By Bernard K. Means

One of the great advantages of the internet with respect to New Deal archaeology is the dedicated efforts of numerous scholars to make the vast amounts of unpublished records, photographs, and reports more readily available to researchers.  As these efforts are dynamic, I find that I need to regularly search the internet to update my own research into New Deal archaeology.  Recently, I encountered a report on Arthur R. Kelly’s WPA archaeological investigations of the Macon North Plateau.  The WPA excavations took place from 1935 to 1937, and a report was apparently drafted around 1955, but never finalized or published.  Thanks to the dedicated labors of Mark Williams, director of the Laboratory of Archaeology at the University of Georgia, and five Master’s degree students at the University of Georgia, this report is now easily accessible.

Exploratory Trench South of Tool House (adapted from Plate 42 of Kelly 2010)

Exploratory Trench South of Tool House (adapted from Plate 42 of Kelly 2010 and from the collections of the Southeast Archaeological Center of the National Park Service)

In his introduction to the report, Williams tells a personal and I think fascinating story about the long and winding road from the loss of this manuscript to its rediscovery—and its pathway to the internet. Williams spoke with Arthur R. Kelly in 1974, when he was tasked while working at the Southeast Archaeological Center of the National Park Service with writing up Kelly’s excavations based on curated notes and artifacts.  Kelly mentioned that he had completed a draft report on the excavations, but Williams was unable to find it at the time.  Fast forward 25 years to early 2009, and, while looking through a list of over 1000 unpublished manuscripts, his “eye paused on Number 331.  It was labeled as “Mound D, Ocmulgee (Excavations) and credited to Arthur Kelly as the author.  Here was suddenly the “lost” Kelly manuscript.”  From my own experience, I can imagine the elation that Williams must have felt.

Now, as Williams makes clear, the manuscript was not remotely ready for publication, and it is clear how much effort was put in bringing the manuscript to publication. The published version, like the manuscript, lacks key sections, notably an introduction, background, summary, or conclusions.  However, in addition to presenting important field results, the work is lavishly illustrated with images from the Southeast Archaeological Center that give a great feel for the New Deal investigations on the Macon North Plateau.  I should add that the manuscript is not limited to WPA investigations, but also includes a long discussion of the CWA excavations into Mound D as well.

I’d like to thank Mark Williams for allowing me to quote from his introduction and sending me an updated link that I can share with you on this important work.

Kelly, Arthur and edited by Gretchen Eggiman, Randy Heath, Richard Moss,
Chris Webster, and Dylan Woodliff
2010    WPA Archaeological Excavations at the Macon North Plateau. LAMAR Institute Publication 150. LAMAR Institute, Savannah, Georgia.
The volume is available at: