National Archaeology Day at Chucalissa on October 20

by Robert Connolly

In less than three weeks, on October 20th from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM we will celebrate the Second Annual National Archaeology Day at the C.H. Nash Museum.  We will have a host of activities on that day for the young and old alike.  Youngsters will be able to visit and take part in ArchaeologyLand activities, modeled on the nationally acclaimed model conceived by educator Carol Ellick.  We will also have flintknapping demonstrations along with tours of our excavation trench and Hands-On Archaeology Lab.  Everyone will be able to try his or her hand at throwing darts with the ancient hunting tool known as an atlatl.  We will also have professional archaeologists on hand who to identify your surface collected artifacts.

We are also racing to complete construction of a Mississippian-era replica house in time for the October 20th celebration.  The Friends of Chucalissa generously contributed the funds for this project.  The Delta Nine AmeriCorps Team who completed their tour at Chucalissa last week made an excellent start on the house construction.  Located in a portion of the Chucalissa site where residential houses were excavated over 30 years ago, the new house replica will serve as a setting to recreate many of activities of typical household over 500 years ago.

On October 20th we will also feature the re-premier of a film made by Mr. Charles Barfeld at Chucalissa over 40 years ago.  C.H. Nash narrates the film that features members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians demonstrating their skills as they create baskets, ceramic vessels, and blowguns.

Members of the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society (MAGS) will also have several displays of geological and fossil specimens collected from West Tennessee.  The MAGS participation continues their 60-year tradition of volunteerism and support for the Chucalissa site.   We are especially pleased that a group of MAGS members have decided to commit to regular volunteer, research, and educational opportunities at Chucalissa.  Participation by groups such as MAGS is a critically important part of community engagement at the C.H. Nash Museum.

I am often asked about when we will next conduct excavations at Chucalissa.  My immediate response is that before we conduct more excavations at Chucalissa we must first complete the archaeological task of properly analyzing and reporting the many artifacts excavated and collected from throughout West Tennessee now curated in our repository.  We are now completing the re-inventory of the repository artifacts with a special eye to those collections that will be of particular value for student, professional, and avocational research.  That is where the efforts of MAGS will also come in.

A special interest of MAGS members who will volunteer at Chucalissa will be to assist in analyzing some of these collections and preparing reports.  Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program students will work with MAGS members to use these materials to create exhibits for regional museums, libraries and other public venues throughout West Tennessee.  This type of archaeological work is just as important as the excavation process.  As a profession, we archaeologists do not have the greatest track record on sharing our information with the public who fund our research efforts.  We are excited to use this Second National Archaeology Day as an opportunity to continue our work in turning that situation around.

Join us on October 20th at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and in the coming months as we continue to celebrate the cultural heritage of those who came before us!

Robert Connolly is the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Memphis.

About C.H. Nash Museum

The mission of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, a division of the University of Memphis, is to protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and to provide the University Community and the Public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities on the landscape’s past and present Native American and traditional cultures.
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