2012 Summer Crew

(in alphabetical order by section)



John Blitz, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. John Blitz (PhD, City University of New York) is Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama. Dr. Blitz is an anthropological archaeologist whose research interests include the origins of rank, class, and complex societies, social memory and collective identity, materiality and the construction of value, and the political economy of ancient households and communities. Most of his research is focused on precolumbian Mississippian (Native American) societies in the American Southeast, but he has been involved in archaeological investigations in Mexico, Ecuador, and Belize. In addition to directing the Moundville Plaza Project, Dr. Blitz also participates in excavations at Actuncan, an ancient Maya political center in Belize, Central America, a project headed by Dr. Lisa J. LeCount, also of the University of Alabama. Please see selected publications here.

Jera Davis, Co-Principal Investigator

OAR_profile.jpgJera (BA, University of Georgia; MA, University of Alabama) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama. She has worked on archaeological projects in the eastern United States (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Indiana) and eastern Cuba. She has been excavating at and researching Moundville and Moundville-related sites since 2006. She is a member of the Texas State University Mississippian Iconography Workshop. When she’s not doing archaeology, you can find her relaxing on her front porch with her partner, her son, and her two Carolina Dogs. Jera is solely responsible for the contents of this blog.



Dan Aylward, Geoarchaeologist

Dan (BA, Boston University; MSc, University of Reading), or “Dan the Dirt Man” as he is affectionally called by the members of the Moundville Plaza Project, is a geoarchaeologist with special interest in soils, sediments, and landscapes. He has worked on projects in Italy, Bolivia, Great Britain, and the United States, and he has been a part of this project since he and Chet Walker conducted the initial magnetometer and ground-penetrating radar surveys of the site in 2009-2010.



Chester Walker, Archaeogeophysicist

Dr. Chester Walker (MA, Texas State University; PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is the owner and operator of Archaeo-Geophysics, LLC. He has plied his trade in practically every corner of the globe. He conducted the remote sensing surveys of Moundville, without which the Moundville Plaza Project would be impossible. Since then, he has returned to Moundville numerous times for additional high-resolution geophysical surveys and to locate remotely sensed anomalies on the ground prior to excavation. In the picture at left, Chet is launching his robotic drone for some aerial photography of the mound and plaza complex.



Clay Nelson, Assistant Archaeologist

Clay just finished his bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Alabama and will enter the master’s program in fall 2012. He has gained archaeological experience through his participation in the UA fall 2010 field school at Asphalt Plant Mound and through his involvement in the Actuncan Archaeological Project in Belize during the summer of 2011. Clay won the 2012 Hughes Prize for outstanding undergraduate anthropology student specializing in archaeology.



Erik Porth, Archaeologist

Erik (BA, Middle Tennessee State University; MA, University of Alabama) is a doctoral student at the University of Alabama. After several years of employment at the Castalian Springs site in Tennessee, he joined the UA Department of Anthropology and has been studying Moundville ever since. His research interests include the cycling and reorganization of complex societies in relation to environmental changes, conflict and contact with other cultures; planned places; architecture; and ceramic production. Erik also is a bird and beard enthusiast whose theatrical impersonations are known to draw (and then disperse) crowds.


Dan Salberg, Archaeologist

Dan (BA, University of Missouri) is a Master’s student at the University of Alabama. He has worked on archaeological projects in Illinois and Belize and is a former senior research laboratory technician at the Archaeometry Laboratory at the Missouri University Research Reactor. His primary research interests are the political and social integration of Mississippian polities and applied provenience studies. Other areas of interest include GIS, historic archaeology, ceramics, and environmental archaeology.




Daniel Cardwell, Volunteer and Laboratory Technician
Daniel is entering the final semester of his undergraduate work at the University of Alabama, where he has been pursuing a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. After completing the May 2011 field school at Moundville, he continued a volunteer crew member for the rest of his summer vacation. He has been employed as an archaeology laboratory technician by the UA Department of Anthropology since August 2011. The Moundville ceramic type-variety system is an old friend to him. Daniel can wax philosophical on archaeology, astrophysics, automobiles, and hunting in equal measure. He can also wash a sherd faster than you can say “Mississippi Plain.”


