Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology, Third Thursday Lecture Series

In 2022 the Tennessee Division of Archaeology initiated a monthly virtual lecture series, taking place on the third Thursday of each month from April through October. The presentations in this series are free, and intended to provide the public with information on recent archaeological research taking place throughout Tennessee.  Information and video links for prior programs are included in the drop-down menu below. If you have questions about the series, please contact State Archaeologist Phil Hodge (

Past Programs

April 21, 2022

Kevin Smith, Middle Tennessee State University

Exploring Native American Foodways in Ancient Tennessee: More than Just Corn, Beans, and Squash

Explorers of Tennessee’s Cumberland River valley in the 1700s reported forests of American bamboo miles in diameter and so dense only children could squeeze through them. Archaeologists have usually assumed that this now critically endangered ecosystem developed in the 1600s after indigenous people abandoned the area. For ancient Nashville between about AD 1200 and 1500, I will examine some exciting new research about the antiquity of these Cumberland Valley bamboo forests – and how they intersect with the history, culture, traditions – and food – of indigenous people. Along the way, I will also explore the relationship of beaver ponds and maize fields, tame deer herds, and a continent-wide trade network of useful plants beyond maize, beans, and squash.

You can view a recording of this presentation to the right or using this link:

Dr. Kevin Smith

Dr. Ed Henry

May 19, 2022

Edward R. Henry, Colorado State University

William L. Lawrence, Tennessee Division of Archaeology

Expanding Our Spatial and Temporal Understandings of the Pinson Landscape in Western Tennessee

Literature on the Middle Woodland landscape in West Tennessee is dominated by the monumental earthen architecture at Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park. However, the Pinson Landscape also includes other mound sites, and recent research has dramatically reshaped how archaeologists might consider this enigmatic Middle Woodland landscape in the MidSouth. In our lecture we will discuss the field verification of a new monumental feature at the Johnston site, new and unusual subsurface features identified at Pinson Mounds in geophysical survey, and examination of LiDAR visualizations for the Elijah Bray Site. Together, we will reveal how a suite of new discoveries is prompting us to expand our understanding of, and approach to studying, the Pinson Landscape.


June 16

Daniel Brock, Tennessee Division of Archaeology

Archaeological Testing at the Montgomery Bell CCC Camp

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a federal works program enacted during the Great Depression that assisted in the construction of state and federal parks throughout the United States. This presentation reviews recent archaeological investigations at a CCC camp located within Montgomery Bell State Park in Dickson County, Tennessee. The site functioned as a temporary labor camp for the CCC and potentially other federal workers between 1935 and 1942 while the park was under construction. During its occupation, it primarily served as a segregated camp for African American corpsmen. In the summer of 2020, staff from the Division of Archaeology conducted a Phase I archaeological survey at the camp (40DS110) as part of a historic preservation grant provided by the Tennessee Historical Commission. Archaeological investigations included documenting and mapping site features, surface collection, and shovel testing of previously standing structures to assess the camp’s archaeological integrity and increase our knowledge of CCC camps and segregated laborers’ camps during the Great Depression. 

You can view a recording of this presentation to the right, or use the following link:

July 21

Morgan Smith, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Exploring Tennessee’s Submerged Cultural Landscapes and Resources

The Tennessee River is full of inundated archaeological sites which have seen little if any formal monitoring or survey since their inundation over half a century ago. Recently, UTC's Anthropology program has begun assessing critical historic and prehistoric sites in the vicinity of Chattanooga. These include the Civil War shipwreck Chattanooga and the Paleoindian LeCroy site (40HA43). This conversation will highlight the process and significance of submerged sites research, the importance of the underwater archaeological record of Tennessee, the state of UTC's research on the aforementioned sites, and future plans for research on these resources.

You can view a recording of this presentation to the left or use the following link:

August 18

Lauren Walls, Danny Gregory, and Velma Fann, New South Associates, Inc.

The Crabtree Farmstead Complex: A Study in Comprehensive Context

The Crabtree property is a multi-generational African American farmstead complex in Portland, Tennessee.  It was documented as part of a highway bypass project for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.  It is presented here as an example of a comprehensive approach to historic sites.  It was an effort to place the site within a context that included not only its archaeological aspects, but also the perspectives of the Crabtree family and their ancestors who lived on the property.  Documentation of the site used traditional archaeological methods supplemented by geophysics, archival research, and oral history.  The methods and theory presented can be applied to similar transportation projects in Tennessee and throughout the Southeast.

You can view a recording of this presentation to the right or use the following ink:

You can view a recording of these presentations above or use the following link:

September 15

Research supported by grants from the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology  

Kaitlynn M. Millichamp, Paul N. Eubanks, Tiffany B. Saul, and Gwyneth Gordon

Examining the Function of Saltpans at Bledsoe’s Lick in Sumner County, Tennessee (40SU14) with Stable Isotope and Trace Element Analyses

From 2017 to 2019, Middle Tennessee State University excavated at Bledsoe’s Lick in north-central Tennessee. This lick, which is part of the Castalian Springs Mound Site (ca. AD 1200-1350), yielded numerous ceramic artifacts including several hundred sherds from large, fabric-impressed pans. While fabric-impressed pans are often associated with salt production, the low salinity of the springs at Bledsoe’s Lick raises the possibility that the pans from this site served a different function. Here, we present two alternative, non-exclusive possibilities: that the pans were used to concentrate mineral waters from the nearby springs and that they were used to boil maize. Testing of the fabric-impressed pans for trace elements and organic carbon content via ICP-OES, ICP-MS, TOC, and TOC-IRMS did not provide conclusive evidence for either possibility. Future testing of carbonized residue via lipid extraction techniques may provide more definitive results.

Tim Dodson, US Army Corps of Engineers

Fish Weir Recording in Eastern Tennessee

Despite their global use, the use of fish weirs/traps and dams by both Native American Tribes and Euro-American communities in Tennessee has only received modest and sporadic attention by archaeologists/historians. As of late 2020, site file research at the Tennessee Department of Archaeology (TDOA) indicated that only twenty-three fish weirs had been recorded in the state of Tennessee. Due to advances in aerial photography and satellite imagery (Google Earth), a study identified 50 potential locations of previously unknown/unrecorded weirs throughout eastern Tennessee (Cranford, 2019). This presentation will outline the limited history of fish weirs in Tennessee, discuss the 2020-2021 results and difficulties to record unknown weirs/traps in eastern Tennessee, suggest future research opportunities and highlight the importance of documenting these cultural features in the archaeological record.

This research was made possible by the 2020 Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA) Research Award. The views, opinions, and research that was conducted are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense Department of the Army, or US Army Corps of Engineers.

October 20

Camille Westmont , Sewanee: The University of the South

“Hell Holes of Rage, Cruelty, Despair, and Vice”: Archaeological Findings from the Lone Rock Convict Labor Stockade (40GY78), Grundy County, Tennessee

Between 1871 and 1896, Tracy City, Tennessee, served as both the headquarters of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company and the epicenter of the state’s forced prison labor industry. Over the course of those 25 years, over 5,000 prisoners, most of whom were African American men, were brought to Tracy City and forced to work in the area's coal mines and coke ovens. In 1884, the original makeshift prison was replaced with a purpose-built prison stockade. That structure, named the Lone Rock Stockade, would feature prominently in state history, including playing a role in the Tennessee Convict Lease War. Since 2020, archaeological excavations have sought to learn more about the stockade, the surrounding landscape, and the experiences of the prisoners who were held there. 

You can view a recording of this presentation to the right or use the following link: