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Millsaps Students Conduct Archaeological Dig at Millsaps-Buie House


Millsaps Buie HouseMillsaps College archaeology students are learning how to conduct an archaeological dig while digging into the history of the Millsaps-Buie House in Jackson.

The home, located at 628 N. State St., was completed around 1888 for Major Reuben Webster Millsaps, founder of Millsaps College. The house now houses the law firm of Hawkins Stracener & Gibson and the law firm of  Louis H. Watson Jr. John Hawkins is a 1990 graduate of Millsaps. Eric Stracener is a 1987 graduate of Millsaps. Watson is an adjunct professor in the Else School of Management at Millsaps.

Students in Dr. Michael Galaty's course in Archaeological Method and Theory are excavating four 3x3 foot pits in the backyard of the house. The dig provides students hands-on experience in archaeological field research and is preparation for those who plan careers in archaeology.  Two students will accompany Galaty to do research in Albania this summer, while others will head to Yucatan with Dr. George Bey, associate dean for international education and professor of sociology and anthropology.

Dr. Jamie Harris, professor of geology at Millsaps, used a ground-penetrating radar to help students determine where to dig.  Using the GPR they were able to find the probable remains of the original carriage house.  "We think there will be lots of artifacts in the areas between the home and the carriage house, since there would have been a lot of traffic back and forth," Galaty said.

Students will continue the dig through April each Thursday from noon until 5 p.m.

Galaty said he expects students will find artifacts such as bits of pottery, nails, broken bottles, food refuse and perhaps personal items such as coins, jewelry and toys, like marbles.  "We can learn about the life of Major Millsaps and his family from the things they left behind: what did they like to eat, for example?"

The artifacts will be analyzed in the Millsaps College W.M. Keck Center for Instrumental and Biochemical Comparative Archaeology, the only undergraduate lab in the country focused on biochemical archaeological analysis. The Keck Lab has analyzed European and Central American archaeological artifacts from such places as Albania, Sweden and Mexico, and collaborates with universities and colleges throughout the nation.

"What is truly remarkable about the Keck Lab is the diversity of projects it can support," said Tim Ward, associate dean of the Division of Sciences at Millsaps College. "In addition to the archaeological research, the lab has developed collaborations with the Audubon society on projects such as the gulf oil spill, assisted pre-med and other Millsaps students in the sciences with their research projects, and supported a recycling project through the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence in the Else School of Business at Millsaps College."

The students have yet to uncover any artifacts, but they looking forward to discoveries in the coming weeks.

"I really could not be more thrilled about my excavation pit at the Millsaps-Buie House and the Albanian trip this summer," said Frances Tubb, a sophomore at Millsaps. "For a Millsaps anthropology student, there really is not anything more exciting than hands on experience." 

Report of Excavations by Michael L. Galaty and Millsaps College Students
at the Millsaps-Buie House, Spring, 2011