellico Field Camp in the 1970s.

Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month is sponsored each year by the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology, and their personnel do a wonderful job of organizing the event and supporting it throughout the month.  If you would like to keep up with the various events and festivities, including the Tennessee Archaeology Blogfest, you may do so by clicking on the safe links below.  The introductory blogfest article will be posted tomorrow, so be sure and tune in for it and all the interesting daily blog articles that will come after it.

TCPA Facebook Page

TCPA Web Page

Addressing Some Recent Criticism of our Eclipse Day Article

Here at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog, I rarely get any criticisms of the main articles written for the blog—and if a criticism does come this way—it never shows up as a written comment beneath the piece in question. It usually shows up as a private comment to me by e-mail or telephone. Our eclipse day post entitled NASA Canon of Solar Eclipses for Archaeologists generated a small amount of that discreet private criticism. I am taking some time to address it herein so my readers will understand why I said some of the things I said.  Here is my statement that drew all of the criticism:

Mel Gibson tried to capture such an important moment in his poorly done and culturally insensitive 2006 movie entitled “Apocalypto.” One of the settings in this motion picture is an imaginary Mayan city in Mesoamerica at the time of European first contact.

The factors in this statement that drew the criticism were the phrases “poorly done and culturally insensitive” and “imaginary Mayan city.”  The criticisms came from folks who know quite a bit about American archaeology.  They wondered why I would ever say such derogatory things about this movie because they thought it was a wonderful movie.

The movie Apocalypto was released to American theaters in 2006, which is going on 12 years ago. It was attended by many ordinary Americans and by many archaeologists, including archaeologists like me who have undergraduate and graduate training in Mesoamerican archaeology. Even we archaeologists know that movie makers take some artistic license with prehistory and history in the story lines of motion pictures, such that one rarely sees complete prehistoric or historic realism and accuracy in a movie. Given even that basic understanding going-in, the movie Apocalypto drew a firestorm of public criticism and outrage from archaeologists, particularly those who specialize in Mayanist archaeology.

This criticism and outrage came for many reasons. For example, the prehistoric and historic cultural timelines in the movie were mish-mashed to give the false impression that the height of Classic Mayan culture, which actually ended circa 800 A.D., was somehow still fully underway at the time of first European contact.  The Aztec practice of massive human sacrifice, as related to us by the first Spanish conquistadors in Mexico, was conflated with Mayan culture to give the false impression that the ancient Maya and their historic-era Mayan descendants were just as bloodthirsty in their religious ceremonies. Finally, the Mayan people are portrayed as depraved, heartless, heathen savages more worthy of the streets of Sodom and Gomorrah than the streets of ancient Tikal—and to make it all worse—in a manner that failed to take sufficient and accurate stock of a long, rich, and highly detailed Mayan cultural tapestry dominated by great lineal rulers, craftsmen, astronomers, mathematicians, artists, scribes, and so forth. In short, many of the people who know the most about Mayan prehistory and history were royally pissed by what Mel Gibson had done in this movie—and they let everyone know it in the news media back in double-ought six.

If you would like to read just a small sample of the many detailed criticisms of Apocalypto from 12 years ago, you may do so by clicking on the following safe links:

‘Apocalypto’ A Distorted view of Maya History

“Apocalypto” Tortures the Facts, Expert Says

Is “Apocalypto” Pornography?

Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto”: A Critical Analysis

Finally, as mentioned to my critics, I enjoyed the movie Apocalypto too, primarily because one rarely sees anything even quasi-archaeological about North America, Central America, and their indigenous cultures in modern movies. Just like everyone else, I was anxious to see how Mel Gibson would portray Mayan people and culture in this movie—and my feet pitter-pattered into it with no illusions about the degree of artistic license movie makers can take with prehistory and history. Nonetheless, throughout Apocalypto, I was more than just a little overwhelmed by the relentless violence and cruelty, and the archaeologist within me was biting his lip far more than just once or twice at the assorted archaeological and cultural nonrealities that were filling my eyes. Therefore, the phraseology in my eclipse post was a brief attempt, en passant, to capture all of the past negative archaeological bluster that surrounded the release of this controversial motion picture.

