Below are a few recent projects that highlight AAC's team of technicians, professionals, and scholars.

The house at Site 1MA1165 during excavations
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Artifacts recovered from a single test unit level at Site 1MA1165
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1888 Liberty Dime recovered from Site 1MA1161
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AAC Completes a Phase III Data Recovery on Three Historic Archaeological Sites on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama


The Phase III report for this project has been approved and can be found in full text PDF using the link below:

Partnering with the North Wind Group  and Redstone Arsenal, AAC recently conducted Phase III Data Recovery investigations on archaeological sites 1MA1161, 1MA1162, and 1MA1165 on Redstone Arsenal. These sites are situated upon a larger parcel slated for a major construction project, and all three sites had been previously determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places based upon the integrity of the archaeological deposits and their rich and interconnected histories. From December 2017 through April 2018, AAC staff tirelessly toiled to obtain as much information about the sites as possible before they were razed.  

The three archaeological sites date to 1914 (Site 1MA1165) and 1928 (Sites 1MA1161 and 1MA1162), and represent a rare archaeological glimpse into the more recent history of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. Investigations included hand excavation of approximately 248,000 liters of archaeological fill. Excavations recorded 106 archaeological features including architectural features (such as chimney bases, limestone foundation footers, and drip lines from roof eaves), wells, trash pits, and plow scars. Thousands of historic artifacts were recovered using hydraulic processing ("wet screening"), and the laboratory is currently processing and cataloging all artifacts. The data recovered from these sites will provide a glimpse into the lives of the Love, Timmons, and Lightford families, who were noted African-American farmer owner/operators, and promises to provide historical context about a broad array of anthropological topics: agricultural practices and land use, consumerism, architectural salvage and reuse, and farm tenancy among them.


All recovered data and associated artifacts are being processed, and a report of findings is being developed which will seek to bring the archival information and recovered material culture together to create a rich historical narrative illuminating the lives of the sites' occupants. Once completed, the site reports will be made available to the public, and all artifacts, photographs, and excavation notes will be curated at the Erskine Ramsay Archaeological Repository in Moundville, Alabama.           

Photograph of Brown's Ferry taken in the 1890's
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Betts' 1901 Map of the Battlefields of Chattanooga showing the Brown's Ferry Landing
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Union Army trenches overlooking Brown's Ferry
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Archaeological Survey and Remote Sensing at Brown’s Ferry Explores an Important Chattanooga Civil War Site

Partnering with the Tennessee Historical Commission and the National Park Service, AAC recently conducted Phase I survey investigation of the Brown’s Ferry Landing on the western bank of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The project was in support of clean-up efforts at the property aimed at transforming the property into a public historical property.

This historic property is important in the early history of Chattanooga, as it was the western terminus of John Brown’s ferry, which provided a river crossing for the Federal Road. Prior to the Trail of Tears, the lands west of the Tennessee River were Cherokee lands. During this period, the Federal Road provided a gateway to the lands to the west, was an important trade route, and essentially constituted an international boundary.

During the Cherokee Removal, on June 17, 1838, Brown’s Ferry and portions of the Federal Road across Moccasin Bend were used by Federal troops escorting 1,070 Cherokee, with the Captain A.S. Drane Detachment, as they departed the area on the Trail of Tears. In October 1838, the Bell Party of 700 Cherokee, who supported the Treaty of New Echota, crossed Brown’s Ferry on the road to Oklahoma.

In September 1863, the Civil War descended on Chattanooga. The Confederate Army of Tennessee defeated the Union Army of the Cumberland at the Battle of Chickamauga. When Federal troops retreated to Chattanooga, Confederates drew up on the mountains surrounding the city, laying siege to the demoralized Union Army.

Brown's Ferry was a gap in the ridge, west of Chattanooga, selected by Brigadier General William F. "Baldy" Smith, and Major General Ulysses S. Grant for "Reopening of the Tennessee River" and relieving the Confederate siege of Union troops. During the Siege of Chattanooga, in the pre-dawn hours of October 27, 1863, a 1,400 man force under Brigadier General William B. Hazen floated over six miles downstream from Chattanooga in 50 pontoon boats and two flat boats. Union troops landed and seized the west landing of Brown’s Ferry from the small Confederate party guarding the landing.

