Histories of Southeastern Archaeology

Histories of Southeastern Archaeology

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ISBN-13: 9780817313647
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 05/11/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 406
File size: 5 MB

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Histories of Southeastern Archaeology


Copyright © 2002 The University of Alabama Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8173-1139-1

Chapter One

Excerpts from "Bringing the Past Alive" Interviews with William Haag and George Quimby

William Haag, George Quimby, and Ann F. Ramenofsky

The Making of the Haag/Quimby Tape Ann F. Ramenofsky, Fall 1999

Shortly after joining the faculty at Louisiana State University, I began to realize that LSU played a much bigger role in culture history and Works Progress Administration archaeology than was traditionally recognized by the professional community. I knew that Ford had received his undergraduate degree from LSU, that Ford and Fred Kniffen had worked together closely, that the Marksville excavation was significant in WPA history, and that Bill Haag had worked in the WPA with Major Webb. I did not know the role that George Quimby had played in the Louisiana WPA organization or that the WPA laboratory was housed on the LSU campus for a period of time. Moreover, knowing something of the structure of WPA history in Louisiana and beyond was quite different from knowing the stories. The stories created a rich and unique texture of the period. The longer I was at LSU, the more stories I heard, and the more important capturing those stories became. Bringing the Past Alive: A Conversation with Bill Haagand George Quimby was my effort to provide an oral history of WPA archaeology and to share the richness of the period with the generations who had not been there. The project was made possible by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities, 89-887-15, and by the Department of Geography and Anthropology at LSU.

Editors' note: The following excerpts from Ann Ramenofsky's interview with William Haag and George Quimby in 1989 are taken from a fourteen-thousand-word transcription prepared by Shannon Tushingham.

Introduction Ann F. Ramenofsky

Despite the poverty that permeated America in the 1930s, it was a time of great archaeological creativity throughout the Southeast. Federal programs in Southeastern archaeology (what Ed Lyon has called New Deal archaeology) put hundreds of people to work, resulting in the excavation of more than three hundred sites.

George Quimby was director of the WPA laboratories in Louisiana from 1939 to 1941. The laboratory was first located in New Orleans; it was moved to the geology building at LSU in 1939. William Haag began his archaeological career as field supervisor in the Tennessee Valley Authority projects in 1934. In 1937 he became curator of anthropology at the University of Kentucky. After World War II, Bill became Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Mississippi. He joined the geography and anthropology faculty at LSU in 1953.

Haag/Quimby Interview

Editor's note: Dialogue preceded by "R" is the interviewer and producer, Ann F. Ramenofsky; "H" and "Q" are the discussants.

R: Bill, would you like to talk about how you got into archaeology and what was going on at Kentucky once you got involved in curation, museum work, and so forth?

H: The so forth is what I know most about. It became apparent that to have a successful TVA archeological program, they had to have a lot of archaeologists. There were not a lot of archaeologists. Thus, any of us that had museum experience [were hired]. I labored under that exalted title of Curator of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. Yet what that mostly meant was arranging artifacts in cases more than any real experience. But I had worked with Major Webb and W. D. Funkhouser in rock shelters in the eastern part of Kentucky, essentially as a way to pass the summer. Thus it was that anyone who had a minimum amount of experience [was hired].

But I must confess that I l earned my archaeology in Tennessee, in the Wheeler Basin and Pickwick Basin [where] there were hundreds of archaeological sites. Big shell middens and so on. But we could touch only a minimum number of those. A very accurate survey was made of those sites, so that when Pickwick Dam is completely covered under 180 feet of silt, they can pinpoint that archaeological site. They will be mining archaeological sites in all probability.

George, how did you really get sucked into the program?

Q: When I entered the University of Michigan. Griffin has written of his surprise that I passed physical education; I also passed the course in hygiene. And on that basis, I was admitted to the graduate school. I majored in anthropology because it was one of the first things in the catalog. I didn't know exactly what it was. I had a romantic interest in the American Indian, and that's how I got into anthropology under Carl Guthe and Leslie White.

My entrance into WPA was actually through the Near East. Seleucia and Ctesiphon. The university had had an archaeological program along the Tigris. All of the materials that had been brought back had never been processed. We set up a laboratory in Detroit, not far from Ann Arbor. We set up a sort of assembly line system based on Model T Fords-Model A Fords then. We had sinks where WPA workers scrubbed the coins of Mithradates the Magnificent and different kinds of little heathen idols and got the potsherds washed and everything catalogued and tabulated. At the end of the line the archaeologists could go to work.

R: Bill, could you tell us something about the excavations of those shell middens? And also, what were you reacting to when you became the Young Turks?

H: Well, it was those Old Turks. Who really ... After all, all science operates on the principle of erecting a model and using that as a guide for research until something better comes along. Well, we were the something better. It's obvious that many of the old ideas were based on such a limited amount of data that they couldn't have very far-reaching connections from one archaeological area to another. Thus it was that our first endeavors were all chronologically oriented. We were extremely sensitive to stratification. We knew that what was at the bottom was older than what was at the top. No one had ever dug into a big shell midden except C. B. Moore.

