Fri, 27 Sep 2013 17:27:00 CDT — by: Vincent Leray, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow
This year's SEI Archaeology Field Studies was, by all accounts, a phenomenal success (the occasional copperhead and flood notwithstanding).
Fourteen undergraduate students from across the country worked under the leadership of Dr. Sarah Sherwood, now in her fourth year as director of the program. Alongside Dr. Sherwood was Dr. Van de Ven, resident Geogrpahic Information System (GIS) expert, the Carmody family and Stephen Yerka, three UT graduate students who served as teaching assistants, and Mary Beth Epps, a graduate of Sewanee who managed logistics.
During the two-week program, students plunged into the rocky, temporal depths of archaeology at two different sites: Michaels Shelter on the Domain and Pinson Mounds in West Tennessee. Michaels shelter contains a stream of artifacts, particularly relating to plant processing, dating from the Early Archaic (~9,000 years ago) to the Middle Woodland (~2,000 years ago). Excavations at this site already occurred in the 90's, as well as some earlier looting. Pinson Mounds is thought to be more ceremonial in nature with artifacts dating to the Middle Woodland period. This site also boasts Saul's Mound, the second largest mound in the Eastern United States.
Students had the opportunity to learn a whole range of skills, including geophysical surveying, all things excavation, artifact analysis procedures, and fancy field mapping techniques. Alongside their underground explorations, students also visited Russell Cave National Park, got a lesson in flint-knapping (by which arrowheads are made), and a workshop in throwing an atlatl.
In addition to the technical skills garnered from the program, students have the opportunity to see a facet of the Domain rarely seen by most - it is a peek into the past, both clouded and illuminated by the rocks that hold it. Happily, our local history is infused into the natural environment and therefore forever tied to sustainability and stewardship. Thus, the SEI program succinctly promotes preserving the human aspect of the Domain as well as the ground that has been, and will continue to be, tread for years and years.
Some enterprising students set up a blog of their adventures, found here. If you would like to know more about Pinson Mounds, here you go . Finally, if you're interested in the program, it's right at your fingertips .