Public archaeology class explores Rowan Oak history

Posted on Nov 13 2018 - 5:50am by Grant McLaughlin

Tony Boudreaux, director of the University Center for Archaeological Research, and his archaeology students held a Public Archaeology Day at Rowan Oak to display antebellum artifacts and explore the history of the property.

Known as the home of acclaimed author William Faulkner, the Rowan Oak property was also once home to a slave owner. The archaeology group hopes to explore the history of slavery on the grounds by showcasing slaves’ contributions to and impact on the property.

Boudreaux said most archaeologists work for groups like state governments, private companies or museums — all working with the public.

Ole Miss archaeology students discuss artifacts found at Rowan Oak with the Oxford community during the Public Archaeology Day event on Saturday. Photo by Haleigh McNabb

“This class called public archeology is about doing archeology in those realms, so this class was an experience for our students to try and teach them doing public archeology,” Boudreaux said. “Doing an event like today where they are interpreting archeological information to the general public is good practical experience.”

Junior classics major Greta Koshenina said the purpose of the event is to highlight archeology’s beneficial position in the public sector.

“We’re working with the slavery research group on campus, and we’re just trying to create a more inclusive narrative of what happened here because a lot of people just focus on Faulkner,” Koshenina said. “We’re focusing on the antebellum time.”

The students working at the event answered questions and shared information with local attendees. Students in small groups set up tables with charts, maps and artifacts to share the work they had been doing at Rowan Oak.

“The university has a lot of great opportunities for me to be able to integrate the community within my classroom,” Brianna Hofman, a history teacher at Oxford Middle School, said at the event.

Boudreaux said his group’s archaeology work revealed a more human side of the property’s history that isn’t often discussed.

“I think it’s always good to have information about this whole other layer of history,” Boudreaux said. “We are all familiar with William Faulkner —to me this is a whole other layer of history that hasn’t gotten as much attention.”