Archaeology

The Office of the State Archaeologist and Archaeology Section serve as the center of disciplinary expertise in state government. 

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as Amended sets forth our responsibility to assist federal agencies in assessing the impacts of their undertakings on archaeological resources, which we do through review of development projects all over the state.

We also work with a range of other state and federal laws. The most important of these state laws are Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 12-3-52 and 12-3-80, which set forth the role of the State Archaeologist, and OCGA 12-3-621, which outlines landowner rights over the archaeological sites that they own. 
Forestry and Archaeology: Protecting the Sites You Own - January 16, 2006

The most important of these are Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 12-3-52 and 12-3-80, which set forth the role of the State Archaeologist, and OCGA 12-3-621, which outlines landowner rights over the archaeological sites that they own.  The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as Amended sets forth our responsibility to assist federal agencies in assessing the impacts of their undertakings on archaeological resources, which we do through review of development projects all over the state. We also work with a range of other state and federal laws.

DNR service
Within our own Department of Natural Resources, we work closely with our agency's land managers to identify and protect archaeological resources on state-owned property. We have established strong, mutually beneficial relationships with DNRs Parks and Historic Sites, Wildlife Resources, and Coastal Resources Divisions.

We also work closely with other agencies and organizations both inside and outside state government. Some of our most important public partners are the Society for Georgia Archaeology, the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns, and the Georgia Archaeological Site File.

The Archaeology Section provides assistance to the public, offering technical advice, information, and educational opportunities related to archaeology.

Planning and Policy
The Archaeological Services Unit works closely with allied organizations in both the natural and cultural preservation fields to develop policies that benefit archaeological resources.  Our office directly supports the Georgia Archaeological Site File at the University of Georgia as the official archaeological site registry for the state.  We have systematized our processes for Section 106 compliance review and other mandated regulatory reviews so that all unit members can bring their varied professional backgrounds to bear on critical projects.

One of our most important planning efforts since 1997 has been regarding underwater archaeology.  The Georgia Council on Underwater Archaeology, comprised of Georgia General Assembly members, avocational divers, professional underwater archaeologists, museum professionals, and others, met throughout 2002 at the behest of then-DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett.  The Councils deliberations led directly to the formation of Georgias first underwater archaeology program in DNR, as well as to the initiation of the Flint River Basin Archaeological Survey, discussed in more detail below. Other policy-making bodies and documents we have participated in include:

· The Marsh Hammock Council, which developed recommendations for marsh back-barrier island preservation (Figure 7)
· Ossabaw Island Management Plan
· Ossabaw Island Education Collaborative
· DNR Emerging Leaders Program
· Georgia Land Conservation Partnership
· Georgia Greenspace Program
· DNR 10 Year Strategic Planning Leadership Team
· HPD 5 Year Strategic Plan

Underwater archaeology
From prehistoric fish weirs to 19th century steamships, we are interested in submerged archaeological sites (as well as those embedded in our marshes and river banks) throughout the state.

Frequently Asked Questions


Explaining Archaeology

"Archaeology is, in common with all sciences, a strategy for learning in which we test the limits of our assumed knowledge through processes designed to expose those limits" Lewis Binford

Welcome to Georgia's Statewide Archaeology Site Protection and Education Program web page.  Archaeology is a science that focuses on learning about the past from the material remnants that people left behind.  We are much like detectives putting together the scattered clues from a crime scene, except that our crime scenes are archaeological sites.  An archaeological site is simply a place where people did something in the past.  Our clues might be garbage from an 18th century trash pit, a broken pot made by an Indian 2,000 years ago, or a shipwreck.

What all these things have in common is that they have stories to tell that arent written down for us in books or other records.  The average frontier housewife in 1740s Georgia didnt write down what her family ate, where they bought their goods, what their house looked like, or what types of illnesses they suffered from.  American Indian cultures were pre-literate, so there are no written records at all about them until DeSoto made his entrance onto the world stage in 1540.  And people rarely take the time to write down what is happening when their ship sinks in a gale.

Consequently, the only way to know about the real lives of real people in our past is through archaeology.

Being a Good Steward of the Past

Archaeological sites are non-renewable resources.  That means we have to be good stewards of those resources so that our grandchildren, and archaeologists of the future, can learn from them as well.  Being a good steward means not picking up artifacts from a site without making a record of where they were found and not selling artifacts, thereby fueling the looting of sites for profit. It also means never picking up or digging for artifacts on public lands or in public waters because those artifacts, and the sites they come from, belong to all Georgians. Georgia law prohibits digging artifacts from property you dont own without the written permission of the landowner, including state or federally owned lands.

As you browse our website, please remember that archaeological sites provide a window to our past.  We can be proud that Georgia, where people have lived for more than 12,000 years, has one of the richest archaeological records in North America.  It is up to all of us as Georgia citizens to pass that record, and the lessons it holds, on to our children and grandchildren.


Archaeology and Historic Preservation


Archaeology is the science devoted to discovering and understanding traces of 4.5 million years of human and protohuman activity. The raw material of archaeology is a siteanyplace that contains evidence of past human activity. A site usually consists of two elements: artifacts and features. An artifact is any object made or altered by humans.  A commonly found artifact in Georgia is an American Indian spear point. A feature is essentially an immovable artifact. An 18th century privy pit is a feature, as is a soil discoloration left by a prehistoric fire that American Indians lit 6,000 years ago. Studying the relationships between artifacts and features allows the archaeologist to reconstruct what happened at a site hundreds, thousands, or in some cases, millions, of years ago.

