Kentucky Archaeological Survey Shares Archaeology Remotely
- Author: Thursday, May 14th, 2020
Dr. A. Gwynn Henderson, Education Director for the Kentucky Archaeological Survey (KAS) at WKU, is reaching out to Kentuckians to bring archaeology to them directly – and remotely. She is participating in two projects to share archaeological stories with the public.
Image: Artist's reconstruction of what Davis Bottom might have looked like in the 1890s, based on archaeological and related research (Susan A. Walton).
Dr. Henderson has been involved with the Think History project since November. An initiative of Kentucky Humanities, Think History is a series of short radio spots that feature fascinating facts about the people of the Commonwealth. The series invites listeners to “travel back in time to relive a moment in Kentucky’s history.” Read by KH Director Bill Goodman, the radio spots air on WEKU each weekday at 8:19 am and 4:19 pm EST and are available for free listening on the Kentucky Humanities and WEKU-FM web sites. The project began in July 2019 and will run for at least one year.
“I found out about this program after hearing one of the spots. Seriously cool and interesting tidbits about Kentucky history and culture! I thought, what a great way to get the word out about the findings of Kentucky archaeology, Native Americans, historic archaeology, etc. So, I offered to develop spots,” explained Dr. Henderson. Conveying complex content in an engaging manner in 160-175 words is no small task. “It is a serious challenge to write these.”
To date, over 20 episodes written by Dr. Henderson have aired as part of the Think History project. The first two segments – on the origins of ancient agriculture and the importance of dogs in the lives of Native peoples – broadcast in November as part of Kentucky’s Native American Heritage Month celebration.
In recognition of African American History Month, nine spots aired about Kentucky’s Antebellum plantations and the foodways, recreational pursuits, superstitions, religion, and shrines of Kentucky’s formerly enslaved population. These segments were based on excavations at the Barkley Plantation in Jessamine County as described in Uncovering the Lives of Kentucky’s Enslaved People, part of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s online Heritage Spotlight series by KAS archaeologists Dr. M. Jay Stottman and Lori C. Stahlgren, downloadable for free from the KYTC archaeology web site.
Dr. Henderson’s recent episodes focus on the history and archaeology of Davis Bottom, one of Lexington’s Postbellum black enclaves. She based these spots on the KAS-written, award-winning unit “Investigating a Shotgun House,” part of the Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter national archaeology curriculum. Dr. Henderson also penned ten spots on Kentucky’s “ribbon of history” or early road system, focusing on development of the Maysville-Lexington Road (a.k.a., Limestone Trace) and the homes and inns along its path in north-central Kentucky.
Stay tuned for more of Dr. Henderson’s archaeology-themed episodes of the Think History project. Her next subject? Discoveries about early Native American hunter-gatherer lifeways along the Cumberland River in Trigg County.
Archaeologists Read Archaeology
Dr. Henderson became involved in the Archaeologists Read Archaeology initiative through her connections with other public archaeology experts. In March, Sarah Miller, Northeast/East-Central Regional Director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) and former staff archaeologist at KAS, started the initiative as a way, in these times of sheltering-at-home and schooling-at-home, for archaeologists to introduce students, parents, teachers, and others to archaeology books written for the public, to share the informative and compelling stories these books contain.
The premise of Archaeologists Read Archaeology is to produce and post videos of archaeologists reading aloud from books about a wide range of archaeology topics. Teachers and parents can incorporate the readings into lessons in social studies, language arts, science, and other subjects. The videos are linked to additional educational content to support learning across multiple grade levels.
In late March, Miller sent out a call for archaeologist readers through Facebook, and Dr. Henderson was among the first to respond. “I thought it was a wonderful, creative, and thoughtful project for KAS to support. I wanted KAS to do something for teachers and parents during this health crisis,” said Dr. Henderson. She selected a book, practiced a dry run in Zoom, then read the selection over and over, noting places for pauses and voice inflections. The next day, she recorded the reading. Miller shot the video in high definition via Zoom and Emily Jane Murray of FPAN edited it. This first installment in the Archaeologists Read Archaeology series has been viewed on YouTube and Facebook over 5,000 times in the first month! #ArchaeologistsReadArchaeology #ArchysReadArchy
For the video, Dr. Henderson reads the opening vignette section from Adena: Woodland Period Moundbuilders of the Bluegrass, a KAS booklet she co-authored with Eric J. Schlarb. They prepared the booklet in 2007 for the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky as part of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America program grant and with support from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The Adena booklet describes archaeological interpretations about the daily lifeways, ritual sites, and burial practices of the people whom archaeologists call Adena. These hunter-gatherer-gardeners lived in central and eastern Kentucky from 500 BCE to 200 CE. The booklet showcases the rich cultural traditions of the Adena people and how their earthworks remain as a testimony to their way of life. It is dedicated to all the Kentucky landowners who are preserving the Adena mounds, circles, and other earthworks that remain.
The booklet connects with other free educational materials, and Dr. Henderson hopes the Archaeologists Read Archaeology selection will encourage educators to incorporate them at home and in the classroom. The Adena People: Moundbuilders of Kentucky is an episode in KAS’s award-winning Kentucky Archaeology and Heritage Video Series. The short documentary video is streaming live on The Archaeology Channel. Judy Sizemore, KAS Curriculum Development Coordinator, prepared a series of lessons for intermediate and middle school grades linked to the video. The lessons can be downloaded in PDF format from the Education section of the Living Archaeology Weekend web site.
The full-color, 48-page The Adena People booklet is available for purchase from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. It also can be read online/downloaded in PDF format for free from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet archaeology web site. Download the booklet and read along with Dr. Henderson, the archaeologist who reads archaeology!