The flatboats and about half of the pontoon boats landed at Brown’s Ferry, and moved through the gap in the ridgeline. Preparing for a Confederate counter-attack, the Union troops took defensive positions. After dawn, the pontoon boats were used to span the Tennessee River to Moccasin Bend, and began to move additional troops from Hazen's Brigade and Brigadier General John B. Turchin's Brigade across the river. Federal troops scrambled up the ridge to establish defensive positions. Responding to the firing, Colonel WiIliam C. Oates moved the 15th Alabama troops into Lookout Valley and began an unsuccessful counterattack, during which Oates suffered a gunshot wound to his hip.

The next day General Joseph Hooker’s troops arrived from the west and linked with the federal troops at Browns Ferry. Confederate troops from Lookout Mountian, led by James Longstreet, attached Hooker’s camped troops at the Battle of Wauhatchie during the night of October 28-29th. By October 30, Union steamboats began moving supplies upriver to Kelly’s Ferry and overland into Chattanooga by wagon across two pontoon bridges spanning the Tennessee River. The “Cracker Line” moved food and fodder to the besieged and starving Union Army, and much of the later campaign’s success was due to the provisions it provided.

On November 23, General Hooker attacked the Confederate bastion on Lookout Mountain and drove the Confederate troops to Missionary Ridge. The Battle of Lookout Mountain opened the Tennessee River as a Union shipping and supply line into Chattanooga.

While very little archaeology reflecting these historical events was encountered within the cleanup areas on the property, Union Army entrenchments line both ridges overlooking the Tennessee River, as well as the Federal Road as it moves from the river towards Lookout Valley.

Additionally, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies, AAC researchers were able to detect landscape-level features within the project area as well as in the immediate surrounding areas. A substantial encampment, a lunette trench emplacement, the Federal Road bed, a trail connecting the ferry landing with the trenches on the northern ridgeline, and the road spur built by the Union Army to facilitate the 1863 pontoon bridge were documented during the project.

AAC's crew during the 2014 excavations
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Radiocarbon sequence from selected sites in Madison County, Alabama
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Williams Spring Incised sherds
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Benjamin PP/Ks from the Williams Spring Site
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Map of seriated features at Williams Spring by temporal component, Excavation Blocks A-E
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The Williams Spring Phase:
A New Understanding of the Late Middle Woodland in Northeastern Alabama


The Phase III report for the Williams Spring Site (1MA1167) has been approved and can be found in full text PDF using the link below:

Two archaeological sites on Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama have yielded vast amounts of data critical to the understanding of Middle Woodland prehistoric culture, refining local and regional chronologies. The Williams Spring Site (1MA1167) and the Beadle Run Site (1MA22) together represent a temporal continuum of material culture dubbed by AAC researchers as the Williams Spring Phase.

Beneath a World War II-era wastewater treatment plant long abandoned by Redstone Arsenal, portions of a late Middle Woodland village were detected during an archaeological survey of the area conducted by AAC in 2007. The site was designated as Site 1MA1167 by the Alabama Historical Commission. Further investigation during the following project, a Phase II investigation, confirmed that, in places, a midden deposit within the historical plowzone was present, as well as stratified deposits, multiple pit features, and post holes. Because the waste water treatment plant is slated for demolition, a data recovery project was initiated.

Data recovery excavations at the Williams Spring Site were conducted in three field seasons in 2010, 2011, and 2014. Overall, the site yielded more than 250 cultural features, more than 400,000 collected artifacts, and an extensive compilation of data. Accelerated Mass Spectrometer (AMS) dating of 20 selected samples dated the major occupation of the site to A.D. 600–675. Radiometric assays, statistical and spatial modeling, archaeofaunal analyses, ethnobotanical analyses, ceramic and lithic technofunctional analyses, artifact seriation studies, and more have been utilized to explore the data gathered from the site.

