Battle ready

Workshop brings technology experts to clearing in park

Posted: June 1, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Matthew Fenno with the Southeast Archaeological Center of the National Park Service in Tallahasee, Fla., uses a magnetic gradiometer May 18 at the site of the Leetown hamlet at the Pea Ridge National Military Park. Today’s grassy clearing was the site of a small community overrun during the two-day Battle of Pea Ridge. Roughly 30 archeologists, anthropologists, historians and researchers from around the state, nation and world came to the park for a workshop in the latest technology presented May 15-19 by the Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service in Lincoln, Neb.

Grid by grid. Line by line. Experts in geophysical remote sensing criss-crossed nearly every meter, every centimeter, of the Leetown hamlet and adjacent cemetery site at Pea Ridge National Military Park. Roughly 30 archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and researchers from around the state, nation and world came to the park for a workshop in the latest technology, presented May 15-19 by the Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service in Lincoln, Neb.

Dave Maki with Archaeo-Physics Geophysical Survey in Minneapolis uses an array of magnetic gradiometers May 18 looking for data showing anomolies, whi...

Allan Wolfrum (left) with Midwest Archaeological Center of the National Parks Service in Lincoln, Neb., and Kris Lockyear with the University College ...

Park arborist identifies tree of knowledge

Jami Lockhart and his compatriots at the Arkansas Archeological Survey have to correlate all the data from each piece of equipment before big discoveries could be made. Archaeologists from around the world descended on Pea Ridge National Military Park last month for a workshop in the latest technology presented by the Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service in Lincoln, Neb.

But one big piece of the puzzle came immediately — and not from one of the archaeologists: Curtis Tilghman, an arborist for the national park, recognized a tree.

Lockhart, director of the computer services program for the Arkansas Archeological Survey, showed Tilghman 1960s pictures of the Mayfield home that sat in the Leetown clearing when the park was established. Growing just off the front porch of the house was a small tree.

“It was a catalpa tree,” Tilghman said. “I said, ‘I think I know where that tree is.’”

To the arborist, the tree was easily recognizable by its branch structure, a hole and a “cat face” — a wound in the tree that had grown over, but not completely healed, Tilghman said. “The branches, everything, matched up,” he said.

Today, the behemoth of a tree lays in the middle of the Leetown hamlet site — it blew down just last year, Tilghman said.

Tilghman’s identification showed archaeologists the exact location in the field of the long-gone house and which way the house was oriented, Lockhart said.

The park staff also cut a piece out of the tree, with Lockhart planning to ask a University of Arkansas dendrochronologist to study the ring sequence and determine an age for the tree.

Park Superintendent Kevin Eads also put Lockhart in touch with Greg Mayfield who lives just west of the park, the great-great-great-grandson of Stan “Wix” Mayfield.

His father, who is still living, was born in the 1930s and lived in Leetown.

“I was surprised how many of the family to Mr. Ruddick and Mr. Mayfield are still living in the area,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart, Tilghman and Kevin Eads, park superintendent walked the hamlet site on the last day of the school, with Lockhart explaining the findings.

Then the group waded through knee-high weeds, stepped over a turtle, climbed a fence, faced thorny under brush while walking downhill to a rocky creek bed, then up the creek bed to investigate an well believed to serve the Mayfield home. A rusty bucket for retrieving water was still attached to the concrete well.

“We use every bit of evidence to identify our findings,” Lockhart said.

— LAURINDA JOENKS

ljoenks@nwadg.com

Digging history

Archaeology students from the University of Arkansas have taken over the Leetown hamlet site at Pea Ridge National Military Park in a field school and excavation based on the data recorded in the spring and by the participants in the geophysical remote sensing workshop, sponsored by the Midwest Archelogical Service of the National Parks Service.

What: UA archeology field school

When: Through June 30

Where: Leetown hamlet site, Pea Ridge National Military Park

Extra: Visitors are welcome to visit the site and ask questions of students working

Information: 451-8122.

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