NASA Canon of Solar Eclipses for Archaeologists

Solar Eclipse

Today is total solar eclipse day in a big portion of Tennessee.  We are just inside the edge of the totality path here in Oak Ridge. Automobile traffic within the eclipse pathway across East Tennessee, particularly near its center, is expected to rival that of traffic on Tennessee football Saturdays. If you are a professional archaeologist, an avocational archaeologist, or an ordinary citizen with an interest in archaeology, you probably know that solar eclipses were important celestial events in ancient times. Mel Gibson tried to capture such an important moment in his poorly done and culturally insensitive 2006 movie entitled Apocalypto. One of the settings in this motion picture is an imaginary Mayan city in Mesoamerica at the time of European first contact. The main character (Jaguar Paw) is a non-Mayan captive taken during a raid on a small settlement in the Maya hinterlands. His body has been painted with a rare and highly treasured pigment referred to by archaeologists as Maya blueto ready him for human sacrifice in the following memorable scene from that movie:

In the years prior to 2006, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) became aware of the potential effects that solar eclipses might have had on ancient cultures. With this in mind, they developed two highly detailed tools to assist archaeologists in assessing such effects. The first of these NASA tools was published on October 1, 2006, and it was entitled the Five Millenium Canon of Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (2000 BCE to 3000 CE). It includes eclipse occurrence dates, visibility pathway data, and all sorts of other data for nearly every solar eclipse that has occurred across the entire earth over the past 4,000 years and for another 1,000 years into our future. The density and complexity of the potentially useful solar eclipse data in this volume is so high that just looking at it will quite literally make your head hurt. In fact, if your head does not hurt while thumbing through it, we recommend that you pinch yourself really hard just to make sure you are still alive.

This entire volume is available free of charge in PDF form, but the file is 257 megabytes. I have a new, super fast PC with a one-terabyte hard drive, and my attempts to download it (via my high-speed Xfinity cable) crashed my Mozilla Firefox connection twice. I hope you have better luck if you are using another Internet program and want a personal copy. I had no problem just opening it and reading it. You may either read only or download a personal copy to your laptop or PC by clicking on the following safe link:

Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (2000 BCE to 3000 CE)

You will notice that we said “nearly every solar eclipse” in the second paragraph above. After publication of the first volume, the authors (Fred Espenak and Jean Meeus) realized that they needed to go back and fill in a large number of data holes in their first volume. They did this by publishing a supplemental volume in 2008.  This smaller second volume was entitled the Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (2000 BCE to 3000 CE).  Its data density and complexity will also deliver your brain to Migraine City. This entire volume is available free of charge in PDF form, and you may download it to your laptop or PC by clicking on the following safe link:

Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (2000 BCE to 3000 CE)

How might a Tennessee archaeologist use this eclipse data? Well, the eclipse occurrence date, latitude data, longitude data, and visibility pathway data should allow an archaeologist to identify every partial and full solar eclipse that would have been visible while standing on the ground surface at Mound Bottom in Cheatham County, Tennessee, between 1,000 A.D. and 1475 A.D. Recognizing that correlation does not necessarily represent cause and effect, she could compare these eclipses and their dates to her site-specific archaeological data to identify possible meaningful correlations between eclipses and major past cultural phenomena on the site. For example, an archaeologist could determine whether a full solar eclipse correlates with  the approximate date when mound building came to an end at Mound Bottom.  Does a major eclipse event correlate with the first appearance of filleted rim bowls on Mississippian sites in the Middle Cumberland region? Could these filleted rims represent the solar corona beads sometimes visible around the edge of a fully eclipsed sun? Theoretically, you could use the NASA solar eclipse data as at least one factor, among others, in testing all sorts of archaeological hypotheses or fantasies at numerous Tennessee and American archaeological sites occupied at one time or another over the past 4,000 years. If you do not mind a headache and feel up to the task, go ahead and give it a whirl.

(Note:  I used the term fantasies above for a reason. We American archaeologists like to frame our work as science and couch it in scientific language—always dressing it up in a tuxedo and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to salve our egos. However, more than most of us would like to admit, one can often dream up multiple fantasies that adequately explain a single archaeological dataset—and while we might call them competing hypotheses at the office or in a journal article—I am more than willing to call them fantasies about the past over a good beer or while chatting around a good campfire. Baseline honesty every once in a while is good for the soul.  What?  You say it cannot be a fantasy because it is rooted in archaeological data?  Oh, come now.  Surely, you can do better than that. Until someone invents a time-travel machine, American archaeology will always contain some element of fantasy.)

