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 Welcome to Mary Evelyn Starr's homepage

Mississippi Valley Delta Archaeological Services, papers and Resources

 

The Delta Archaeology website provides information  for clients, fellow archaeologists, teachers, students, and the general public. I am a consulting archaeologist with 21 years experience in Southeastern archaeology. Here I am as area director at the Arkansas Archeological Society Training Dig at the Menard-Hodges protohistoric village in Arkansas County, Arkansas. Our team excavated in and around house mounds surrounding the plaza as well as very large postholes in the center of the plaza. Prospective clients and employers, please see Delta Archaeology Services. You will also find my resume (c. vitae) and contact information here. I also do various forms of volunteer work, such as public service lectures to schools and other groups. My undergraduate work was at Mississippi State University (B.A., 1989); I have also attended Memphis State University (M.A. 1993). I am a life member of the Mississippi Archaeological Association and the Arkansas Archeological Society. I am also a member of the Missouri Archaeological Society and the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, and a regular participant in the Mid South Archaeological Conference and the South Central Historic Archaeology Conference. To find out more about me, go to Campfire Tales.

The primary aim of my website is to provide my data and research for wider use by other researchers, so I provide here selections from my journal and contract publications, conference talks and other presentations, and drafts of unpublished papers. Go to Papers for a list of my publications, conference papers and management reports available in print, here online or by request. I have a long-term interest in the Mississippian and Protohistoric archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley in the North American Mid-South.  I present some of my research in the Mississippian Research page. Most of the data on the Delta Archaeology website concerns the Neolithic culture of the southern half of the Eastern Woodlands of North America known as Mississippian after its central river valley. These prehistoric cultures were agricultural chiefdoms that built large towns with earthen mounds and fortifications. In the Mississippi Delta, these village cultures began around AD 750 and flourished in considerable complexity in the 13th through 15th centuries. They were first contacted by the Spaniard DeSoto's entrada in the 1540s but only entered regular contact with the French around 1700. The Delta's Mississippian people were ancestors of the Quapaw, Tunica, and other Southeastern tribes, including some now extinct Muskogean-speaking groups related to the Choctaw and Chickasaw. I am also interested in 19th and 20th century Historic Archaeology of logging towns and sharecrop plantations in the Delta and Upland South and have excavated antebellum wells, the first depot and the cobblestone landing in Memphis for the old Garrow and Associates contract firm. I am also interested in geomorphology and soils in alluvial settings ("deltas") as well as other regional phenomena such as earthquake-induced sand-blows, loess, and the mysterious prairie mounds (or pimple mounds, looking like mima mounds). In 2002, for Mississippi Archaeology Week, I directed test excavations on the Tombigbee National Forest in East Central Mississippi. The site was a ca. 1900 stoneware kiln of "GWM." We do not know who "GWM" was, although a number of other potters are know for this area, including the famous Stewart potting family. There has been little research into stoneware production in the MidSouth. The excavation was carried out with the volunteer participation of U.S.D.A. Forest Service technicians, Scouts, and Mississippi State University anthropology students and professors. The test units encountered the floor and wall rubble of a brick "groundhog" or in-ground trench kiln and an adjacent "waster" (spoiled vessel) dump. This is part of a decade-long (so far) investigation of 19th and early 20th century potters in Arkansas and Mississippi. I continue to opportunistically gather information about stoneware potteries and am processing the huge volume (2 Toyota pick-up truck loads) of broken stoneware, brick, kiln furniture (spacers) and salt glazing slag that we recovered. Vessels were mostly churn/jars, jugs and a few moulded pipe bowls for reed stems.

