JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Mission and Work of JSU's Archaeological Team

Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau

JACKSONVILLE -- June 7, 2001 -- How do the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), cultures from the ancient past, and Jacksonville State University work together?

Actually, they have a lot in common. Anytime ALDOT wants to build a new highway, road or bypass, they must first have an archaeologist survey the site. The archaeologist ensures that no artifacts or bits of history are destroyed by this construction.

And over the last 22 years, Dr. Harry Holstein and his team of archaeologists, students and volunteers at JSU have helped preserve the past and educate others about our prehistoric ancestors and the earliest inhabitants of Alabama.

The archaeology department started out with just Holstein, and over the years he has added to this team. Curtis Hill gave up his law studies to become an archaeologist. He now directs all excavations. Keith Little is the newest member of the team. He is a career archaeologist like Holstein and writes most of the grant proposals and reports.

Together these three have written numerous publications that go into local libraries and schools to inform students and the general public of past cultures.

In those 22 years the archaeology department has been awarded more than $1 million in contracts. Recently, ALDOT awarded JSU a $310,000.00 grant to conduct a large scale excavation near Fort Payne.

"If the initial Phase I survey is any indication of what we might find," says Curtis Hill, "this will be an incredible dig."

This could be one of the largest discoveries made by the archaeologists.

"We could actually be there for two to three months," adds Hill. "We'll have our own tent village set up near the site."

The team will actually be living on the site. "We need to have someone there at all times." This is to prevent looters from coming in and removing important artifacts.

This is one reason Hill feels their presence is so important. Grave robbers -- pot hunters, as they are called by archaeologists -- don't realize what they are disturbing when they remove artifacts.

Hill applauds the university for providing open excavations where the public can actually see what the archaeologists are finding. The department even allows spectators to participate in the dig. By allowing this, says Hill, people learn about these prehistoric cultures and learn to respect them.

"This highway needs to be built," comments Hill. "It will save many lives. But it's our job to save the cultural information that we have found there. We are in a race to save the past."


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