Mississippi Archaeology Q & A

Mississippi Archaeology Q & A

EVAN PEACOCK
Copyright Date: 2005
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvkhx
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    Mississippi Archaeology Q & A
    Book Description:

    How old is this arrowhead? Is there really gold in that Indian mound? What tribe left all these artifacts behind? Can the government take my artifact collection away?

    For more than twenty years, Evan Peacock, an archaeologist at Mississippi State University, has been fielding and answering questions such as these from the public. InMississippi Archaeology Q & A, he gathers those answers in one place to give landowners, history buffs, arrowhead hunters, and students new to archaeology an invaluable handbook of dos and don'ts. Peacock writes for the lay reader, supplies humorous anecdotes from his years in the field, and never scolds. Instead he respectfully introduces the neophyte to the wonders of the remarkable prehistoric and historic remains throughout the Magnolia State.

    Rather than pursuing a hobby in a destructive manner, in-formed artifact collectors can and do contribute to the field. This book offers solid suggestions on how enthusiasts can play a helpful role.Mississippi Archaeology Q & Aexplains the basic methods that archaeologists use to find, explore, and interpret ancient sites. In a clear and straightforward manner, Peacock divulges what he has learned about landowners' rights and other legal issues. The guide describes many important archaeological sites in Mississippi and adjacent states and the different kinds of artifacts commonly found in the region. For people who wish to protect a site or for those who would like to sell a site or obtain a tax break for its preservation, this guide contains critical information. While the book focuses closely on Native American artifacts, it also thoroughly treats the full range of Mississippi's historical treasures from the remnants of pioneer settlers to Civil War curios.

    Evan Peacock, Starkville, Mississippi, associate professor of anthropology and senior research associate at the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University, is the editor ofBlackland Prairies of the Gulf Coastal Plain: Nature, Culture, and Sustainability.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-643-4
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. ARCHAEOLOGY—THE STUDY OF “STUFF”
    (pp. 3-7)

    I was about ten years old when I found my first prehistoric artifact. I found it in Choctaw County, Mississippi, about four miles west of the town of French Camp. In what turned out to be a bit of ironic good fortune, my brother Bennie, home on leave from the navy, happened to be filming out in the backyard of our home at the time. The 8-mm film shows a towheaded, barefoot, shirtless boy, blonde as corn silk, walking in a small garden about eighty yards away. The boy stops, stoops, straightens … and then comes running toward the house...

  5. WHY DO WE DO ARCHAEOLOGY?
    (pp. 8-14)

    There are a million and one things we can spend money on in this world, some worthy, some not.Archaeologyis, I firmly believe, one of the worthy ones. Compared to other countries and states, Mississippi spends very little on archaeology, but we do spend some. Where does that money come from? What happens to it? How is it spent? Does archaeology even matter so much that money should be spent doing it?

    For starters, let me say that most archaeology is ultimately funded by taxpayers’ dollars, one way or another. Because of this, most archaeologists (who are a very...

  6. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE TO DIG?
    (pp. 15-30)

    The archaeological record of Mississippi is a vast, material phenomenon. It consists of enormous numbers of artifacts produced during thousands of years of human occupation, from the end of the last Ice Age right up until today. These artifacts lie strewn about the landscape, sometimes visible, sometimes hidden by soil and vegetation. Archaeologists refer to any place where artifacts are found as asite. How do we find sites, and, having found them, how do we determine which ones are worthy of further work and/or preservation? When we excavate a site, we very rarely dig all of it, for such...

  7. HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW OLD IT IS?
    (pp. 31-41)

    I get this one alot. And a very good question it is. Often someone will bring in a stone spear point or arrowhead and ask me how old it is. Within a certain margin of error—a couple of hundred to several hundred years, depending on the type of object—I can usually tell at a glance how old a point, a piece of pottery, or some otherdiagnosticartifact is. A diagnostic is an artifact representative of a certain time period. How on earth do archaeologists know what kinds of artifacts go with what period? How do we...

  8. DID YOU FIND ANY GOLD YET?
    (pp. 42-48)

    Public interest in archaeology is generally fed by slick, high-quality production efforts likeNational Geographicor the Discovery Channel. Such outlets perform a valuable service in letting people know what is going on in the world of archaeology. Unfortunately, they tend to focus on the spectacular, leading many people to believe that archaeology is nothing but a kind of glorified tomb robbing, a la Indiana Jones. This is a very unhealthy misconception. If you watch the Indiana Jones movies carefully, you will discover that the only ones doing any decent archaeology are the Germans.

    There is another lingering misperception that...

