About the Division of Archaeology
History of the Division
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 TDOA was established in 1970 under the Department of Conservation through the "Tennessee Antiquities Act" (TCA 11-6-101-121). Our first staff members were hired in 1972, with Mack S. Prichard being appointed to the role of State Archaeologist in 1971. The TDOA had a very small budget when it was first created, which only allowed for the hiring of an assistant, which was Patti Coats. Prichard was able to secure additional funds and then hired three regional archaeologists and a Historical Archaeologist in 1972. These included 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).
Joseph Benthall became the state archaeologist after Mack Prichard retired in 1973 and Sam Smith was then hired to take over as the Historical Archaeologist. Patti Coats was also moved into the new position of Site Files Curator during this time. The Division experienced some structural changes during the late 1970's, which merged them with the TN State Parks Department. The position of State Archaeologist was eliminated at this time and Joseph Benthall was moved to a regional archaeologist position. Historical Archaeologist Sam Smith served as the acting State Archaeologist during this period. This merger was short-lived, however, with the TDOA again becoming its own Division in 1983 with the appointment of a new State Archaeologist, Nick Fielder, by Commissioner Charles A. Howell.
Fielder had been serving as the first State Historic Preservation Office Archaeologist since 1976. He served as State Archaeologist until 2007, when he retired. Mike Moore then became the State Archaeologist in 2007 and still holds the position today. 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). The TDOA is still a Division of TDEC.
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 Prision, Middle TN Veterans Cemetery, Bicentennial Mall, and Ropers Knob. Select site investigations on non-state lands include Brick Church Pike Mound, Fort Southwest Point, First Hermitage, Yearwood, Penitentiary Branch, Fort Blount, Brandywine Pointe, Coats-Hines Mastodon, 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 potteries, gunmaking, Highland Rim iron industry, Civil War, World War II, Rosenwald Schools, and 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.
The Division’s ability to perform larger-scale site excavations (such as Ft. Loudoun, Hiwassee Old Town, and Spencer) has significantly diminished over the years due to the same position reductions experienced by other state agencies. Division positions have been cut roughly 70% over the past 25 years, from about 35 positions during the mid-1980s to our current 10 positions. Most of the eliminated positions were part-time/seasonal posts used to employ project field crews. We now focus on smaller-scale survey and site investigations, and also respond to emergency situations as possible (such as the new Nashville Sounds baseball stadium in downtown Nashville). A listing of current employees can be found below.
General Contact Information and Hours
Our Phone Number is: (615) 741-1588 (To reach specific employees of the TDOA see the Staff Directory below)
Our address is:
1216 Foster Ave
Cole Building 3
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
For directions to our office see Archaeology Office Directions below.
We are open Mon-Fri: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
We 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.