Most of what's included in Papers is highly technical and jargon-ridden. For school teachers and researchers for outside the American South, I recommend the Glossary in the following Resources page. Also, see the Mississippian research for artifact pictures. Here I also provide some background on the Environment (soils, flora, fauna) of the Delta. The Neolithic pages on this site provide links and background on other such environments, particularly those with the closest analogs, the hearths of civilization in the Old World (Mesopotamia, the Indo-Gangtic plain, and the Yangtze as well as the more northerly Huang Ho and Danube). Similar subtropical environments in the southern hemisphere are limited to the Rio Parana valley of South America and the less comparable Natal--the Zambezi is more tropical-- and southeastern Australia. There are a number of archaeological state parks in the Mid-South. I provide information on public Delta heritage sites and suggest day trips for school groups as well as itineraries for longer trips, such as the Natchez Trace National Parkway in Tourism. I try to provide a complete array of connections to all the agencies, tribes, NGOs, colleges, contract archaeology firms and other folks involved in archaeology in the Delta in the Links.

NEW - January 2008

 

Currently a student at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

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Annual Report 2007

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More plant, animal, farming photos

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Birmingham Art Museum 2006 Mississippi Stoneware presentation

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A chronology of the Arkansas Archeological Society’s Summer Digs—2008 is at Jones Mill novaculite workshop

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SOME HISTORIC LITHIC (STONE) ARTIFACT TYPES

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Late Prehistoric Architecture of the Central Mississippi Valley in a Mid-Continental Context

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Descriptions of historic and prehistoric lithics (stone artifacts), with bibliography for Arkansas publications

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HUMBER, COAHOMA Co. MS, Ceramic Terminology: Types

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Photos of the Mississippian Mounds along the Coldwater River, Quitman Co., MS

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Geological essays

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Zilpha Formation Kaolin Clay Mined at Sledge

Early Research on the Pleistocene Loess

New Madrid Seismic Zone Earthquakes

Ouachita Mountain Stratigraphy and Structure

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Coldwater River, Quitman Co. MS, Mississippian Mounds

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Timber Industry

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MISSISSIPPI ALLUVIAL VALLEY COUNTIES

ANNUAL REPORT 2007

Pond lilies. Memphis Botanical Garden.

 January. January was fairly cold about half the time, with several days of sleet and several hard freezes. The loropetalum, Oregon holly, quince, forsythia, willows, crocus, daffodils and narcissus all bloomed.

 The year started with a number of deaths: Rizard “Mike” Kowalski, Howard Mize, Ed White, Burney McClurkan and Bill Diffee. Mike was the ginner in Sledge; the Kowalskis were Polish DPs because Mike was forced into the German army as a POW guard at 15 and made friends with Americans who helped get him out of Europe. Bill Diffee had a crop dusting service at Sledge; he survived being a WWII Navy aviator and then carrier flight deck officer. Howard Mize of Batesville was a big supporter of Mississippi archaeology. Ed White was a big amateur in the Arkansas society and Burney was a former Arkansas Survey archeologist. Ed’s widow Patsy, also a mainstay of the AAS, only survived him by a few months. On the other hand, my cousin Ben had another son, Andrew Canon Hillhouse.

 I started the year with a job, with Baker Engineering, but they soon folded their archaeology operation and I was out of work most of the year. I did various odd jobs in construction—tile, sheetrock, painting—and yard and garden work, but not enough to say I was making a living

 February. I went to the Mississippi Archaeological Association meetings at Grenada and enjoyed seeing my old friends. We were lucky to have a few visitors from Arkansas this year. The common yellow daffodils were blooming strong by the first of the month, and despite a few cold days around the 15th, the month had fair weather. There were bees on the boxwood flowers and geese moving back north by the 12th and the last half of the month was in the 70s. The first big hatch of mosquitoes was on the 21st. I only had a few camellia flowers this year—they didn’t start blooming until 24 February, I guess because it was dry last year, and were dropping off the bush half-opened by 9 March, because it was warm.

