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Painting by Greg Harlin

Archaeology Research Collections

The Museum houses the massive collections recovered from the Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs on the Tennessee River and its tributaries between 1934 and 1982. Millions of artifacts—along with the associated field notes, forms, analysis sheets, drawings, photographs, and correspondence—comprise a research base of national significance for studies of the Native American occupation of the Middle South.



From 1934 to 1942, 10 reservoirs were constructed on the Tennessee River and its tributaries, and archaeological work was conducted in nine of them. Hundreds of sites were recorded and excavations exposed more than 1.5 million square feet of prehistoric and historic Native American occupations.

The results of these massive investigations, along with subsequent work in other reservoirs such as Nickajack, Tims Ford, Barkley, Melton Hill, and Tellico, are housed at the McClung Museum. Millions of artifacts—along with the associated field notes, forms, analysis sheets, drawings, photographs, and correspondence—comprise a research base for southeastern Indian studies of international significance. A second, smaller category of archaeological collections have been given to or acquired by the museum from individuals, institutions, or contract firms.

The results of 70 years of research are presented in the museum’s permanent exhibition, Archaeology and the Native Peoples of TennesseeAn excellent sample of the archaeological collections can be seen and studied in this exhibit.

The museum’s Archaeology Collections Guide gives detailed listings of the specific archaeological collections curated by the museum, including site names, numbers, and references, as well as information about other resources and services for researchers.

Access to the collections is restricted to researchers—for more information see Conducting Research at the McClung.

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