Historical society to explore Alabama’s Native American history

Published 10:00 am Friday, April 5, 2024

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The Spring program for the Chattahoochee Valley Historical Society (CVHS) will be taking place virtually at 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 28th. The program will be taking a look at early Native American history in Alabama. The presenter, David Johnson, works very closely with the Alabama Archaeological Society. Though not a professional archaeologist, Johnson has gained a vast amount of knowledge about Alabama’s earliest inhabitants.

“His area of speciality involves the state’s indigenous population,” said program host Charles Powers. “He’s what’s best could be termed an avocational archaeologist, meaning that he came to practice archaeology outside the traditional profession. He has published several books over the years and has given many presentations throughout Alabama and other Southern states.”

His upcoming presentation via Zoom could be called Archaeology for Dummies. It’s not meant as an insult but gets across the point that he will be breaking down what can be a highly arcane and complicated science to the understanding of the average person. It was the discovery of prehistoric artifacts on his private property that led to his great interest in the field. He knew he did not have the training to handle these artifacts the way a professional archaeologist would and sought the advice of those who had such training. They showed him the proper way to catalog and record such discoveries for the purposes of preservation and education. He became personally enraptured in this study and found out that there were many others out there who shared this same interest. He began sharing what he’d learned with other lay people.

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“David has authored many books, notably the Handbook for Alabama’s Prehistoric Indians and Artifacts,” Powers said. “This work also has contributions from many of the professional archaeologists in the Alabama Archaeological Society.”

Published in 2019 by Borgo Press, the work contains many full-scale photographs, geographic distribution, charts and detailed descriptions of various artifacts such as prehistoric projectile points.

Due to the popularity of the book in Alabama, Johnson followed up with a similar work about Mississippi.

Johnson is retired from the Alabama Department of Transportation. He and his wife April volunteer with different archaeological projects and make presentations to schools and other groups about archaeology and prehistory. Johnson is currently working with Native American groups to preserve archaeological sites around Chandler Mountain in St. Clair County. A massive dam project has been proposed for the area.

The April 28th virtual presentation should last approximately one hour and will cover his work in both Alabama and Mississippi. He will also be discussing how avocational archaeologists like he and April can participate and experience the world of archaeology in an official and responsible manner, something that’s necessary in being respectful to the cultures and peoples whose ancestor’s artifacts are being discovered.

“His is a tale that exemplifies the potential that exists when professional archaeologists include ordinary lay people through educating and mentoring them,” Powers said. “We want you to join us for this very informative and interesting presentation on Sunday afternoon, April 28th.”

To take part, email cpowers02@gmail.com prior to the noon hour on the day of the presentation. You will then be sent the Zoom link with instructions on how to join the meeting.