Group Doing Archaeological Digs In Rutherford County
EAGLEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Some say the history is written in stone. For archaeologists, it's written in the dirt.
In Rutherford County, history is about to get rewritten by MTSU professor Tanya Peres.
Peres recently launched the Rutherford County Archaeology Research Program, an initiative to explore and record the prehistoric cultures of the county.
"We are going to survey the county as completely as possible and record all the prehistoric sites," Peres said.
Since the birth of the United States, it was believed that no ancient people lived in Rutherford County.
That theory dates back to 1776 when explorer James Adair met with a group of Native Americans at Black Fox Springs near present day Murfreesboro.
"They told him this area was just used as a hunting ground," Peres said.
And until recently, the archaeological record has supported this theory.
Since the Tennessee Division of Archaeology began recording sites, more than 1,300 prehistoric sites have been found in Williamson and Davidson counties.
"Rutherford County only has 275. That is not even half of one of those counties," Peres said.
She is on a mission to add to the list and she's started in Eagleville. Peres is conducting an archaeological field school for MTSU students at the Magnolia Valley equestrian farm in Eagleville.
The eight-week program is designed for archaeology students at MTSU to gain first-hand knowledge of the techniques required to work in the field.
Peres explained she chose Magnolia Valley because former student Jesse Tune suggested they use his mother's land in Eagleville.
Mary Tune purchased the land in 2006 and her son, being a curious archaeologist, did some digging in 2008 and found artifacts that suggested humans lived on the farm in the Paleo Era, which dates roughly from 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, to the Archaic Era, which dates roughly from 3,000 to 10,000 years ago.
With the previous research done by Tune, Peres headed out into the field with a group of 12 eager students.
They started the Magnolia Valley project with shovel tests, where small holes are dug to test for the presence of artifacts, and remote sensing, where the use of ground penetrating radar and other technology is used to test for anomalies underground without having to dig.
The initial round of testing found a historic horse and buggy road and round anomalies that the students then set to excavating.
Peres walked around the site, pointing at square holes dug into the ground at small increments and explaining what the students had uncovered.
In one test unit, she pointed to a layer of historic gravel that she believes was used to fill in the old roadway.
In another, she pointed to part of a long curving feature that extends out of the unit. So far there's no indication of what it might be.
In yet another, she pointed out a dark stain in the soil.
"We think this is a possible earth oven," she said, noting the presence of charcoal and evidence of burned rock within the stained area.
The presence of an earth oven is evidence Native Americans did more than just hunt in Rutherford County.
Peres has already begun to change thoughts about the prehistory of the county.
She recently worked with the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department to explore Black Cat Cave, the reputed location of a speakeasy during Prohibition in the 1920s, located near the Alvin C. York VA campus.
With help from professor Shannon Hodge, MTSU students, Aaron Deter-Wolf with the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, and members of the Native History Association, the group discovered a significant prehistoric component in the cave.
"We are making every effort to be good stewards of this cultural resource, and will continue to consult with MTSU, the state of Tennessee, the Native History Association, and others as we move forward. In the meantime, the cave will continue to be closed to the public," MPRD Director Lanny Goodwin said after the discovery.
Like Black Cat Cave, Rutherford County has a rich history following European settlement, but little is known about how prehistoric people used the land because few studies have been done to explore its prehistory.
Peres wants to prove there is more to the story.
"We are rewriting the prehistory of Rutherford County," she said.
(Copyright 2014 By The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)