Matthew Colvin, Volunteer

Matthew (MA, Texas State University) is coming all the way from Texas to take part in our excavations this summer. He is a recent graduate of Texas State University’s anthropology graduate program, having written his thesis on the ideology and ritual surrounding the renowned flint clay figurines from Cahokia. He worked for several seasons with the Castalian Springs Archaeological Project in Tennessee and at Cahal Pech in Belize. Matthew will be with us throughout June.



Elizabeth Davis, Volunteer
Elizabeth is a Kindergarten teacher at Holy Spirit Catholic School and a docent at the Moundville museum. She has garnered archaeological experience as a volunteer on projects in Mississippi and Alabama. This is her second season with the Moundville Plaza Project. She is an avid runner, creative writer, and popcorn connoisseur.





Emmalea Gomberg, Volunteer

Emmalea just completed her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Alabama. She is an alumnus of the May 2011 field school and since then has volunteered her time in ongoing excavations at Moundville’s Mound R1. Emmalea’s diverse academic interests include bioarchaeology, human origins, and ceramic analysis. In addition to her classes, she has conducted a functional analysis ceramics from Chorro de Maita, a Taino ceremonial center in northeastern Cuba. We take it as a compliment that Emmalea has visited the great pyramids of the Giza Plateau and yet came back to work at Moundville.


Taylor Payne, Volunteer

Taylor will soon complete his bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Alabama. He was employed by UA as an archaeological laboratory technician in 2010. During his tenure as an undergraduate, Taylor somehow found time to conduct an award-winning study of ceramics from Asphalt Plant Mound, an early Moundville period site. He is an alumnus of two Moundville field schools (the May 2011 plaza excavations and the fall 2011 excavations at Mound R1) and of another at the Roman Binchester Fort in Great Britain. He has volunteered on numerous occasions, even when the work was particularly tedious, e.g., transporting field equipment to and from Moundville. Taylor will join us this July.

Kimberly Peace, Volunteer

Kimberly just completed her bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and history at the University of Alabama. She is a UA field school alumnus and a veteran MPP volunteer from the summer 2011 season. She’s also a former member of Alabama’s famous Million Dollar Marching Band. Naturally, the rest of the crew can’t wait to excavate in unison to one of Kimberly’s rousing clarinet solos.




Aaron Posey, Volunteer

Aaron is working toward an undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama. He joined the Moundville Plaza Project as a member of the fall 2011 field school and is coming back for more this summer. Aaron will use some of the data from this summer’s excavations in an independent study with Dr. Blitz during the fall 2012 academic semester.





Traci Roller, Volunteer and Laboratory Technician

Traci will soon complete her bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and art history at the University of Alabama. A veteran volunteer and field school graduate, she has also been employed as an archaeology laboratory technician by the UA Department of Anthropology since August 2011. She has quickly become the resident expert on Moundville’s Office of Archaeological Research accession procedures, in addition to being quite handy at ceramic analysis.


8 thoughts on “2012 Summer Crew

  1. I just wanted to express my thanks and gratitude for the treatment that you and your crew has shown me when I come down to visit. Always welcoming, informative and encouraging. I really appreciate you flaming that interest that I have in archaeology. Please remember me when you need a volunteer. :O) I love to learn and willing. Blessings As Always, Terry

  2. Jera … facinating to witness you & your team at work earlier this week as my friend, Lee, & I vistied the Moundville site for the first time. The time you all took with us, along with the information you imparted, seemed to bring alive, once again, the prehistoric plaza area. Keep up the beneficial groundwork! Best — Todd Tibbitts, Dallas, GA.

    • Thank you, Todd! We enjoyed your visit as well. You and your friend stand out as some of the most enthusiastic and interested visitors we’ve hosted this summer.

  3. Being an Archaeologist at Moundville was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was several years ago, but it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I was injured, but will never forget this learning experience.

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