Saturday, February 14, 2009

CAT and Custer

The Certified Archeological Technician program committee had a very fruitful meeting this morning, during which we have made significant progress in clarifying guidelines and procedures. Once completed, I will provide additional details so that our readers in Maryland and adjoining states can decide whether they would like to enroll in the program.

On an unrelated matter, I'm rereading Richard Allan Fox's Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle (University of Oklahoma Press, 1993). Understanding the weapons and tactics of the US Cavalry from the late Civil War onward (the Battle of Little Bighorn occurred on June 25, 1876) will serve us well in examining the Union encampments around Port Tobacco. And close examination of Fox's approach to the study of battlefields will also prove helpful in preparing a paper on work that Scott and I did at Antietam battlefield a couple of years ago, a paper that I will present at a regional conference in Ocean City, Maryland, late next month. Doug Scott, a National Park Service archaeologist who worked on the Little Bighorn project in the 1980s, will be delivering the keynote address at that conference.

There has been a great deal of archaeological work conducted on Civil War battlefield sites, and a little on encampments of the period, since the ground-breaking work at Little Bighorn led to the successful, if controversial, reassessment of the US Army's official account of that battle. I expect we will use similar techniques at the encampments around Port Tobacco, modified somewhat because these were camps and not battlefields. One element of the Little Bighorn method that will not be modified, however, is the accurate and precise mapping of all finds. Indiscriminate metal detecting on battlefield sites may well have diminished the scientific potential of such sites...all the more reason why the best possible methods must be brought to bear on what remains.


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