Hilltoppers Volunteer at Living Archaeology Weekend
- Author: Friday, November 8th, 2019
On September 20-21, 2019, anthropology students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the WKU Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology volunteered at the 31st annual Living Archaeology Weekend, Kentucky’s oldest and largest public archaeology event. This free, award-winning program in the Red River Gorge of eastern Kentucky brings the past to life, focusing on Native American and pioneer technologies and lifeways, archaeological interpretation, and preservation of cultural resources like archaeological sites and artifacts.
This year about 2,000 visitors – including over 1,100 fifth-grade students and their teachers – learned about the lifeways of past peoples by doing and observing their technologies with the guidance of expert demonstrators such as archaeologists and professional artisans. Native American technology demonstrations included flint knapping, pottery making, hide tanning, cattail mat weaving, textile weaving, pump drilling, spear throwing, plant processing, open-air cooking, and medicinal plant use. Members of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma demonstrated stickball, dancing, dress and regalia, and the Cherokee language. Pioneer technology and lifeways demonstrations included spinning, weaving, heirloom bean cultivation, corn processing, kettle cooking, lumbering, log architecture, and traditional music.
Sarah Everson, Joshua Keown, Jordan Mansfield, Anthony Mason (pictured here helping a visitor use an atlatl to throw a spear), Ariana Pedigo, Jennifer Roberts, and Savannah Smith comprised this year’s WKU contingent of student volunteers. They were among about 55 volunteers who helped demonstrators deliver their programs, especially assisting visitors with hands-on activities like using drop spindles to make yarn, pump drills to make necklaces, and atlatls to launch spears. They also managed the flow of visitors through the demonstrations, watched booths during demonstrator breaks, ran errands, and assisted with venue set-up and tear-down. The students had opportunities to learn directly from demonstrators and to network with professional archaeologists, tribal members, and government agency officials.
Danielle Goetz and Deborah Parrish, two WKU anthropology alumni who volunteered when they were students, worked as demonstrators at the event. Another alum, Dustin Smith, served as a volunteer. Faculty-staff volunteers from the department were Dr. Darlene Applegate, department head, and Dr. Gwynn Henderson, education director for the Kentucky Archaeological Survey; they have served on the LAW Steering Committee for over a decade. Dr. David Pollack and Dr. Justin Carlson of KAS also lent a hand, staffing a KAS booth at the event.
Living Archaeology Weekend encourages visitors to uncover and discover the significance of objects, and through them, realize the connections they have to people long ago … to reflect on the similarities all human beings share. Our heritage, our history, our identity are held in objects and in the patterns they exhibit in the places, like Red River Gorge, where people made and used them. The LAW event allows visitors to quite literally walk “back through time,” moving from the more familiar pioneer technologies to the less familiar Native technologies, making comparisons to their own existing points of reference. The power of objects in context establishes links across time to past peoples.
Living Archaeology Weekend is organized by the US Forest Service-Daniel Boone National Forest, the Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists, and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. The 2020 event is scheduled for September 18-19. LAW is the anchor event of the annual statewide Kentucky Archaeology Month celebration.