When we were digging-I remember this with some embarrassment-in north Alabama, we thought this is absolutely new. [In fact] Jimmy Griffin came down on a visit one time, and he's the one who sort of clued us: "Look, that's Indian Knoll type of archaeological remains." So we all started reading that eminent archaeologist C. B. Moore.

Major Webb was head of the physics department at the University of Kentucky. He had been doing archaeological work as a hobby, using students in the summer, for the national something or other. I started to say Science Foundation.

R: Research Council?

H: Yes, National Research Council, thank you. [They] recognized him, gave him enough money to buy a truck for fieldwork, and so on. Dr. Funkhouser was Dean of the Graduate School, Secretary of the Southern Football Conference, and head of the zoology department. His archaeology was, well, strictly marginal. Those were the individuals who we were actually competing with as we got older.

Q: One of my mentors was Dr. Hinsdale. He was in his nineties, and he'd done all the pioneer work in Michigan. He'd been brought up by his grandfather, who had been a foot soldier in the War of the Revolution. So Hinsdale could be sitting there in the lab telling me firsthand stories that he'd heard from a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

H: When it came to the actual excavation of these gigantic shell middens we could only sample them, even though we didn't have any concept of modern sampling theory. But we did invent new techniques, such as what we called the block technique: isolating a block of the shell midden by trenching all around it, literally throwing that trench record away and then carefully taking the block down.

Q: The really big thing that we did was chronology. There wasn't particularly any interest in it because we had the McKern Classification System, which was basically based on zoological classification. It wasn't working too well because you just wound up with a whole bunch of entities with names on them, but you didn't know how to place them anywhere except typologically. Under Jim Ford, with the geological and paleontological concept of layers, and also of index fossils (the sherds), and winding up with seriation, we developed what was really the New Archaeology of the time.

R: How did the Old Turks react?

Q: Well, some thought it was nonsense.

R: What did Major Webb think, and what did Guthe think, and what did-

H: Of course, Major Webb was a very strong personality, to use mild terms. But I know that he would not come to any of the first Southeastern Conference meetings. It was a long time before many of those older scientists would find any way of accommodating themselves to these younger people. What it amounted to in the long run was literally jealousy.

Q: Getting back to C. B. Moore, I most envied him because he had a stern-wheel steamboat that he went to all of the sites on and had his crew scout things out.

H: C. B. Moore was an inspiration to us in the sense that he published about everything he did without wasting any time.

R: Maybe we should talk about Stu Neitzel's relationship to both of you and to WPA archaeology and to Jim Ford.

H: Stu Neitzel was a University in Nebraska student and went to the University of Chicago as a physical anthropologist, and I guess stayed a year or two. He worked one summer down at the Kincaid site, which was the University of Chicago's training ground.

Q: Torture center.

H: Stu went to work for Webb and Lewis in East Tennessee. He met Jim Ford, and Jim needed an archaeologist. He came to Louisiana I would guess about 1935 or '36, because he'd been working in Tennessee. He was fortunate enough to marry a fine lady who devoted her entire life to remodeling him and failed miserably. He remained unreconstructed.

H: If you look at the archaeologists who were active, let's say in the 1930s, a great many them had been to the Kincaid camp and had their first archaeological-

Q: And gotten malaria and black water fever.

H: As a result we'd use the University Chicago's forms to fill out for our archaeological work.

Q: And really through the Southeastern Archaeological Conference.

R: How through the Southeastern Conference?

Q: We just invented them, the ones that were useful.

H: Yes. And every time we'd have an archaeological conference, someone would say, "Hey, I do so and so and so and so." And [they'd say], "Hey, that's a good idea." We gradually standardized them, so to speak.

Q: Yeah.

H: When the archaeological fieldwork moved to Kentucky in 1937, I left north Alabama and went back to Kentucky to ramrod that under Major Webb. That was a great disappointment to the Major. All the work on the Tennessee River down in west Kentucky was on late sites, Mississippian sites, where 99 percent of the material you carted home was potsherds. The Major was just very disdainful of pottery. I shouldn't really tell, forgive me, Major. The reason he distrusted pottery, he confided in me one night, he said, "Women make pottery." That's a fact. And I believed him.

Q: An unusual site was Irene Mound in Georgia. It had an excavation crew of about thirty black women and one white male in charge and one white female assistant. I think they had to have something like five different outdoor toilets to comply with state law.

H: I never saw or heard of a mixed crew. What was interesting about that Irene Mound crew is they dug in shells. They stepped on a shovel to get into those shells in their bare feet. They didn't need shoes. You could hear that bare foot hit the shell.

R: Let's see if we could talk a little while about Ford, seriation, chronology, and the ceramic repository. Let's start with Ford.

H: By sheer accident, James Ford was a student in high school at Watertown, Mississippi, when Henry B. Collins of the Smithsonian came to excavate a site, which later became known as the Deasonville site. He got a couple of high school kids to help him, James Ford and Moreau Chambers, both of whom were interested in history and were big boys, strong. Collins subsequently took Ford to Alaska with him.