Phase II investigations of the Beadle Run Site (1MA22) began in 2013, continuing through June 2015. Site 1MA22 is a multi-component 74.67-acre prehistoric and historic site on McDonald Creek, which includes evidence of occupations in the Archaic, Woodland, and twentieth century. Investigation during the 2013 field season included pedestrian survey, shovel testing, the excavation of twelve 1 m by 1 m test units, and mechanical removal of plow zone deposits in order to expose prehistoric cultural features. Investigations at Site 1MA22 during 2014 and 2015 included intensive pedestrian survey, the excavation of 816 shovel tests on a 20m grid, the excavation of 21 test units, removal of the plow zone within seven stripping trenches, and the excavation of two deep trenches opened to explore the geomorphology of the site. Thirteen accelerated mass spectrometry (AMS) dates, with a 30-year standard deviation, anchored the late Middle Woodland component at the site.

A total of 39,834 artifacts or other cultural materials were recovered from Site 1MA22. The historic assemblage (n= 1,212) reflects the known historic occupations at the site as shown on the historic aerial photographs of the area. The prehistoric assemblage (n= 38,622) is substantial, representing occupations during the middle to late Middle Woodland as well as scattered deposits from the Late Archaic and diagnostic material going back to the Early Archaic.

Combined, the data gathered and analyzed from these two sites granted new information about the late Middle Woodland in this area. A new ceramic type, dubbed Williams Spring Incised, was documented at both sites, and noted in collection from the nearby Walling Site (1MA50) where it was mistakenly typed as Sauty Incised. This ceramic type is limestone tempered and is decorated with broad, semi-circular incisions forming curvilinear motifs which are hypothesized to be an emulation of the curvilinear motifs seen on Marksville Incised vessels. With these data from three archaeological sites, the Williams Spring Incised ceramic type is placed chronologically within the range between A.D. 475 to A.D. 775, although the temporal range could very well prove to extend earlier than A.D. 475, as suggested by the sherds from the Walling Site, or later than the terminus of the Williams Spring occupation at A.D. 775; more samples and radiometric data are needed to address these questions with certainty. The geographic range of the type is also uncertain as it has yet to be documented outside of Madison County, Alabama.

Also, data from the Williams Spring and Beadle Run Sites have provided insight as to the temporal ranges associated with a lithic tool type which has been previously poorly-defined and misidentified: the Benjamin type. This medium to large lanceolate point type has an excurvate blade and an excurvate to straight base that often exhibits remnant cortex. The blade is usually at its widest from the base to just below the midsection. The flaking is broad, deep and random with selective fine secondary flaking along the blade edge to regularize and center the blade margins. In currently available literature, Benjamin projectile points or knives, as a type, are dramatically underrepresented on sites where chronometrics and associations suggest they should be present. This is likely due to having been confused with preform classes, or generalized to biface blades and ovate to lanceolate knife forms. To clarify the Benjamin projectile point/knife, a further analysis of the Benjamin group of artifacts was conducted.

Benjamin was the third most common (n= 36) projectile point/knife in the Site 1MA1167 assemblage. It was exceeded in number of specimens by the Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed Cluster, Swan Lake (n= 101) and Lanceolate Spike Cluster, Bradley Spike (n= 43) projectile point/knives. Using statistical tests for association of artifacts recovered from within feature contexts, Benjamin projectile points were tested for association with Middle Woodland Triangular, Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed, and Lanceolate Spike projectile point assemblages. The results of the analysis strongly suggest that the Benjamin type, previously thought to belong to the Middle Woodland Triangular (Greeneville) Cluster, is more appropriately placed in the Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed Cluster. The implications of these findings, combined with radiometric assays in direct association with Benjamin type tools, are that the Benjamin type was used primarily much later than previously thought. Additionally, analysis of breakage patterns from Benjamin projectile point/knives suggest that they are primarily used as knives as opposed to projectile points.

