New Curation Facility is in Business
From Missouri Digital News: https://mdn.org
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed

Print

MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed

Print

MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

New Curation Facility is in Business

Date: September 11, 2006
By: Emily Freeman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -  As an archaeologist for the state of Missouri, Jack Easman has excavated some interesting pieces of history. But he remembers a specific excavation from his college days as his favorite. 

While completing his graduate degree in archeology at William and Mary in Virginia, Easman recalls excavating a colonial site. "I was cleaning out a brick-lined basement," he said, "and in the corner were three in-tact wine bottles from about 1750 or so. There was nothing in them, the corks were all dried up, but the brass wire was still hanging around the top so you could tell that they were full when they were placed there. Just think, 250 years of traffic is happening on top of these buried sites and these wine bottles are down there still in tact."

Although he's exchanged his colonial studies for a wider range of archaeological duties as Intermediate Historic Preservation Specialist for the Transportation Department, Easman still retains a sense of wonder associated with his job, which entails archiving and organizing archaeological collections at the new storage facility at Rock Bridge State Park.

The facility, which from the outside looks like a concession stand or information center, was built by Missouri Department of Transportation and is maintained by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

"I've come up here on weekends and seen people walking up here thinking it was a park office," said Eastman. 

The Transportation Department began to move artifacts recovered from survey sites throughout Missouri to the facility this summer, shortly after the building's completion.

One fourth of the facility's main room is dominated by rows of shelving stacked seven boxes high. Each shelving unit holds 28 boxes that are filled with carefully cataloged artifacts such as stone tool debris, animal bone, pottery shards, and botanical remains. The Natural Resources Department  operates the facility, but has not yet moved their own collections into the building. "We've got shelves on order," said State Parks Archaeologist Brant Vollman. "We're just waiting for those before we move our artifacts in. But hopefully it will be soon."

The Transportation Department's collections in the facility range from trash items of early frontier sites to paleo Indian sites dating back more than ten thousand years.

The artifacts are recovered when survey crews identify an archaeological site present at a current agency construction or repair site. If the artifacts recovered are deemed significant or important enough, the site is excavated and the artifacts cataloged and sent to the facility for storage. "Once we have maps of where the right of way will be (for a new road or highway), we basically put in a shovel every 50 feet to see if there are any significant remains," Easman said. "Usually it is just a lot of patient, tedious work."

The boxes of artifacts will remain on the shelves until researchers or students working on masters theses or doctoral dissertations request a viewing of the collections. "My biggest concern is that someone in 20 or 30 or 40 years can come back and use these artifacts and documents," Easman said.

"If you find stone tool debris of a certain type of chert that's only found 50 miles away from the site, then you have to wonder if these people went 50 miles to get this material or if there was some kind of trade route or exchange going on," Easman said.

Aside from the pieces of pottery, stone tools, and other artifacts recovered, human, especially Native American, remains have been excavated from the survey sites.

Under the federal Native American Graves Protection and Reparation Act, any Native American human remains, burial objects, sacred objects, or cultural objects recovered have to be returned to lineal descendants or affiliated tribes.

Nationally, moire that 30,000 individuals have been excavated since Jan. 1, 2005. In Missouri there are 167 total entries filed under the Reparation Act from 11 different archaeological sites. All 167 remains have not been returned to descendants, and will soon be stored in a special room at the facility. "The reason the remains have not been repatriated is because they're so old we cannot say which modern day tribe is the direct descendant," Eastman said. While most of the entries are human remains, 12 entries were cataloged for pottery found with human remains as funeral objects.

The facility, which according to State Parks Public Information person Sue Holst is the only one of its kind in the state, cost about $370,000 to complete.

 But according to Eastman, the building was a smart financial investment. "To curate one box in an outside facility would cost about $400," Eastman said. "That room will hold almost five thousand boxes. Once you get a thousand boxes in there, the building just pays for itself."