Tennessee Archaeology and Nuclear War


Let Us All Hope So

Last year at this time, if you had asked me if I would be writing a blog post like this one, I would have said:  “No. Not a chance.”  Yet, here we are living under at least the very real potential for a war with North Korea and the possibility that Kim Jong-Un might actually succeed in lobbing at least a few low-yield nuclear warheads onto the continental United States.  Could they make it as far as Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, or Chattanooga?  Who knows? It all depends on North Korean missile trajectories, fuel burn times, atmospheric re-entry shielding for warheads, and accuracy in targeting—all things that are partially unknown at this point in time.  One thing is for sure though.  If Tennessee archaeologists and their civilian supporters end up dead in a nuclear war, not much archaeology is going to get done in Tennessee for quite a while.  Therefore, one of the best things you could do for Tennessee archaeology and protecting our cultural resources would be to stay alive with all that archaeological knowledge in your head. Because I am the only professional archaeologist in Tennessee who has lived in Oak Ridge for 34 years and worked at various U.S. Department of Energy nuclear facilities around the country, I can offer up a few basic survival tips that most people might not know. I will do it in a listing format:

(1)  Some of you who attended public schools in the 1950s and 1960s may remember the advice to “duck and cover” under your little school desk.  Forget it!  Forget anything like that! You have to protect your whole body from powerful kinetic blast effects, intense heat (6,000 – 11,000 degrees C some distance from ground zero and > 1 million degrees C at ground zero), and intense ionizing radiation. Unless your name is Clark Kent, duck and cover is not going to do the job. You need to follow much better basic advice if at all possible.  You can get some of that here:

How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

More on How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

Even More on How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

(2)  What is radioactive fallout (a.k.a. radioactive contamination)? A nuclear weapon has a few highly radioactive materials in it—mostly highly unstable isotopes of uranium and plutonium. Upon detonation, quadrillions of particles of these materials (and their radioactive decay/daughter products) become airborne by themselves, can attach themselves to dust particles, and can be carried very long distances by the wind. Think of each tiny particle as a “little sun” that is constantly emitting dangerous waves of radiation. Like almost everything else that goes up, most of these tiny particles will inevitably come down and settle on the landscape and anything sitting, standing, or moving on that landscape. After settling, these particles will continue emitting dangerous radiation wherever they settle and sit. If a particle settles into a vat of molten lead, it will become part of the lead metal when it cools. This is called fixed radioactive contamination, meaning it has become part of the hardened lead and cannot be easily removed. If a particle lands on an unopened can of chili, it is called removable radioactive contamination, which means it can be cleaned off the can like any other kind of dust particle.

(3)  Depending on where you are on the landscape when a nuclear weapon is detonated, if you can do so safely, it is best to stay out of the area where most of the radioactive fallout is blowing to in the wind as a large, elongate, airborne plume.  This will depend on the weather conditions and winds at the time of the blast—including normal prevailing winds. If the wind is blowing from southwest to northeast, like the prevailing winds in Nashville, you will want to stay out of the area to the northeast of the ground zero blast. For example, if a blast has occurred in downtown Nashville under these wind conditions, the airborne radioactive fallout plume would be the most concentrated and highly dangerous about 100 miles out in the direction of Madison, Hendersonville, Gallatin, Bethpage, Westmoreland, and farther on in that direction into Kentucky.

If you would like to get an an idea of what damage a nuclear explosion would do to you in your city, which way the airborne radioactive contamination plume would blow, and how it would spread out on a map, you may use the famous NUKEMAP application developed by Alex Wellerstein. It is integrated with Google Earth. Just click on the following safe link and read the directions on how to use this application:

NUKEMAP Application

(4)  The most basic thing to know about protecting yourself from ionizing radiation is the initialism TDS, which stands for:




You may read a little about that here:

Time, Distance, and Shielding

(5)  Apart from TDS, your next biggest problems will be finding safe food and water.  The best thing to do is have enough stored food and water in a properly shielded place that is a substantial distance from a source of radiation or radioactive contamination. Yes, I know you are a professional archaeologist, and you know how to go Paleolithic or Archaic for subsistence. However, that is not going to help you in a nuclear war situation, at least not for the first two weeks or thereabouts.

For one thing, you are going to have to hunker down in a place were you are protected by TDS, which means you cannot go outside for at least two weeks. If you do, you will breathe in radioactive particles, the particles will settle on your skin and clothes (which you will take back inside your shelter with you), and you may accidentally ingest the particles while outside. (Note: Plutonium is both radioactive, and chemically speaking, highly poisonous.)  All of this can kill you.  This means no roving around outside for deer, hickory nuts, or water from the creek. The deer may be covered with radioactive particles and may have ingested them. If you dress and consume a deer or any other animal still alive, you will get that radioactive contamination on you and inside of you after eating the meat, which may kill you if you get a high enough dose of radiation from the particles. Any gatherable foods in the natural world, such as hickory nuts, may be similarly contaminated with radioactive particles. The water in the creek may also be highly contaminated with radioactive particles that make it unsafe to ingest. See the problem?  If you have enough stored water in your fallout shelter, enough stored food, and a lot of body fat, then praise Jesus.