So at a very early age Jim was already imbued with the scientific approach to archaeology. That's one thing that should really be brought out, that WPA archaeology was the first of what we might think of scientific archaeology, where the workers approached a site in a problem-oriented manner. Yes, it's true that Jim Ford learned how to work out percentages of different kinds of artifacts and how to relate those to time. His very first publication was one that was concerned with pottery typology, pottery's change through time, and how to use that material for constructing regional chronological charts. He did very well.

Q: And horizontal chronology. The succession of old beach lines in the arctic, where the oldest sites are up higher and the most recent sites are close to the water. And then the same thing in the succession of levees, which I think he first got from Fred Kniffen and, later, Fisk.

R: Ford brought you down to LSU to meet Fred. If he hadn't said this is a good place to come, would you have been as interested in LSU?

H: Oh, I guess so. I was at Ole Miss at the time. I don't mean to give the idea of the shakiness of my character. But you could not buy a bottle of beer in Oxford, Mississippi. In fact, it was forty-four and seven-tenths miles to the nearest place that sold beer. Over seventy-seven miles to Memphis to buy reasonable drinking material. Jim and Phil Phillips were working in the Yazoo, this is when Albrecht was ill and had taken a leave. I really came down here on a temporary basis because Albrecht might have gotten well and come back. But in any event, Jim brought me down here, and we came in at the north end of town. The Cuban liquor store was on the scenic highway. We stopped there. I told him right then, I don't care what the salary is, I'll take the job.

Ole Miss was the happiest two years I ever had in the academic field. As a matter of fact, I was the first archaeologist at Ole Miss, but it was obvious that there were many more archaeological possibilities at LSU.

Jimmy Griffin established the ceramic repository at Michigan. We archaeologists in the field sent him samples of our pottery types. We conceived then that the ceramic repository was going to be a clearinghouse for the establishment of types. Jimmy and Jim Ford could see in a very short time that Jimmy and a few graduate students just could not do all that. In any event, that was the impetus that gave rise to the idea of the Southeastern Archaeological Conferences, of all practicing archaeologists getting together once a year.

R: Could you talk a little bit about how you physically typed these things? Did you just lay them out and follow a key? Or how did you actually do it?

H: Things that looked alike went in that pile. Things like that in that pile.

Q: It was that simple.

H: The fact of the matter is, as I delineated in an article on method changes in the last fifty years, about the only thing that has really come to dominate archaeological excavation is some kind of sampling technique. We didn't use any sampling technique at all. We just collected until our bags were full.

Q: And we didn't worry about worm action; we didn't have a specialist in worm action in middens.

H: But we did take soil samples from every burial, site, and ...

R: Were those ever analyzed?

H: Yes, some of them were.

Q: Some, but not the way they would be today.

R: When you were Young Turks working in WPA archaeology, did your work change our concept of southeastern Indians?


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Table of Contents

Contents List of Illustrations Précis / Charles H. McNutt Introduction: The History of Histories / Shannon Tushingham and Jane Hill Part I: Topics 1. Excerpts from “Bringing the Past Alive”: Interviews with William Haag and George Quimby / William Haag, George Quimby, and Ann F. Ramenofsky 2. Museum Paradigms and the History of Southeastern Archaeology / David S. Brose 3. Forty Years of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex / James A. Brown 4. Historical Archaeology in the Southeast, 1930–2000 / Stanley South and Kathleen Deagan 5. Paleogeography and Geomorphology in the Lower Mississippi Valley / Roger T. Saucier Part II: States 6. Some Ruminations on the Archaeology of Southeast Missouri / Stephen Williams 7. Pot Hunters, Salvage, and Science in Arkansas, 1900–2000 / Hester A. Davis 8. Louisiana Archaeology: A Selective History / Robert W. Neuman 9. Rediscovering Illinois: The Development of Archaeology in Illinois / Jon Muller 10. The History of Archaeology in West Virginia / Bettye J. Broyles 11. Virginia’s Archaeology: A Look Back and a Look Ahead / Howard A. MacCord Sr. 12. North Carolina Archaeology in Historical Perspective / Bennie C. Keel 13. A History of Archaeological Research in South Carolina / David G. Anderson 14. Forty Years of Kentucky Archaeology or Incidents of Recent Archaeological History in a Border State: A Review / R. Berle Clay 15. A History of Tennessee Archaeology / Charles H. Faulkner 16. One Hundred Years of Archaeology in Mississippi / Jay K. Johnson 17. Alabama Archaeology in the Twentieth Century / John A. Walthall, Vernon J. Knight Jr., and Gregory Waselkov 18. A Personal Perspective on Georgia Archaeology at the End of the Twentieth Century / Lewis Larson 19. Florida Archaeology: A Recent History / Jerald T. Milanich Part III: Commentary 20. Histories by the Archaeologist, for the Archaeologist / Kenneth E. Sassaman References Cited Acknowledgments Contributors Index

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