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WPA Archaeology: Legacy of an Era

In Depression-era Kentucky, people needed jobs. Roosevelt's New Deal programs did just that, funding hundreds of labor projects, from road construction and forest conservation to cultural programs in music, art, and history. Archaeological research, too, provided much needed jobs. These projects transformed Kentucky's prehistoric mounds and village sites into work opportunities for thousands of otherwise jobless Kentuckians through the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) archaeology program.

Kentucky's Depression-era archaeology program was much more than the jobs it created, and this program explores its diverse legacies. WPA archaeology laid the foundation for today's understanding of Kentucky's diverse prehistoric American Indian cultures. The colorful Dr. William S. Webb, a stern University of Kentucky physics professor, administered the program and some of America's best and brightest young archaeologists supervised the work. Throughout this program, former WPA archaeologist Mr. John B. Elliott describes what it was like to work on these projects. Dr. Lathel F. Duffield, former University of Kentucky Anthropology professor and member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma places the program in historical and cultural context, and explains why today, not all indigenous peoples consider the legacy of WPA archaeology a positive one.

This program is lavishly illustrated with period black and white film footage and still photographs, some of which have never been seen before. Also included are rich color photographs of a variety of prehistoric artifacts, many of which were recovered during the WPA excavations, that illustrate the diversity of Kentucky's prehistoric past.


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Last Updated 3/18/2008