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NSF Grant Funds 3-Year Dig

Apalachicola, once the major village of the Muscogee Creek, now lies beneath dense forest near the Chattahoochee River.

For a time it was the home of Chekilli who, along with other Creek dignitaries, negotiated with future Georgia governor James Oglethorpe to establish the new colony in 1735.

In this photo UWG's Thomas Foster, assistant professor of anthropology, works with students at the Apalachicola site. The village is about 20 miles south of Columbus in Alabama and was once the major village of the Muscogee Creek. It is believed to be the birthplace of the Creek Confederacy. A three-year, inter-disciplinary dig there is scheduled to begin this summer. UWG will be the lead institution.

In this photo UWG's Thomas Foster, assistant professor of anthropology, works with students at the Apalachicola site. The village is about 20 miles south of Columbus in Alabama and was once the major village of the Muscogee Creek. It is believed to be the birthplace of the Creek Confederacy. A three-year, inter-disciplinary dig there is scheduled to begin this summer. UWG will be the lead institution.

The village, which is about 20 miles south of Columbus in Alabama, has yielded some secrets in recent years: beads, pottery sherds, tools.

“According to the oral history of the Creek people, this village is where the Creek Confederacy was formed,” said Thomas Foster, assistant professor of anthropology.

He wants to discover more.

“At that point [about 1700] this was considered the capital of the Creek people,” Foster said.

Foster, the director of the Antonio J. Waring, Jr. Archaeological Laboratory, is spearheading a three-year, interdisciplinary research project to explore how village life changed in a 150-year period, from the mid- 1600s up to about 1800.

He recently received a $211,320 grant from the National Science Foundation. UWG is the lead institution and will work with researchers from Penn State, the University of Arizona and Columbus State University and the Muscogee Creek Nation. Foster plans to travel to Oklahoma to conduct interviews with the descendants of the Muscogee Creek. The grant will also fund about 10 undergraduates and graduate assistants during this three-year span.

The project includes a slew of disciplines: archeology, geology, botany, archeozoology, dendrology and history.

The project’s aim is to discover how the Muscogee Creek “adapted to and resisted – their own resilience – to the colonial economy there were interacting with,” Foster said. While research has already begun, digging is scheduled to start this summer. Researchers and their students will search for clues about trade: the goods involved; with whom the Creek traded; and how that interaction changed over time.

He also hopes the research will show how the roles of men and women were transformed and how political alliances changed over time.

Small investigations of the site have been done before, but Foster wants to break new ground.

“We are trying to understand…. how they are affecting their own environment,” he said.

The village population waned from about 1,000 in 1600 to about 100 people at the start of the 1800s.

Tools found in earlier digs give a hint of village life.

He believes women were more resilient to change because the tools they used to do their jobs changed very little over time. Women made pottery, produced the food and processed the hides.
Men hunted. What changed for them were the type of guns they used and where they got them, the places they hunted and the types of beads they wore.

“Those were much more variable,” Foster said. “And women’s activities, the things, were much more stable. That’s why I said it looks like women were much more resilient in this society and it looks like men were likely doing things that were different and changing.”

Although small studies have been conducted on the 10-acre site, this will be the first extensive dig there.

“It’s a very tightly controlled community, and I can measure a short period of time very well,” Foster said. “That’s one of the benefits of this new study.”

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