Archaeology can be distinguished from the discipline of history as a way of knowing about the past. The latest archaeological evidence indicates that humans have occupied North America for approximately 13,000 years. The written records that form the raw material of the discipline of history go back to the de Soto entrada, in 1540.  Most of the buildings that we see on the Georgia landscape are even younger; the oldest date to the 18th century. Simple math indicates that the written records in the archives and the buildings of the state are the tangible evidence of about 3.5% of the time humans have occupied Georgia. Learning about the past only through those avenues is like parting the curtains on a window just a crack and expecting to fill a room with sunlight.

Moreover, preserving and studying historic buildings and written records alone is even less representative than it might seem at first glance. Not only does it leave out American Indian culture, but it significantly underrepresents the lives and contributions of enslaved Africans, Hispanics, tenant farmers in the post-bellum South, women, childrenin fact, most of the middle and lower economic classes of society. Why? Because for most of American history, literacy has been the province of the few. With the exception of the WPA Writers Project and several other notable exceptions, for instance, most of the historical knowledge of enslaved Africans up until about 25 years ago came from records kept by their ownersnot by the people themselves.

In short, archaeology is the ONLY way available to learn about the achievements and lives of most of the people who have lived in Georgia. Georgia has some of the most important archaeological sites in the country. This does not meanthat archaeology is superior to history as a way of understanding the past in Georgia. Rather, history and archaeology work together to provide a fuller understanding together than either would do on its own. It is that marriage between the disciplines that undergirds the Historic Preservation Division (HPD) programs.

Read the Archaeology in Historic Preservation article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

External links

Videos
Watch these Georgia Outdoors episodes online courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting

Archaeology - originally aired Friday, September 8, 2006
From sunken battleships and river boats to the burial mounds of long vanished native cultures to mysterious shell rings found on our barrier islands& archeology helps us to discover secrets of Georgia's history hidden beneath our soil and scattered along our waterways.

Monuments of the Past - originally aired Friday, October 31, 2008
Across Georgia, reminders of our states rich human history abound. From lighthouses to ruined factories and plantations to gravestones--- well take a closer look at some of these monuments of our past.  
 

Classroom speakers
If you are interested in having an archaeologist come speak to school students:
· Contact a professional archaeologist in your part of the state or check with a nearby university for an available archaeologist or anthropologist. Due to staff and time constraints, our office is unable to respond to all the requests we receive for classroom presentations.
· A directory of professional archaeology firms you may contact is available in our Consultants Directory
· Contact the Society for Georgia Archaeology, the state-wide volunteer archaeology organization.


American Indians in Georgia
Georgia is home to thousands of American Indians today, even though there are no large tracts of land reserved for Indian groups in Georgia, such as in some western states. The State of Georgia formally recognizes three tribes under Official Code of Georgia Section 44-12-300. The Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns was formed under Code Section 44-12-280 and is active in current Indian affairs in Georgia: 

American Indian Consultations and the To Bridge The Gap Conference - May 2010

The Georgia Trail of Tears

There are two state-owned historic sites associated with the Cherokee Indians: New Echota  and Chief Vann House. Other state parks with prehistoric resources: Etowah Indian Mounds Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park  and Fort Mountain


Report an Archaeological Site
The Georgia Archaeological Site File (GASF) is the official repository for information about known archaeological sites in Georgia from all periods of prehistory and history. Located on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, the GASF maintains a website containing the form to fill out to report a site and other information: http://archaeologylab.uga.edu/gasf/siteform.html or contact the office at: The Georgia Archaeological Site File, UGA Laboratory of Archaeology, 110 Riverbend Road, Athens, GA 30602-4702, phone: (706) 542-8737, gasf@uga.edu

General Information Web Resources and National Archaeology Organizations
· The Archaeology Channel: www.archaeologychannel.org
· The New Georgia Encyclopedia: www.georgiaencyclopedia.org
· The Society for Georgia Archaeology: www.thesga.org , published a special edition of its journal, Early Georgia, in 1992 that was dedicated completely to classroom ideas for teachers, using archaeology. At SGA's website, under "Archaeology of Georgia," you can download this publication free of charge.
· The National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/history/archeology/PUBLIC/teach.htm has school lesson plans available.
· The M.A.T.R.I.X. Project: "Making Archaeology Teaching Relevant in the XXI Century" is designed revise the national undergraduate curriculum in conjunction with the Society for American Archaeology and is funded by the National Science Foundation. http://www.indiana.edu/~arch/saa/matrix/homepage.html
· The Archaeological Institute of America: http://www.archaeological.org/webinfo.php?page=10260 offers information about archaeology, a magazine, and other information
· The Society for American Archaeology: http://www.saa.org/public/home/home.html offers educational and general information
· The Society for Historical Archaeology: http://www.sha.org/
· American Cultural Resources Association, form in March 1995 to serve the needs of the professional cultural resources industry: http://acra-crm.org