  9. WHO WERE THEY?
    (pp. 49-68)

    The only answer I can give to an embarrassingly large number of questions I am frequently asked is “We don’t really know.” One of the most common of these, usually asked after I have finished talking about excavations at a particular site, is “What tribe were they?” People are curious about who left all this stuff behind. Were they Choctaw? Chickasaw? Some other tribe? The impulse behind this question is perfectly understandable. People want to work from the known to the unknown, to have some anchor upon which to secure their ship of inquiry. Although I sympathize with the inclination,...

  10. DO I HAVE A MOUND ON MY PLACE?
    (pp. 69-84)

    Many, many people have told me over the years about “mounds” where they have collected lots of artifacts (usually a shoebox or bucket full: apparently, these are the standard volumetric measures for private artifact collections). Obviously, they have an archaeological site, or perhaps many sites, on their property. But are those sites, in fact, mounds? That is, are they intentionally constructed piles of earth created by prehistoric Indians?

    Short answer: probably not. Mounds were constructed for at least two reasons that we know of. Around two thousand years ago, roundedconical moundswere built by Middle Woodland–period people as...

  11. WHAT WERE THE ARTIFACTS USED FOR, AND HOW WERE THEY MADE?
    (pp. 85-93)

    Remember the arrowhead that I described in chapter 1, the one that I found in Choctaw County as a boy? People often refer to such artifacts as “bird points,” the idea being that anything so small must have been fashioned for a particular purpose. What is small enough to hunt with such a small point? Birds are, or so many people like to think, and hence the name. The larger points commonly found are more generally referred to as “arrowheads.” This is one of the most common errors that I hear when I talk to people across the state about...

  12. WHAT ARE MY ARTIFACTS WORTH?
    (pp. 94-104)

    Of all the questions that I am frequently asked, this is the only one that I hate. Especially when a young boy or girl is doing the asking. What are archaeological remains worth? Why, they are priceless, of course, because they provide a window into an almost unknown world. Their scientific value is inestimable. But what are they worth in monetary terms? To be honest, I don’t know. Archaeologists aren’t in the business of marketing artifacts, nor should you be.

    And here’s why. Once a monetary value is placed on artifacts, they begin to be bought and sold. The problem...

  13. CAN THE GOVERNMENT TAKE MY STUFF AWAY?
    (pp. 105-111)

    I don’t quite know where this question comes from, but I certainly get it a lot. Folks apparently are worried that, if they let anyone official know that they have an artifact collection, the state or the federal government will suddenly swoop down and confiscate it. On more than one occasion, I’ve had people come up to me after talks and say that they had things they wanted to show me but didn’t bring because they were afraid their artifacts would be taken away. Having twice been employed by the federal government (once in the military, once with the U.S....

  14. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ARTIFACTS?
    (pp. 112-118)

    Several years ago, I got into a rather heated debate over the difference between archaeologists and pothunters. I was incensed when someone compared the two, as I was an idealistic young student who abhorred the destruction of the archaeological record caused by indiscriminate looting, treasure dives on sunken ships, the defacing of Mayan temples for art that winds up in private collections, and the like. At some point during the conversation, my contender demanded to know if I didn’t “want all the artifacts” that were out there. This question caught me completely off guard; I had no idea what to...

  15. HOW DO YOU BECOME AN ARCHAEOLOGIST?
    (pp. 119-125)

    In 1984, I was roofing for a living. “Living” is rather a euphemism, actually; it’s been a long while since I read Dante, but I’m pretty sure one of his circles must have included a hot asphalt roof in a Mississippi summer. That particularly nasty job was only the latest in a series of nasty jobs that I had held after obtaining an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force. Among my lesser accomplishments as a young adult: installing satellite dishes, being an unsalaried TV repairman, making really, really bad music videos in Nashville, and working the graveyard shift in...

  16. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
    (pp. 126-130)

    I’m always gratified when people ask this question. One of the nice things about living and working in the South is that people care about things, especially when they realize that those things are precious and irreplaceable, as are archaeological sites. So in this chapter, I will summarize some of the most important points made thus far, in the form of suggestions. If you follow these suggestions, you can rest assured that you are doing your part to help preserve Mississippi’s fascinating archaeological legacy.

    If you are an artifact collector, there are some very simple steps that you can take...

  17. HOW CAN I LEARN MORE?
    (pp. 131-136)

    There are a number of sources for further information for those interested in the archaeology of Mississippi. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), located in Jackson, is the state agency that deals with matters related to archaeology and historic preservation. The Historic Preservation Division is responsible for insuring compliance with the various federal and state laws related to cultural resources. Members of the division also maintain the inventory of known archaeological sites in the state and nominate significant sites to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the department oversees some very important sites that are open...

  18. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 137-144)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 145-149)