Additionally, when placed in the temporal context provided by radiometric assays, the feature assemblages recovered at the Williams Spring Site have major implication for the temporal placement of the provisional Bell Hill Phase suggested by Vernon James Knight of the University of Alabama. The Bell Hill Phase was defined based upon limited radiometric data, but was strongly characterized by the presence and use of Lanceolate Spike Cluster projectile points/knives as a relative diagnostic. While Knight asserted that the Spike Cluster at the Walling Site dated to roughly A.D. 400-600, multiple Lanceolate Spike Cluster points were recovered in association with radiocarbon assays at Beadle Run and Williams Spring, suggesting a much later terminal date for these types. Following this line of thought, if Knight’s provisional Bell Hill Phase was largely defined by the widespread use of Lanceolate Spike Cluster tools, the data from the Williams Spring Site implies that the temporal affiliation of the Bell Hill Phase should be considered much later, from roughly A.D. 600 to 800.

Broadly, the absolute chronometrics and their associated artifacts recovered from the Beadle Run and Williams Spring Sites correspond with the lithic tool continuum throughout the Middle Woodland and into the Late Woodland, which includes the Middle Woodland Triangular, Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed, and Lanceolate Spike clusters of bifaces in succession. When comparing the frequencies of Middle Woodland Triangular cluster PP/Ks against those of Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed and Lanceolate Spike cluster PP/Ks across sites through time, a trend is seen in which the Middle Woodland Triangular cluster declines at around A.D. 400, or earlier, giving rise to the Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed Cluster (which began being produced circa A.D. 200). While Spike Cluster PP/Ks start being manufactured at around A.D. 600 and persist to at least A.D. 800, the Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed cluster bridges the gap between the two, from A.D. 200 through at least A.D. 680, as evidenced by absolute chronometrics measured from samples taken from contexts in direct association with Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed Cluster points at the Williams Spring Site. Extension of the Lancolate Spike cluster may explain the paucity of Jacks Reef cluster of projectile points at both sites.

Additionally, the proportions of ceramic types through time follows a temporal progression within the Wheeler Basin. Flint River Cord Marked is most prevalent during the early ro middle Middle Woodland as opposed to later in the Middle Woodland when it is surpassed by Flint River Brushed in frequency. Flint River Brushed continues to increase in use through the late Middle Woodland into the Late Woodland, when it seems to outstrip even the ubiquitous Mulberry Creek Plain type in popularity.

If all of these lines of thought are consistent, then a cultural phase from a.d. 400 to 600 can be defined on the basis of 1) the predominant use of Lanceolate Expanding Stemmed cluster points and knives; 2) the presence, but relative scarcity of Middle Woodland Triangular points and knives; 3) the predominance of Mulberry Creek Plain ceramics (~70%) coupled with Flint River Brushed (~20%) and Flint River Cord-Marked (~10%) ceramics; 4) extreme ceramic type minorities of Pickwick Complicated Stamped with curvilinear motifs (var. Swift Creek), Williams Spring Incised ceramics, and extremely low frequencies of Marksville Incised ceramics; and 5) an upland settlement pattern on secondary tributaries well-removed from the Tennessee River. Because of distinctive material culture changes during this period, the period of A.D. 400 to 600 has been defined as the Williams Spring Phase.

Walnut Street Bridge
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Hamilton County Courthouse
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Walnut Street Bridge: Bringing Together Diverse Parties to Restore an Iconic Property

In the summer of 2016, AAC conducted an architectural assessment of the Walnut Street Bridge and surrounding historic properties. Volkert, Inc., under contract with the City of Chattanooga, planned to conduct renovations to the pedestrian bridge in order to reinforce and restore elements that had been corroded or damaged. AAC contracted Ann Gray, Executive Director of Cornerstones, Inc., Chattanooga’s only non-profit historic preservation organization, to assess the potential effects of the undertaking. Since the bridge is already listed on the NRHP and is an integral part of the historic urban landscape of Chattanooga, the primary goal of the project was to make sure the proposed renovations were in keeping with NRHP guidelines and would retain the architectural integrity of the bridge.  

The ½-mile APE for this project included 529 potentially eligible structures and 12 properties already listed on the NRHP. Rather than physically survey all 529 properties, AAC, in direct consultation with the Tennessee Historic Commission, secured a plan which drastically streamlined the survey process while still accomplishing due diligence. Since the vast majority of the properties in the APE were not within the viewshed of the bridge, and would clearly not be affected by the undertaking, the THC approved an alternate APE for the project in which these properties are summarized and discussed, but no field visits to assess viewshed were necessary. All properties currently listed on the NRHP within the modified APE were visited, photographed, and assessed for potential for direct or indirect adverse effects. It was determined that the proposed renovation plans would have No Adverse Effect on the bridge or other properties within the APE.

