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Dig up an earthquake

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FOUND: At last year's dig.
  • FOUND: At last year's dig.
At the Eaker Site near Blytheville, in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, they find something extra: Cracks in the ground that may have been made circa 1450 and perhaps during the historic 1811-1812 events as well. If digging in the dirt to find 12th-century engraved pottery, clay critters (called effigies), arrow points, evidence of Indian life shaken up by earthquakes and learning what they tell us about a people who left no written record appeals to you, then consider the Arkansas Archeological Society’s 42nd Annual Training Program June 11-26. If you don’t mind heat (though you can skip the digging and work indoors cleaning and marking artifacts) and enjoy campground camaraderie, you’re almost sure to have fun. If you think classes in human and animal bone identification taught by UA-affiliated professional archeologists sounds good, too — well, just sign up. Dr. Claudine Payne, head of the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s Eaker Research Station, and her assistant, Marion Haynes, will be in charge of this year’s training program, a continuation of work done at last summer’s Society Dig. The Eaker site encompasses 26 acres on the south bank of Pemiscot Bayou, way up in the northeast corner of the state, in Mississippi County. This year’s dig goals are to further define a house discovered last year, look for earthquake effects, open up a new area a distance from the bayou to see how it relates to the rest of the site, and look for clues to how pre-Columbian people lived on the site through time. The house discovered in last year’s dig turned up about 30 centimeters (nearly 12 inches) below the ground surface. There, dig participants found burned clay, logs and thatching, the materials used in building a house; stains left by house posts; a possible pit filled with deer bones, and a possible hearth. Small cracks, believed to have been caused by earthquakes, were also found. The dig also includes evening entertainment in the form of talks by invited archeologists, campground games, a cookout, and if that big family from Illinois shows up, a group reading of a Shakespearean play and homemade ice cream. Last but not least, your shower at the end of the day should be one of the most welcome you’ve ever taken. For information on lodging and to sign up, visit http://www.uark.edu/depts/4society/index.php and fill out a registration form, or call the Arkansas Archeological Society’s registrar at 479-575-3556. Fees vary from $35 to $45 per person, depending on the number of days spent at the dig. If you’re not a member of the Society, tack on $10 if you’re a student or $20 if you’re a grown-up. You must be 16 to attend.

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