Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park From Tn State Parks copy

Indulge Your Passion for the Past at Old Stone Fort

Ever thought you might like to be an archaeologist?

As near as I can figure, it’s a rewarding career but really doesn’t look much like the life depicted in the Indiana Jones movies. In addition to a love of the past, real-life archaeologists must have meticulous record keeping skills and the ability to evaluate and synthesize lots of data in order to see the overall picture. And while working toward the requisite PhD, a strong back helps during hot summers of field work in primitive conditions.

If the idea of seven or eight years of post-secondary study doesn’t hold much appeal for you but the glimpses into pre-historic times interest you, head down to Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park, a 2,000-year-old Native American ceremonial site for the Knap-In and Archaeoskills event being held September 27-29. The bi-annual event is held each May and September and is free and open to the public. The weekend’s main activities and special programming begin at 8 a.m. CDT on Saturday and will run until approximately 4:30 p.m.

Old Stone Fork Bridge TN State Parks

Cross the Big Duck River to camp at one of 51 campsites with water and electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables, restrooms, bathhouse and hard-surface pads at Old Stone Fort. (Photo: TN State Parks)

Toolin’ Around

Archaeoskills are techniques that were used by ancient North Americans to create tools that could help them survive.

Like the process used to make arrowheads. Many of us have searched in newly plowed fields lining creeks and rivers after spring rains washed away enough dirt to reveal the edges of arrowheads with unmistakable signs of shaping by prehistoric humans. The ancients perfected the art of making arrowheads as if their lives depended on it because that was literally the case.

Knapping refers to shaping stone with high-silica content by chipping away (called lithic reduction) to create the sharp edges needed for stone tools used for hunting and dressing game. Modern-day flint knappers are inspired by the artistry of the ancient craftsmen. Flint knappers of all skill levels will begin arriving at the park on Friday and will set up on the roof deck of the museum to swap ideas and materials and demonstrate their craft for the public.

According to Park Ranger Josh Waggener other demonstrations of primitive skills throughout the weekend include pottery making and cordage which is the process of creating rope and string from plant fibers using braiding and twining techniques to strengthen the finished product for a variety of uses.

Need for Speed

Everyone can try their hand at using an atlatl, an ancient spear propulsion device developed about 20,000 years ago to increase the velocity of the spear and improve success during the hunt ( I usually hear it pronounced “addle addle”).

The earliest atlatls were made from antlers. We use a molded plastic version that uses the same principle to sling tennis balls down the hill for Jake, our golden retriever. It’s surprising how much farther the ball travels without any significant increase in effort.
Special presentations are planned on Saturday on topics such as Southeastern archaeology and prehistory.

Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park From Tn State Parks copy

The complex combination of walls, mounds, ditches and angles marking the entranceway to the 50-acre ceremonial enclosure at Old Stone Fort points toward the sunrise on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. (Photo: TN State Parks)

Lend a Hand

On Sept. 28, in honor of National Public Lands Day, Old Stone Fort will host a volunteer work day with basic trail clearing, re-marking of trails and erosion prevention on the white, yellow and red trails from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Bring gloves, water and snacks – tools will be provided. Contact Ranger Josh at joshua.waggener@tn.gov or (931) 952-0918 with questions.

The park is open daily and closes at sunset. For more information visit www.tn.gov/environment/parks/OldStoneFort or call 931-723-5073.

Old stone fort waterfalls

The waterfalls on the Duck and the Little Duck Rivers at Old Stone Fort powered a gunpowder mill during the Civil War as well as numerous saw mills and grist mills at various times. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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