(6)  Once upon a time, I watched an episode of The Twilight Zone where people in a rural area away from a nuclear blast zone were afraid to eat canned food that had been stored in a limestone cave. What was the key fear?  They were afraid the food in the cans had been contaminated with alpha, beta, and gamma rays, meaning that all of the rays that had penetrated the walls of the can had somehow collected on the food inside the can. In other words, they were afraid of ingesting the equivalent of canned sunshine.  It does not work that way folks. Alpha rays, which can be blocked by one piece of copier paper, cannot even get inside the can. Beta and gamma rays go right in one side of the can and out the other side.  They do not collect inside the can or in the food.  The food inside the can is perfectly safe to eat as long as it has remained tightly sealed inside the can where airborne radioactive particles cannot settle. Got it? Good!!!  Many people do not know that simple fact.

Once again, the danger is any airborne radioactive contamination particles that may have settled on the outside of the can. That is removable radioactive contamination, which means it can be cleaned off before opening the can, and as long as none of it gets inside the food when you open the can, then you are good to go munching.  The only trick—and this is a really serious trick—is getting the outside of the can cleaned off if it has radioactive particles on it and making sure your fingers, food preparation utensils, and  eating utensils are free of such particles. You would have to be wearing appropriate radiation protection gear to clean a can and the utensils (bearing in mind the amount of radioactivity present and limiting your time of exposure during cleaning). You would also have to get rid of all the dirty water, cloths, and tools used to clean the can—including all the gear you were wearing—if the gear cannot be cleaned safely.  It would all have to be disposed at a location that provides sufficient TDS relative to where you are. Most people will not have the knowledge, equipment, and instrumentation (Geiger counter and dosimetry instruments) necessary to do all of this safely.  Those of you who have had some sort of radiation protection training in a past life situation (X-Ray Technician, Environmental Cleanup Technician, Radiation Safety Specialist) might be able to do this successfully if your life depends on it.

If you emerge from your fallout shelter after two weeks or more and you do find a bunch of canned food or drinks somewhere that has remained normally sealed and safe from radioactive particles settling on it, the food or drink inside the cans will be safe to ingest. Just make sure your hands, cooking utensils, dishes, and eating utensils are free of radioactive particles too.

(7) Disorientation. The aftermath of a nuclear war will be culturally and socially disorienting.  When you emerge from your fallout shelter after two weeks or more, many of the cultural and social systems that were once in place to ease you through your day may be gone. Expect that and find personal ways to adapt to the absence of electricity, running pipe water, medical services, and in many cases, an absence of people—because very large numbers of them are dead. Do not despair. Other people have survived besides you. You will just have to hang on and find them.  Many may be sick or dying in very large numbers. Many may be horribly burned.  (Note: Deep nuclear flash burns are often so deep that the nerves in the skin have been destroyed—so if a burn looks really bad—the person may not be in much pain—if at all.)  Be prepared for that emotionally if you can—just accept it as the new normal for a while. Other survivors will be just fine—but perhaps emotionally shaken. Remember the one key thing most prisoners of war learn.  The ones who survive are the ones who hold out no hope of early release and just accept that things are going to go badly for quite a while. The following National Geographic documentary shows you what life will be like near ground zero in the aftermath of a nuclear attack:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

(8)  Do not let the contents of motion pictures and survivalist magazines be your guide for what human culture and society will be like after you come out of your fallout shelter after two weeks or more. Motion pictures and many survivalist magazines paint a picture of a Mad Max, free-for-all world where everyone has gone crazy, people are killing each other right and left to steal food/water, and the only person who is going to survive is the “Lone American Who—All by Himself—Is Armed to the Teeth with Firearms and Explosives and Ready to Kill on Sight.” If you know as much about anthropology as I do, you know that this lone survivalist guy will be among the first to go down. He is dead meat by his own hands. Human beings are by nature social, and cooperation among human beings is how and why we (as a species) have survived and adapted well to our various environments over the past couple of million years. That is not going to change—even after a nuclear war.  The ones who survive, get back on their feet, and thrive again will be the social and cultural cooperators. Be cool, be one, and share.  Love your neighbor as yourself, and all will be well—eventually—maybe.

