About the Division of Archaeology
General Information and Hours
To reach employees of the TDOA see the Staff Directory .
Our address is:
1216 Foster Ave
Cole Building 3
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
For directions to our office see Archaeology Office Directions.
We are open Mon-Fri: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
State office are closed on the following State Holidays:
New Year's Day (January 1)*
Martin Luther King Day (3rd Monday in January)
Presidents Day (3rd Monday in February)
Good Friday (Friday before Easter)
Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
Independence Day (July 4th)
Labor Day (1st Monday in September)
Veteran's Day (November 11th)
Thanksgiving and the Friday after (4th Thursday in November)
Christmas Eve and Day (December 24th and 25th)*
*Note that the Governor can approve additional days as State office closures in addition to the official holidays . For an official list of State Holidays please visit https://www.tn.gov/about-tn/state-holidays.html.
History of the Division
Recorded explorations of Tennessee’s archaeological legacy date back to the early 1800s through efforts of antiquarians such as Rush Nutt, Ralph E. W. Earl, and John Haywood. Additional investigations throughout the 19th century, sponsored by well-known institutions including the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard’s Peabody Museum, were conducted with the primary goal of acquiring artifacts.
Prior to the creation of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) in 1970, there had been State Archaeologists, but no state organization that was tasked with watching over Tennessee's archaeology sites. The first official State Archaeologist was Parmenio E. Cox , who was appointed to the role by Governor Austin Peay in 1924 after the death of William Edward Myer, who had served as the unofficial state archaeologist. Cox held the role until he died in 1932.
The volume and breadth of discoveries from the early 19th through mid-20th centuries set the table for recognition of Tennessee’s rich archaeological heritage, yet there was no official state organization tasked with watching over our archaeological sites. This shortcoming was resolved in 1970, when the Tennessee Division of Archaeology was officially established as part of the Tennessee Department of Conservation through the Tennessee Antiquities Act (TCA 11-6-101-115.) Mack Prichard, Dr. Charles McNutt, Bob Ferguson, and Buddy Brehm represent a handful of the many Tennesseans who saw the need to conserve and document the state’s prehistoric and historic resources.
The new division was mandated to “…initiate, operate, and maintain a statewide program in archaeology.” (TCA 11-6-101b.) Governor Winfield Dunn appointed Mack Prichard as the first modern-era State Archaeologist in 1971. Mack had the dynamic personality to get the division up and running, and performed an admirable job during his admittedly short tenure. Also formed under this act was the Tennessee Archaeological Advisory Council, whose six members, appointed by the governor, were to advise the Conservation Commissioner and State Archaeologist on policy issues related to activities and personnel. The Council contained representatives from the University of Tennessee, Memphis State University, Vanderbilt University, the Tennessee Historical Commission, and the public at large. The TAAC legislation has since been amended to include Middle Tennessee State University, East Tennessee State University, and three members of Native American descent for a current total of 11 members.
The initial Division budget of $650,000 was approved in 1972. Over the next several years Prichard was able to secure additional funds and hire regional archaeologists including Brian Butler (who oversaw the eastern part of the state,) John Broster (who oversaw the west), Carl Kuttruff (who oversaw Middle Tennessee), and Joe Benthall (who served as the first historical archaeologist). Three significant archaeological sites had been purchased by Tennessee State Parks prior to creation of the division. Pinson Mounds in Madison County and Old Stone Fort in Coffee County continue to operate as State Archaeological Parks. Chucalissa, identified as Conservation’s first archaeological development, was transferred to Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) where it remains today. A priority during the early years was identifying archaeological sites for state purchase. Much of the initial 1972 budget was earmarked for this, and Big Bone Cave, Link Farm, Mound Bottom, Red Clay, and Sellars Farm all were successfully purchased.
Mack Prichard left his position in 1973, and Joe Benthall was appointed as the second State Archaeologist. At that time, Sam Smith was hired to take over the historical archaeologist duties, and Patti Coats was assigned as the division’s first Site File Curator. In the late 1970s, the division merged with Tennessee State Parks, and the position of State Archaeologist was eliminated. In 1983, the division regained its previous status and Nick Fielder was appointed as the third State Archaeologist. Until his retirement in 2007, Nick guided the division through difficult times as lean state budgets required reductions of part-time and temporary field positions. In 1991, the Department of Conservation merged with the Environment side of the former Department of Health and Environment to become the Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Today the TDOA remains a division of TDEC.
Michael C. Moore was appointed State Archaeologist in 2007 following his work with the Division as Assistant State Archaeologist and State Programs Archaeologist. By that time, the division’s ability to conduct the larger-scale site excavations had been curtailed by the elimination of all part-time/seasonal positions. Consequently, the division rededicated its efforts to documenting and preserving Tennessee’s historic and prehistoric archaeological resources. Today the division utilizes GIS and other means to manage files of recorded archaeological sites. Division staff also review proposed federal undertakings, in coordination with the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office, as well as potential impacts to known or suspected archaeological resources. Division staff members also provide general archaeological assistance to state and local agencies, law enforcement, municipalities, the development community, universities and colleges, and the general public.
Following Moore's retirement in 2020, Phil Hodge was appointed State Archaeologist. For a decade prior to his appointment, Hodge led the Archaeology Section of the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
State-wide field projects have comprised an important Division mandate since the beginning. Significant investigations on state-owned properties include Mound Bottom, Sellars Farm, Pinson Mounds, Fort Loudoun, Ft. Pillow, Fernvale, Riverbend Prison, SR-42 (Algood), Hiwassee Old Town, Sandbar Village, Carter House (Williamson County), Spencer Youth Center, Special Needs Prison, Middle TN Veterans Cemetery, Bicentennial Mall, and Ropers Knob. Select site investigations on non-state lands include Brick Church Pike Mound, Fort Southwest Point, the First Hermitage, Yearwood, Penitentiary Branch, Fort Blount, Brandywine Pointe, the Coats-Hines site, Johnson, Old Town, Gordontown, Austin Cave, Carson-Conn-Short, Rutherford-Kizer, Brentwood Library, Moss-Wright and collaborative investigations along the Cumberland River near Nashville following the 2010 floods. Thematic historic site surveys such as those of Tennessee potteries, gunmaking sites, the Highland Rim iron industry, Civil War and World War II sites, Rosenwald Schools, and the Trail of Tears have also been an important component of TDOA research. Reconnaissance surveys for prehistoric sites have been conducted within the Obion, Duck, Cumberland, Harpeth, Caney Fork, Collins, Calfkiller, and Hiwassee/Ocoee River watersheds. Reports on many of these investigations are available for free on our Publications page.