 March. Fruit trees and most of the flowering shrubs were blooming by the first of the month. All the weather in the 70s was not good for the plants; they flowered too soon. Redbuds flowered on the 12th, and the flies, roaches and gnats started appearing. In the last half of March, the vinca, jasmine, yellow rose of Texas, banana magnolia, wisteria, dogwood and violets all bloomed and the temperature reached 80 degrees. There was an eclipse on the 3rd.  I went to the Caddo Conference at Magnolia, AR, heard some good papers, visited with my friends, and even got persuaded to dance in a social dance. The Caddo people’s participation in the conference always makes it more interesting.

 April. Our cousin Louie passed thru, on his way between France and M’Carley, MS, and my parents went up to Missouri to visit my aunt and uncle. Easter weekend, I went up to Fayetteville AR for a Stigler Lecture and spent a couple of days with my friends at War Eagle Reservior; on the way home it got much colder and we had a hard freeze in Mississippi Easter weekend—you can’t count on the weather here until after Easter, even if it has been 70 or 80 for weeks and Easter falls at the far end of its cycle. It stayed cold the first half of April, but the first June bug appeared on 20th. I had wanted to go to the SAA meetings in Austin, but didn’t thinking that I had a job coming up with URS Corp., but they kept delaying it.

 

Asiatic lilly. Sledge MS, 2007.

 May. The URS job in Baton Rouge only lasted a week because the steel plant decided to go to Mobile. It was good to get out of Sledge at any rate, even if I did have an ex-boyfriend on the crew. I got to see an old housemate from Memphis when Neighborhood Texture Jam (NTJ) played a reunion gig at Murphy’s on Poplar Ave., Memphis. Great punk band, and congratulations to Joe Lapsley for finishing his History PhD. The weather in May was unusually cool. But also way too dry.

 June. I spent most of June in Memphis house-sitting for Paulette. Plenty of free air conditioning and sitting at the public library and bookstores, during which time I learned a little Swedish and Norwegian, which are neither near as bad as German or Icelandic, very much like English in fact. There was no hot weather to speak of in June or July.

July. I had another little gig with some little car-trunk outfit from Kansas City, surveying on the Mark Twain National Forest, in the Missouri Ozarks. On the way home, I went to Mammoth Spring State Park on the MO-AR border and spent some time in the train museum. Being pretty desperate for something to do, I took a bunch of on-line career placement tests. They suggested I be a farmer or rancher. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, telling kids that is a viable career. I was talking to my cuz about this and he said that after all his life of his parents telling him he was not going to be a farmer, when he took his tests upon starting college, they told him he should be…a farmer. The upshot was I am good at outdoors work, writing, science and art. I am unsuited for sales, persuasion, clerical, administrative and service work. I like investigative, realistic and artistic work and not enterprise, social/personal service, advising/motivating or conventional/organizational jobs. Glad I didn’t pay for this information.

In July, a mare mule, Kate, in Colbrun, Colorado, foaled. It is a jack foal. I never heard the outcome of DNA testing to see if it’s a chimera. This is rare, but not unheard off. It probably would happen more often that is commonly noted, but people cut horse mules to make them more manageable—I guess mules don’t know that they are infertile. In other Colorado news, the Army is “rethinking” how it will confiscate much of the rest of Las Animas County, to expand the Pinyon Canyon Maneuvers Area.

August. The Persiad meteor shower came on the dark day of the moon this year. The kids fell asleep before it got to going very strong. After the first half of summer being cool, we finally had some hot days in August, with temperatures occasionally reaching over 100, but the hurricane season was weak in the Gulf of Mexico and we never got any major storms. In fact it only rained half an inch the whole month, and that was on the last day after it hadn’t rained since mid July. I think I had a bout of West Nile fever this year. For a few days I was very sick. I say West Nile because of all the similar mosquito and tick diseases, this is the only one specifically diagnosed by it hurting to move your eyeballs. The mosquitoes were awful this year, because there is a beaver dam in the bayou, so it is backed up in town and stays full of water, even though we have had drought pretty much all year.

