Shovel test uncovers Native American artifacts

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Archeologists conducted a shovel test at the donated Mahler property on Feb. 24 and 25.

Bonnie Gums from the University of South Alabama came with a small team of experienced archaeologists to dig on a grid system to uncover any evidence that might be under the soil around the house.

The crew and about 20 volunteers worked in pairs on sites around the property, which borders Alabama 119. In each pair, one person dug while the other screened the soil for artifacts.

“We excavated 70 shovel tests in 1.5 days, which is a lot of work,” Gums wrote in an email. “Although it was a limited shovel test survey, it was very successful in identifying areas on the Mahler property where both prehistoric and historic archaeological artifacts can be found, showing that this location on Shoal Creek was a good place to live.”

The crew found a shell button, a metal button, broken bottles and structural materials near the house. Gums believed one piece of pottery they found to be from Britain in the early 1800s. The crew also dug up some bricks that interested Gums, as they might be evidence that another building once stood on the property.

On the ridge behind the house, they found artifacts from the prehistoric period when Native Americans lived along Shoal Creek. These included flakes from the making of stone tools and at least four broken pieces of projectile points. Gums said they even found a piece of Native American pottery closer to the creek.

This dig was unique because volunteers from the community could come out and help, gaining knowledge about the history of their town while assisting researchers.

Lauren Grace Sproull, a history student at the University of Montevallo, volunteered to help with the dig.

“I want to work in archives, so this is something that works hand in hand,” Sproull said. “I’m learning some more local history … it gets you more engaged.”