Archeologists, like geologists, “dig the ground the most” and are able to determine through placement and study who lived on a particular piece of ground, how they used it, what they did on it, what they ate, tools they used, how they lived, worshiped, traded and socialized.
Hints as to what rests below ground might come from a photograph or radar image from a satellite in space. With a picture in hand closer inspection can begin.
It is rare that a woman will live any place, no matter how austere, without doing something to make it more appealing. Therefore, old home sites are often located by identifying descendants of plants used as landscaping.
Our uncommon sudden spring with everything blooming at once is a perfect time to visit sites of old house-places to determine the exact location and plants used for landscaping.
A form of archeology that escapes notice is that of “landscape archeology.” Bypassing the preferred definition, it is basically a study of how man changes his environment.
It is unusual for landscaping to completely die out. Some shrubs will come to the end of their cycles, but other plants appear to go on forever.
Little Miss Phillips, who isn't so little anymore, had a fascination with a distant cousin. Lily Bomar Cason Campbell was the first cousin of her great, great grandfather — you figure it out — but it looks like a first cousin four times removed.
I rarely saw “Cousin Lily,” but she was part of our family to whom family connections were important. She cultivated cross-generational relationships and “kept in touch.”
In later years she married Walter Campbell, of the venerable Campbell family for whom old Campbell County was named.
The general location of Walter and Lily's home was known, but the exact position vague.
Early one spring day I ventured into south Fulton County (the area formerly known as Campbell County) and walked a piece of land thick with brush near old Owl Rock Church. Without removing vegetation I saw two spirea bushes connected by a line of yellow jonquils: I had found one side of the house and two corners. A few yards away forsythia (“yellow bells”) struggled to maintain ownership.
A peach tree was budding to bloom in a ditch and there was little doubt I had found the site of the cottage Walter and Lily called home.
The academic study is more complex, but in restoring very old homes and attempting to duplicate the surroundings, a landscape archeologist would forbid grass mowing or turning of soil for at least two growing seasons.
A more in-depth study of removed soil will show seed artifacts, ancient roots, traces of a plow furrow, and provide a realistic view of the environment a historic structure enjoyed.
At the Campbell house site I dug out a few jonquil bulbs and transplanted them in a safe location for the time when LMP has her own piece of ground, and can have a living keepsake of that distant cousin for whom she had fascination. It is probably a good thing I did. Within a few days the soil was shoved around to build a large drugstore that now occupies that spot of land.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.