Having done almost no archaeology work all year long, and hearing constantly from friends that were getting out due to lack of employment, I made a big change and went back to school. Well, junior college, which is a lot more like high school that university. I am studying architectural drafting and land surveying and hope I will be able to get work with an architecture and engineering firm, or maybe the highway department. I had some good teachers, got 5 As, and also a little gig tutoring English.

September. Being in school pretty much put the quietus on my going to meetings or out to hear bands. By the equinox, they were only up to Hurricanes I and J and it was getting cold at night. We have had this odd “fall” stuff again this year, most unusual. They cut the rice and beans a little early. The early beans didn’t amount to much at all. Some of the late beans were not planted after the wheat was cut because soil moisture was so low. I made some muscatine jelly that is very good. Around this time, surprise lilly (Lycoris spps) , loropetalum, yellow rose of Texas goldenrod, purple butterfly weed, mallow (wild cotton), beauty bush (French mulberry) were all blooming.

October. The Kudzu Kings played a free show at the new bandstand in Taylor; my friend Sherry and I had a good time getting out to hear some music. We had hoped that since those fools in Widespread fired George McConnell, he would be playing with them, but it was a good show anyway. I went down to Covington Co., MS, in the Piney Woods to hear U. Southern Miss. prof Ed Jackson talk about his work at Arbo sawmill—Arbo is the next settlement up the line from the sawmill I investigated at Mish (described on this site at  Papers>Historic>Mish). It was good to get away and sleep outdoors, but being broke I just came right back home.

The cotton and corn really greened back up after they were picked; the corn was knee or waist high before the frost finally got it. I took my mother to the Memphis Botanical Garden for the day; we had a big time and she bought me an orchid—I’ve never tried to grow one before. We saw some fall-blooming iris, which was a new one on me.

 

Waterfall at Clear Creek, Wilkinson Co. MS.

 November. I cut school for a couple of days to go down to Natchez for the South Central Historical Archaeology Conference, and hung with the Arkansas contingent, heard some horror stories about post-Katrina housing demolition surveys in NO. I spent the day before the meeting in Wilkinson County, the dark corner of Mississippi on Highway 61 at the Louisiana state line, and saw two of the state’s oldest buildings, a bank and railroad office that are now the County Historical Society and African-American museums. I wandered around the 1903 courthouse, eavesdropping on the proceedings of a disputed election, real Old South stuff, only half the folks there were black—Wilkinson is about the same as my county Quitman in size and racial profile of the population and the associated poverty and unemployment statistics. Then I went for a walk at Clear Creek Natural Area, and saw some waterfalls and fine beech woods. These are real waterfalls. It was hard to believe there was anything like that only 45 miles from Baton Rouge.  On the way home, I saw the ruins of Winsor, the last, perhaps most expensive antebellum plantation house (built 1859, burned in the 1890s). Parts were salvaged for use at the then-new Alcorn Negro A&M (now Alcorn State University).

Windsor ruin.

 We had out first frost fairly early, on 6/7 and 7/8 November, and the first geese started flying over the next day. The month was cold off and on, with some fine days.

 December. As usual, the main item in December has been trying to find firewood. We have had a few cold spells, but nothing too bad, and the weather has mostly been nice. There has only been one spell of freezing weather, 15/16 and 16/17. Only in the last few days have there been any big flights of geese.

 Well…I wish I had some fireworks. I hope everybody had a better year than I did.

 Best wishes for PEACE in 2008.

 

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Contact: Mary Evelyn Starr
  Box 39, Sledge MS 38670
  Phone (662) 444-5254

E-mail me at 

Keep up with me on the web and your social network
Visit:
http://360.yahoo.com/mestarr (Starr's Science and History Blog)
http://blog.myspace.com//maryestarr (weather, crops, garden, family, books, bands)
http://deltaarchaeologyannex.blogspot.com (google technorati blog)
And
mary e starr at:
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Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion. There is a kind of poetry in simple fact.
The world is older and bigger than we are. This is a hard truth for some people to swallow.
Edward Abby Vox Clamantis in Deserto 1989

 

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