Tag Archives: Fort Loudoun

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


Old Stone Fort Archaeological Society Meeting (December 2013)

Mark Norton at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology has sent out the announcement for the December 2013 meeting of the Old Stone Fort Archaeological Society, which is just 3 days from now.  You may read the formal meeting announcement in the following PDF file:

December 2013 Meeting Announcement

The speaker for this meeting will be Mr. Hobart Akin.  Mr. Akin is an archaeologist and a recently arrived staff ranger at the Fort Loudoun State Historical Park near Vonore, Tennessee.   The subject of his talk will be the archaeology and history of Fort Loudoun, which was a British fort built on the western frontier of the original 13 colonies during the French and Indian War (better known to our friends in British archaeology as The Seven Years War).

Would you like to meet Dr. Death and tour his medical facility at Fort Loudoun?  No, I do not mean famous University of Tennessee Forensic anthropologist William Marvin Bass III.  In this particular instance, I am speaking of the chief 18th century medical officer at Fort Loudoun.  Click on the following link and ask yourself whether your health insurance provider would cover treatment in this facility:


You might also like to know that Mr. Akin does some really interesting work in experimental archaeology, and a major focus of this work is the reproduction of ancient Native American dugout canoes using a straight tree trunk, primitive-style stone tools, and the burn-and-chip method to hollow out the trunk so people will have space to sit in the canoe and paddle down the river.

Fort Loudoun Festivities

This coming weekend (March 23-24, 2013), Eric Hughey (Park Manager), his staff, and friends are throwing a large historical party at the Fort Loudoun State Historic Area in Vonore, Tennessee.  It is officially called Garrison Weekend, but I call it a party because the results of serious American history and archaeology (physically displayed, re-enacted, and interpreted for the public) are a cause for celebration.  Fort Loudoun is one of my favorite places in Tennessee.  In recent years, Eric and his fine staff have infused new levels of energy and enthusiasm into the Fort Loudoun visitor experience, beginning with the hearty greeting and personal attention that visitors encounter at the museum.  Your cordial invitation to this party and some detailed archaeological/historical information on Fort Loudoun are available at this URL:


The major archaeological excavations at Fort Loudoun were conducted in 1975 and 1976, and I particularly remember the summer of 1976.  Carl Kuttruff was the Field Director, and the large Fort Loudoun excavation crew had its living quarters and field kitchen at the old Carson house, a large, white, two-story farmhouse located just off Highway 72-E near Vonore.  A short river gravel road led from the front yard of the house down to the edge of the Little Tennessee River where a one-vehicle cable ferry was afloat to transport people and farm equipment a short distance across a portion of the river to an island.  In the late afternoon, it was cool and inviting down at the river’s edge, and the young archaeologists would go down to sit on the flat bed of the parked ferry, dangle tired feet in the water, chat with a friend, or just lay down flat and rest in thought.  Several of my old friends and acquaintances were on the Fort Loudoun excavation crew, particularly Marion Drescher (archaeology student), Debi Jones (physical anthropology/archaeology student), Dave McMahan (archaeology student), and Linn Brown  (archaeology student).  I have lost track of Marion, Linn, and Debi over the years, but I still stay in touch with my close friend and old university dormitory/apartment mate Dave McMahan, who is the Lead State Archaeologist in Alaska now.

Some of these fine folks and other excavation crew members are shown at work in a series of photographs posted in an archaeology exhibit on a wall at the Fort Loudon Museum.  Every time I look at those photographs, I feel a little wistful and want to go back and talk to those people for a few minutes—in that place and time—as they were then.  A century from now, some historian or archaeologist will long to know the names of all those people in the photographs.  None of their names are shown on the exhibit labels, and it is not clear to me whether the museum staff knows who they are.  In particular, it reminds me of an old Works Progress Administration-era (or perhaps 1940s) photograph that shows a long line of now famous southeastern archaeologists who are dressed very nicely and posing for an outdoor photograph.  Jimmy Griffin and Madeline Kneberg are tucked in right next to each other and smiling (guess she must have forgiven him for urging Tom Lewis to “avoid hiring a woman”).  Many of the archaeologists in this old photograph, which may be in the McClung Museum WPA collection, are identified by name, but several are listed simply as “unknown.”  It would be nice to know who these unknown individuals were and what parts they played in the history of southeastern archaeology.  The loss of their pictorial identities is unfortunate.  It is my earnest hope that the Fort Loudoun Museum (if it does not know already) will put names with the faces and bodies in the Fort Loudoun archaeology photographs so future generations of Tennessee archaeologists and citizens will know the full identities of all these archaeologists and archaeology students who worked so hard at the fort.  Most of these folks are getting up in years now, and there is really only a 20-year or less window of opportunity left to address this issue accurately and with confidence.

Carl Kuttruff completed the Fort Loudoun excavation report, which was published in 2009.  It is a thick, hard-bound volume entitled Fort Loudoun in Tennessee 1756-1760: History, Archaeology, Replication, Exhibits, & Interpretation.  It must weigh close to 10 lb and clearly represents a lot of hard work.  A copy may be obtained at the following address:  Tennessee Division of Archaeology, 1216 Foster Avenue, Nashville, TN 37243 [(615) 741-1588].  Some of you British archaeologists who frequent the Archaeology in Tennessee blog might find this to be an interesting read because Fort Loudoun was built, occupied, and abandoned while the 13 American colonies were still part of the British Empire.