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Preservation On The Reservation [And Beyond]
Fall 1999

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*  Return to Shiloh: Archeologists Investigate Battlefield, Prehistoric Mounds

(photo) Grandmother and granddaughter, both members of British Columbia's Heiltsuk tribe.

"Of the 300-plus languages indigenous to what are now the United States and Canada, nearly a third have disappeared. Only about a quarter of those that survive are being passed on to children. [Without intervention] all of these languages will fall silent within the next few decades. "

Teresa L. McCarty and Lucille J. Watahomigie

by Joseph Flanagan

Recent work at Tennessee's Shiloh National Military Park has shed further light on the site's multi-layered past. In July, a team from the NPS Southeast Archeological Center conducted investigations using ground penetrating radar and GPS technology. Besides being the site of one of the Civil War's deadliest encounters, Shiloh also features seven Mississippian mounds dating from AD 1050 to 1250.

The archeologists, led by David G. Anderson and John Cornelison, had a number of questions in mind, namely, the nature of Mound A, which is eroding into the Tennessee River, and where WPA-era archeologist Frank Roberts conducted his mound excavation in 1933. The team also hoped to pinpoint the site of an artillery battery in Corinth, Mississippi, occupied by federals in 1862 after the Shiloh engagement. The information will help NPS to better manage the park and assist a synthesis of work on the mounds being compiled by Paul Welch at Queens College in New York. The park is funding the project.

Mound A will be largely gone within the next few years, and archeologists knew little about its composition or history. GPR yielded an excellent view. It is now believed the mound was built up over time, not all at once as previously thought. The radar defined the stages of construction deep within, which recount the political and ceremonial history of the mound. Each stage represents a new leader or major episode of activity. An earthen apron around the base is thought to have been a late addition to enhance the mound's appearance. The findings will tell archeologists more about how the mound's fortunes changed through time. Most of the other mounds examined had similar features.

Also critical is where Frank Roberts dug. One of many New Deal archeological projects in the Southeast at the time, his excavation was extensive, employing as many as 120 workers at once. But he left no record of where it was and little about the results. Researchers now have a a fuller understanding of the context for Roberts' findings.

The radar also pinpointed mass graves of Confederates at Shiloh and, just south in Corinth, the site of the artillery earthworks, whose outline was known from historic maps but left no surface traces. Archeologists confirmed the battery's position with exploratory excavations.

A report will be released in early 2000. For more information, contact David Anderson, NPS Southeast Archeology Center, 2035 E. Paul Dirac Dr., Box 7, Johnson Bldg., Suite 120, Tallahassee, FL 32310, (850) 580-3011 ext. 344, e-mail david_anderson@nps.gov.

MJB/EJL