TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama Historical Commission and The University of Alabama’s Office of Archaeological Research invite the public to participate in three days of investigation, presentations and discovery of the mysterious town of Old Cahawba during Old Cahawba Public Archaeology Days.
The three-day event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 21 through 23 at Old Cahawba Archaeological Park in Orrville, includes daily excavations at Old Cahawba’s State House lot, daily tours of Old Cahawba, a series of daily lectures and an artifact display and children’s craft tables July 23.
The lectures will take place at 1 p.m. daily near the State House Lot.
On Thursday, July 21, Thomas Kaufmann, Tuskegee University Historical Architect, will present “In the Federal Style: The Architecture of the State House at Old Cahawba.” Kaufmann’s presentation will explore the origins of the Architecture of the State House at Old Cahawba during early America’s most formative building epoch during the late and early 19th century, and why it was executed in the Federal Style.
On Friday, July 22, Dr. Virgil Beasley, the cultural resources investigator at UA’s Office of Archaeological Research, will present “The Usage of Ground Penetrating Radar at Old Cahawba,” where he will discuss the remote sensing program being conducted at Old Cahawba and how Ground Penetrating Radar is used in archaeology to conduct nonintrusive investigations. The presentation will use examples from the ongoing project, including the discoveries at the State House, the moat and the cemeteries.
On Saturday, July 23, Linda Derry, Alabama Historical Commission’s Old Cahawba Site Director, will present “What was Governor Bibb thinking when he created Alabama’s first State House at Cahawba?” Derry will reveal how archaeology has opened a window to the inner workings of Bibb’s mind. New finds reveal that the setting Bibb created for Alabama’s First State House was imaginative, highly symbolic, amazingly clever and that some of Alabama’s bicentennial history needs to be corrected in light of this new evidence.
Old Cahawba is owned and operated by the Alabama Historical Commission. Both the Commission and UA’s Office of Archaeology Research have partnered to conduct a cultural and natural resources survey of the historic town, which lies at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers. From 1819 to 1826, it served as Alabama’s first capital.
Archaeologists are using a variety of methods. First, they are using ground-penetrating radar to locate the foundations of the State House, detect unmarked burials within the cemeteries and investigate the prehistoric moat and mound that Alabama’s first governor reused as the centerpiece of his town plan.
Second, a thorough visual survey of the entire ground surface of the town, guided in part by Light Detection and Ranging data, known as LiDAR, is being performed. Third, a botanist is being consulted to assist with plant identification.
The visual ground survey involves UA archaeologists walking the overgrown city blocks, recording, mapping and photographing all visual evidence of this once-flourishing town. Dr. Wayne Barger, botanist for the Alabama Department of Conservation, is helping to identify and map non-native plants left behind by Cahawba’s 19th-century occupants.
The team has already identified features that are likely the front and back walls of Alabama’s first State House and have discovered more than 110 unmarked graves in the town’s three cemeteries, which include Cahawba’s main cemetery, an earlier capital era cemetery and the African-American burial ground.
The team has also surveyed the Southeastern portion of the town where they have documented and photographed seven artesian wells, the remnants of a 19th century ice house, chimney falls, basement depressions and foundational remains of scores of homes and businesses.
With the state’s bicentennial on the horizon, the information gathered will be used by the Alabama Historical Commission to interpret and manage this important historic site. The remnants of the State House, the homes, stores and the cemeteries tell an intriguing story of Alabama’s early heritage.
General admission is $2 per adult and $1 for children; all volunteer excavators will receive free admission. Please dress appropriately for excavation. Lunch will be provided Thursday and Saturday for all pre-registered participants, but participants are encouraged to bring snacks. Water will be available, but participants are advised to also bring their own.
From downtown Selma, take Highway 22 (Dallas Avenue) west 8.6 miles. Cross over the Cahaba River and turn left onto County Road 9, and follow this 3.3 miles until it dead ends. Turn left onto County Road 2, and follow this 1.5 miles until you see the Welcome Center on the right. Welcome Center Address: 9518 Cahaba Road, Orrville, AL 36767.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.