The new Pickett State Park Archaeology Museum and ETSU Archaeological Research Station opened in April 2017. The museum features the Native American prehistory of the Upper Cumberland Plateau region in and around Pickett State Park and Forest and Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area. The building also houses a field and research station for East Tennessee State University (ETSU) archaeological projects in the area. ETSU students and faculty provide tours of the museum for the public at large, visits to nearby archaeological sites, public programming and outreach, professional workshops, and archaeological field schools. This collaborative effort between Tennessee State Parks and ETSU represents the first State Park Public Facility devoted to archaeology and cultural resources outside of designated archaeological parks.
Hours of Operation
The museum is open from 9-5 PM Thursday through Sunday from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day weekend and some additional selected weekends during the off-season. Fall and spring schedules will be posted on the park’s website a few weeks in advance.
About the Museum
The two front rooms consist of a living-dining room area that serves as our exhibit space. One wall focuses on the culture history of the Upper Cumberland Plateau and its geology. Another depicts prehistoric lifeways and how Native Americans made and used things. The back room is used to display presentations and short films for the public. During the field season, this area is used by archaeology students to sort and catalog artifacts, perform database entry, and conduct research. Guests will be given a behind the scenes look at how archaeological research is conducted, and items are prepared for display. Any new discoveries made are regularly added to the displays to help keep things fresh and exciting for guests. ETSU students and museum staff both live and conduct research at the facility on a regular basis throughout year-round.
Rock Creek Mortar Shelter Site
Rock Creek Mortar Shelter Site is within very close proximity to the Museum and Research Station. Just a ten-minute walk away, students and museum staff provide guests with tours of the site. Rock Creek Mortar Shelter is not only convenient; it is also quite unique in that it features an 11,500 year-long archaeological sequence from the time of the earliest humans in the region to at least 1,000 years ago. We will continue to excavate this site for many years to come. It presents a unique research opportunity for us to learn about the culture history of the region at one site, and its proximity enables us to share this with the public. During the field season, youth ages 12 and up are invited to participate in the ongoing excavations of the site during our scheduled volunteer days.
ETSU professor Jay Franklin and students have been involved in ongoing archaeological survey at Pickett State Park, State Forest, and nearby Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area since 2006. Since then, several important prehistoric rock shelter sites have been documented in the area. The Archaeological Research Station serves as a base of operations for ETSU field schools and research as we continue our management surveys of Pickett State Forest and new land acquisitions by Pickett State Park. The artifacts on display in the museum span the time from about 13,000 years ago to about 400 years ago. Ongoing research highlights themes that are particular to the Upper Cumberland Plateau like bedrock mortar hole sites used to process acorns, other nuts, and seeds and the tens of thousands of rock shelters in this unique landscape. Upland areas tend to be looked at as isolated, marginal, and backward, but our research here indicates that this is not the case; the Upper Cumberland Plateau was a vibrant and connected place for thousands of years.
Recap of Summer 2017
The first summer season of the Museum and Research Station was an outstanding success. During the summer months, ETSU students and faculty conducted programming out of the museum for school groups and other members of the public. This encompasses activities such as pottery making, atlatl spear throwing, bedrock mortar hole grinding & acorn processing, and knap-ins. Over the course of the summer, more than a thousand park guests participated in archaeological programs. We hope to grow programming efforts to include a multitude of activities as we move forward. We have recently planted both native prehistory and history gardens next to the facility. They will also be a part of our public programming in archaeology. This combined effort has greatly increased awareness of archaeology of the Upper Cumberland Plateau, not only to park guests, but the local community as well.
All photos courtesy of Jay Franklin.