by Bernard K. Means

This post is a bit of a plug (I’ll let the reader decide whether it is shameless or not) for Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America, coming out in January from the University of Alabama Press (link at:,5507.aspx). But, at least for the next couple of weeks, this book is consuming my “free” time as I read through proofs and work on the index.  The book has as its origins a series of papers presented in 2010 at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) annual meeting in a special session dedicated to archaeologist Gordon Willey and the History of Archaeology.  2010 was the 75th anniversary of the SAAs, as well as the the WPA.  In fact, the SAAs arose partly in response to the growth of archaeology under New Deal work relief programs.  Gordon Willey, the namesake for the SAAs History of Archaeology session, was himself a New Deal Archaeologist.

The Shovel Ready volume is divided into three sections, organized by region: Middle Atlantic (New Jersey and Pennsylvania), Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, and Oklahoma) and Southeast (Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee).  These three sections are bracketed by an introduction (focusing on the general contributions of New Deal archaeology and its immediate impact) and a conclusion (looking at the legacy of New Deal archaeology and the New Deal itself). Other than passing mentions in the conclusion, New Deal archaeology in the far west is not addressed in detail–not from a lack of interest on my part, but more, I think, because New Deal artifacts and collections are not as actively researched in the states bordering the Pacific Ocean.  And, truth be told, not much New Deal archaeology was done in this region.

In the coming months, I plan to expand this section of the blog to focus more on individual chapters from Shovel Ready and providing supplementary material to what is available in the volume itself.