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By Kelli ReepThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
(Newsrooms: with art at www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/albums/72157656425237183)
LITTLE ROCK – It takes new eyes to see the life ancient civilizations experienced.
Especially in Arkansas, a state rich with artifacts from prehistory to Native Americans
to pioneers, farmers and homesteaders, archaeology is rarely recognized by young Arkansans
as a viable career and hobby.
Four groups are working together to change that perception: the Arkansas Archeological
Survey, Arkansas Archeological Society, University of Arkansas at Monticello and Arkansas
4-H, a program of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
During Arkansas Heritage Month in May, these groups held the first-ever Field to Report
Youth Archaeology Workshop at the Hollywood Plantation --also known as the Taylor
House -- in Winchester, Arkansas.
This public education program, which included a three-day workshop and guidebook for
10 4-H students, is the first of its kind in the state. The youth went through the
process of archeology from fieldwork and labs to analysis and report writing. The
Department of Arkansas Heritage helped fund Field to Report Youth Archaeology as part
of the heritage month’s theme, From the Delta to the Hills: Different Landscapes, a Common Heritage.
“When I started as an extension agent in Desha County in November 2013, we had very
few actively involved youth and volunteers,” said Hope Bragg, Desha County extension
agent with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “I came up with
the idea of doing a field day during spring break as a means to expose people to 4-H.”
That event was held in March 2014 at an archeological excavation halfway between Dumas
and McGehee at the Hollywood Plantation. The event grew into a Quad-Day where 4-H
youth from the four surrounding counties met to learn about historic and prehistoric
life then spend the afternoon assisting the archeologists in screening for artifacts.
“We had more than 65 youth and leaders there, and they contributed more than 200 hours
of service,” Bragg said. “The best part was the youth were taking part in a service
project and didn’t even think of it as work. They were learning about the past, how
to interpret artifacts, and the importance of properly recording evidence. When it
was time to leave, parents were dragging the children to the cars. They wanted to
stay and see what other ‘treasures’ they would find.”
Those treasures included pieces of transfer print ceramics, a porcelain doll’s arm
and head, nails and window glass, among other artifacts. The success of this project
led Bragg to collaborate with Dr. Jodi Barnes, station archeologist with the Arkansas
Archeological Survey and research assistant professor with the University of Arkansas
at Monticello; Dr. Ann M. Early, Arkansas State Archeologist; and Dr. George Sabo,
III, the director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey; on the youth workshop.
“We are pleased with the success of this project and are actively considering how
we may expand it here in Arkansas,” Barnes said. “That expansion could entail a number
of programs. Our mission is to research archeological sites in Arkansas, preserve
and manage information and collections from those sites, and communicate what we learn
to the people of our state so this project fits squarely within our interests and
“Many programs and projects across the country as well as others here in Arkansas
include children in archeological activities and have been active for decades,” Dr.
Sabo said. “The Arkansas Archeological Survey and the Arkansas Archeological Society
sponsor every year a public archeology training program for children, adults and families,
and have since 1964.”
The Field to Report workshop helped the 4-H members learn about research by encouraging
questions, reviewing historic maps and aerial photographs, and training them on setting
up excavation units, sampling strategies and excavating, mapping and describing soil
samples. On the last day, the students not only washed, sorted and analyzed artifacts,
they also interpreted their findings and drafted text for a project report, which
will be published in the Arkansas Archeological Society s newsletter, Field Notes.
“The youth who participate in this program are learning there is more to archeology
than Indiana Jones or Lara Croft,” Bragg said. “Archeology itself is fun and exciting
without all the Hollywood special effects. 4-H was formed as a way of teaching farmers
best practices through their children, and if the same principal can be applied to
archeology,” hopefully, we can protect more of Arkansas’s endangered archeological
For more information about archaeology in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Archeological
Survey’s website, arkansasarcheology.org, or contact your county extension agent.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org