AAC was able to serve as facilitator in this project, bringing together non-profit, corporate, and governmental parties and devising a plan for compliance that could be accomplished on a strict timeline. In the end, all parties were pleased with the results and product quality, and needed renovations to the Walnut Street Bridge were able to proceed on schedule. 

Max Schneider of AAC cleans a profile for inspection
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Iron jockey and rider from the Federal Road excavations on Moccasin Bend
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Ground-penetrating radar results showing the Federal Road trace and modern disturbances
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Moccasin Bend National Archeological District: Investigating the Old Federal Road in Chattanooga, TN

Starting in 2012 through 2015, AAC has worked with the National Park Service to detect and document the actual course and associated archaeology of the Old Federal Road (40HA532) as it runs through the Mocassin Bend National Archeological District in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  


The Federal Road was a historic road leading from Chattanooga and East Tennessee to the nearby Brown’s Ferry, crossing the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend. The Federal Road was first built as part of a treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Government in 1805. The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad began operating in 1854, and consequently, the Federal Road and Brown’s Ferry were reduced to local farm-to-market traffic. During October and November of 1863, the Federal Road was the only supply route for the besieged Union Army in Chattanooga. Following the Civil War, the Federal Road fell into disuse, and it reverted to an agrarian landscape.

The goal of the project with the NPS was to locate and document the archaeological integrity of what remained of the Old Federal Road, as well as to document the material culture associated with the historic roadway. The methodology employed in these tasks included the use of state-of-the-art technologies and datasets such as Geographic Information Systems, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDaR) data, prospection using historic maps referenced to modern geographic reality, metal detection, and ground-penetrating radar in addition to time-honored methods such as mechanical trenching and test unit excavations.


Overall, the project was a success yielding a plethora of data about the Old Federal Road itself as well as the general site formation processes at play through time at Moccasin Bend. The NPS has taken this information to build a historical trail along the path of the Old Federal Road, including historical and interpretive signage, to tell the story of this historically important travel corridor.     

APE for visual effects, historic districts, and the results of visual impact assessment
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Douglasville Commercial Historic District
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Telecom Tower Project in Douglasville, GA Requires Thinking Outside of the Box: A Story of Consultation and Technology

The project was a simple archaeological and architectural National Historic Preservation Act compliance project for the colocation of an antenna on an existing telecommunications tower in the heart of historic Douglasville, Georgia. Typically, historic architectural properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places or surveyed properties that are currently unassessed for inclusion to the NRHP are visited individually, documented, and photographs of the viewshed of the telecommunications tower are taken to assess the indirect visual effects that the proposed undertaking will have on a given property. Historic districts are normally documented as a block; representative locations most susceptible to the visual effects of an undertaking are sampled to understand how the district, as a unit, will be visually impacted. In this case from Douglasville, however, more than 200 structures had been individually surveyed for incorporation into a local historic district in addition to an established National Register district and several individually listed properties within the FCC-mandated half mile search radius for visual effects. Surveying these properties individually and providing "viewback" photography was extremely cost-prohibitive, therefore an alternate methodology for documenting the indirect effects of the undertaking was badly needed to complete the project sucessfully.


In consultation with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Natural Resources, AAC staff devised a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based approach to this quandry in which viewbacks were taken from fifty street intersections within the project's Area of Potential Effect (APE). At each location, Global Positioning System (GPS) technology was used to log photograph numbers and link them to a given location. All of this data was then combined within a GIS mapping environment to deliver a map showing exactly where the proposed antenna would and would not be visible, based upon actual field observation and assessment. Not only did this novel approach satisfy the project's compliance needs, it did so in an effective manner that allowed the client to move forward with their project quickly in the face of a seemingly insurmountable compliance task. It is these kinds of innovative approaches to client needs that defines the high level of quality and services AAC provides to all of our customers. 

© 2016 by Alexander Archaeological Consultants, Inc.

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