(9)  You might not need any of the above advice for one very good reason.  It is the only ship in the U.S. Navy named after the Volunteer State.  The USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) is an Ohio Class nuclear submarine in current operation around the world. (There are several other submarines exactly like her.) For all we know, the USS Tennessee may be lurking in the waters off the east or west coast of North Korea right now—and Kim Jong-Un is no doubt aware of that possibility. The USS Tennessee carries on-board 24 Trident II D-5 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM). Each of these 24 missiles is equipped with eight MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle) D-88 nuclear warheads. Each D-88 nuclear warhead has a yield of 475 kilotons. What does that mean in simple terms?  When just one of these SLBMs is launched from the USS Tennessee beneath sea level, it can drop eight D-88 nuclear warheads on eight different, widely spaced targets in North Korea or drop all of them on just one target—like say Pyongyang—the capitol of North Korea.

What would just one D-88 nuclear warhead do to Pyongyang?  Click on NUKEMAP  and do the following when you get there:

Type in the Name of the City: Pyongyang.  Click “Go.”

Enter a Yield: 475 kt

Basic Options:  Select “Airburst” and Check the Radioactive Fallout box

Advanced Options:  Click on “Burst Height” and enter 1,000 ft

Click:  Red Detonate Button

Use the plus and minus buttons in the lower right corner of the map to zoom in and out on the map and see the maximum perimeters of the various types of damage that would occur in Pyongyang. Notice how the deadly radioactive fallout plume would spread across North Korea after just this one detonation in Pyongyang. Can you imagine what eight of these D-88 detonations occurring simultaneously in different parts of North Korea would do?  The radiation plumes from each blast would blanket nearly the entire nation of North Korea, killing nearly every living thing in their path. If the USS Tennessee were to launch all 24 of her missiles, 192 D-88 nuclear warheads would fall on North Korea, and about the only thing left alive above ground surface across the entire country would be the insects. (Experiments have shown that insects are far more resistant to lethal ionizing radiation than humans.)  Kim Jong-Un knows all of this, which is why you might not need any of the above advice.

Dr. Carl Kuttruff, our Tennessee Archaeology Friend, Has Passed Away

Carl Kuttruff

Tennessee Archaeologists Having a Technical Discussion in the Woods Long Ago

Left to Right: Carl Kuttruff, John Broster, and Brian Butler

Our Tennessee archaeology legend and friend, Dr. Carl Kuttruff, passed away on July 23, 2017, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Many people in Tennessee archaeology knew Carl much better than I did. However, I had several fond encounters with him. Carl worked for a number of years at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology in Nashville, Tennessee, and I first encountered Carl while he was leading the Vanderbilt University field school at Mound Bottom circa 1974.

My next encounter with Carl came in 1976 when I visited his massive excavations at the Fort Loudoun site in Monroe County, Tennessee.  That was one really hot summer with no air conditioning and little shade. Carl and his field crew were occupying the old Carson House, a white, 19th century Victorian farmhouse located just off Highway 72S in Vonore, Tennessee. At the same time, our University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) Tellico Archaeology crew was occupying an old church camp a short walk down the road from the Carson house. Members of both field crews visited with each other often that summer. During off hours, Carl and his crew set up a volleyball net at the Carson House, and members of the two field crews had some lively volleyball matches that summer. How they had enough energy to play so much volleyball after long, sweltering summer days in the field was a monument to the enthusiasm of young archaeologists—and no doubt to the socially lubricating powers of tequila.

Carl’s work at Fort Loudoun resulted in his now famous book entitled Fort Loudoun in Tennessee: 1756-1760, a comprehensive, thick, and quite heavy hard cover volume covering the history of the British colonial fort, its archaeology, replications, exhibits, and interpretations.  A very small amount of human skeletal remains were found during Carl’s excavations at Fort Loudoun.  He was kind enough to ask me to analyze them for him, and the results were included in this book.

My fondest remembrances of Carl go back to 1976-1977, or thereabouts, when Carl would make visits to UTK to give talks or conduct research. He often came on winter nights when it was frigid cold outside. Rather than spend a night at an expensive hotel, he would bring his backpack and sleeping bag with him. Dave McMahan and I were sharing a small dormitory room in Reese Hall (Presidential Court Complex) on campus at UTK. Carl would come by for a visit and ask if he could spend the night with us and sleep on the floor of our dormitory room.  We were always glad to see Carl and welcome him into our room for some conversation and a good night’s rest after a long day.

An obituary for Carl was published recently in The Advocate, a local newspaper in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, the last few words of his obituary were not published. We are not sure why. It may have been an editorial mistake or a decision forced by limited publication space. Whatever the case might be, you may read Carl’s obituary by clicking on the following safe link, and when you get there, please notice a clickable button that allows you to leave a personal message of condolence to the members of Carl’s family:

Obituary for Carl Kuttruff

Carl was a nice person who I found to be kind, friendly, and easy to get along with.  We will all miss Carl very much.

Photograph Credit: Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology