Aaron Deter-Wolf has been an important part of the MTSU Middle Cumberland Archaeology Project since 2010. Today we learn more about Aaron’s background and research interests.
Aaron earned his BA from Duke University in 1998 and his MA from Tulane University in 2000, where he studied Mesoamerican archaeology. From 1995 – 1999 he conducted fieldwork in Central America with teams from Williams College and the Belize Valley Archaeological Project, including excavations designed to reconstruct preliminary chronologies and delineate major occupations at two previously uninvestigated late Classic Maya sites in Guatemala. Aaron’s MA thesis examined the Late Classic ceramic figurine assemblage from the site of Motul de San José in Guatemala’s Department of Petén.
After completing his MA, Aaron entered the Cultural Resource Management industry, and from 2001 – 2007 designed and supervised CRM projects throughout the southeastern United States. His work during that time included numerous archaeological surveys, data recovery projects, cemetery delineations, and burial removals conducted on behalf of federal agencies and both private and commercial developers. In 2003 he directed excavations and burial removal at the Ensworth High School site (40DV184), a major late-Middle Archaic occupation along the Harpeth River near Nashville.
In 2007, Aaron joined the Tennessee Division of Archaeology as a Prehistoric Archaeologist. In this capacity he is responsible for managing prehistoric sites on State-owned lands, investigating disturbances to prehistoric human remains, conducting archaeological excavations and research, and informing the public about archaeology. He regularly gives presentations on Tennessee’s prehistoric past and other archaeological topics for university, school, community, and avocational interest groups throughout the state. His recent projects have ranged from investigating looted rockshelters with the Tennessee Methamphetamine Taskforce to conducting excavations at a Late Pleistocene mastodon butchering site in Middle Tennessee. He has worked closely with archaeologists and students from MTSU conducting reanalysis of several old collections, and since 2009 has taught at MTSU as an adjunct professor.
Aaron has recently been involved in various research collaborations with Dr. Peres, including serving as co-director for the 2010 National ScienceFoundation-funded emergency assessment of prehistoric sites along the Cumberland River, co-authoring a series of conference papers, journal articles, and book chapters on shell symbolism and shell-bearing sites, and acting as guest co-editors for the forthcoming issue of Tennessee Archaeology. In 2011, Aaron and Dr. Peres received a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission to refine the radiocarbon chronology of shell-bearing sites along the Middle Cumberland in support of a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the site where the 2012 MTSU Field School is taking place.
Aaron’s individual research has recently focused on examining the archaeological evidence for prehistoric tattooing. He organized a symposium on ancient tattooing and body modification for the 2009 meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, and subsequently participated in several international symposia devoted to that topic. He has contributed chapters on the material culture of ancient tattooing and experimental testing of prehistoric tattoo technologies to a forthcoming European publication, and is presently editing a volume on ancient tattooing in North America’s Eastern Woodlands, to be published in 2013 by the University of Texas Press.