2014 Ole Miss Archaeological Field School

The University of Mississippi will be conducting an intensive archaeological field school at the Carson Mounds site, one of the largest prehistoric ceremonial centers in the Mississippi alluvial valley. In his 1894 landmark publication on the mounds of the eastern United State, Cyrus Thomas included a map of the site showing more than 80 mounds. Most of the smaller mounds have been obliterated by the more than 100 years of cultivation that followed. This course offers students the opportunity to learn archaeological field methods at one of the major Mississippian sites in the Southeast. Much of the work this season will focus on mapping complex ritual structures and mound excavation. Students will also learn more advanced archaeological techniques including GIS and remote sensing using magnetometry and ground penetrating radar.




The Yazoo Basin, known locally as the Delta, was the setting for a complex late prehistoric settlement that focused on corn agriculture and mound-based ceremonialism. We are just beginning to understand the complexity of the social structure that is expressed by the hundreds of mound sites in the region. The Delta is no less interesting today with the very rich and very poor living in close proximity. It is the birthplace of the blues and, in fact, Muddy Waters grew up on Stovall Plantion, within a mile of the Carson Mounds. Modern blues players perform at places like Ground Zero in Clarksdale where we regularly have our end of the season banquet, feasting on barbeque, catfish, and fried green tomatoes.



We will be using the following remote sensing instruments

Bartington Grad 601-2 Duar Sensor Gradiometer Measures the magnetic characteristics of archaeological deposits.

KT 9 Kappameter – Good for small scale exploration of the magnetic susceptibility component of the magnetic field

Bartington MS2 Magnetic Susceptibility Meter with MS2H downhole probe

EM 38B Conductivity Meter – A conductivity meter that also measures an approximation of magnetic susceptibility. This is the standard conductivity instrument used by archaeologists in geophysical research because it measure features within the upper meter or so of the deposit.

SIR 3000 – A ground penetrating radar system which allows soil properties and buried structures to be detected using the radar portion of the electromagnetic spectrum

Leica Total Station – Replaces our venerable optical transit in recording surface elevation as well as mapping features in the excavation units.

Students will also have ample opportunity to become familiar with the more traditional tools; shovels, trowels, screens, and field forms.



Total enrollment will be limited to 12 students, filled on a first come basis.


The field school will be housed near Clarksdale, one of the larger towns in the Delta and the birthplace of the blues. There are a number of restaurants and blues clubs where students will have the opportunity explore the modern culture of the area after their day in the field. Students can cook for themselves or take advantage of the local eating places. There will be optional weekend field trips to museums and mound sites in the region.




The field school will begin on June 2 and conclude on July 25


Undergraduates will sign up for Anthropology 335 for six hours of credit. In state tuition is $1,508 and out of state tuition is $2,878. Graduate students will take Anthropology 605, also a six hour course. In state fees are $1,785. Out of state tuition is $3,612.

Application Contact Jay K. Johnson (sajay@olemiss.edu 662-801-7339) for information about how to apply. If you have any additional questions, please call or email Professor Johnson.