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Brookhaven High students are diggin’ it

“Dig it? Dug.” 

It’s the motto that Brookhaven High School senior Chasity Hutchison has penned for the school’s new archaeology club … and dig it they do.

In fact, four members of the Brookhaven High Archaeology Club recently attended their first dig Dec. 16 just outside of Hazlehurst. The property is owned by Mississippi Archaeological Association members Benny and Gena Roberts. The Robertses have volunteered at many digs in various states over the last 12 years and invited the students to come learn the proper techniques of digging a site.

Students were allowed to select the site they wanted to dig and were taught how to measure the coordinates and plot the location on a topographic map. Then they had to measure a one-meter-square outline and drive nails to lay out their site.

They selected their instruments and began digging. They carefully removed dirt from their site, combing through it for artifacts. Dirt was put into buckets to be water-screened later. Students found many pieces of debitage — chipped stone debris — and a square nail. Native American artifacts are common in the area but the square nail is a mystery. Students learned how to mark the location of their finds, measure the depth below surface and record the data to be mapped.

Students took their buckets to the water screening area and sifted through the dirt they had removed. They found several small flakes. They also found many PLRs — “pretty little rocks.” All artifacts were placed into bags and labeled. Students received a notebook and a pencil so that they could document their day and findings. They were also allowed to name the site. They named their site CSU.

“These girls are very smart,” Gena Roberts stated. “They pay attention and ask intelligent questions. They are better at this than some college students majoring in archaeology that we have worked with in the past.”

BHS Principal David Martin said new clubs form almost every year as school starts but this club has extra opportunities to learn and appeal to students who learn in different ways.

“This is not a typical high school club. The subject matter itself is very specific and interesting, revolving around particularly Mississippi history. The members usually meet on Saturdays to hear guest speakers and attend trips so they are very dedicated students,” Martin said. “It has been a welcomed addition to what we offer to students at BHS. We are always looking for new learning options for them.”

Herbert Kimble, member of the Brookhaven Archaeology Club boosters, visited the recent site dig and brought lunch for the students.

“This is better than just learning history or math in the classroom. It takes it a step further into hands-on experience,” he said.

Student Jenna Segura agreed, “I learn so much better when I am actually doing, not just sitting.”

The club started this school year, under the supervision of history and economics teacher Krista Russell, and currently has 18 members. Members include Bennie Alexander, Grayson Anding, Zavean Bates, Emily Grace Boutwell, Rodney Bridgeforth, Annah Claire Burns, Ellie Currie, Nicholas Durr, Chasity Hutchinson, Jackie Madison, Hirani Patel, Daniel Peters, Christopher Robinson, Jenna Segura, McKayla Segura, Saylor Smith, Lauren Grace Smith and Audrey Williamson.

“I started the club because I saw the destruction of so many Native American mounds and artifacts with little regard to their historical significance,” Russell said. “I wanted to expose as many people as possible to this part of our history.”

The club has hosted three different speakers, attended a dig and are planning a field trip to Natchez this month. Speakers visiting the club have been Adam Fuselier, archaeologist for the Homochitto National Forest; Tony Payne, president of the Mississippi Archaeological Association; and Benny Roberts, member of the Mississippi Archaeological Association.

“An added benefit to the club is that students get hands-on experience like they did at this site,” Russell said. “It is just another opportunity to get them to learn.”

Story and photos by Krista Russell