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Student contributes to research featured in 'Tennessee Archaeology'

Thursday, February 05, 2009JOHNSON CITY ”Imagine how the Nolichucky River might have appeared over 1,000 years ago, with prehistoric villages, full of activity, along the banks.

East Tennessee State University senior and University Honors Scholar Michelle Hammett has conducted research that gives a clearer understanding of such a scene.

The anthropology major was awarded an ETSU Honors College Student-Faculty Collaborative Grant with her mentor Dr. Jay Franklin of the ETSU Department of Sociology and Anthropology to examine pottery sherds and animal bone fragments at the Nelson Site on the Nolichucky. The large late Middle Woodland habitation site dates back about 1,300-1,400 years and is one of very few discovered in the area from that time period.

Hammett and Franklin analyzed bits of ceramic pottery from the location to learn of the stylistic preferences of the people who lived at the Nelson Site. In addition, they learned that some of the sherds were more typical of the types found in Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, and even up into the Ohio Valley. This evidence suggests that the native people in this locality had regional interactions through trade and alliances with other areas in Eastern North America.

While the duo from ETSU examined pottery, Dr. Renee Walker, a zooarchaeologist from the State University of New York-Oneonta, evaluated animal bones from the site to learn more about the diet and subsistence of the early Nolichucky inhabitants.

The resulting research was published in the Fall 2008 issue of Tennessee Archaeology. A photo of one of the sherds was chosen as the cover image for the magazine.

For further information about the archaeology project, contact Franklin at (423) 439-6653 or To learn more about the ETSU Honors College Student-Faculty Collaborative Grant program, contact Dr. Foster Levy at (423) 439-6926 or


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