The Official Gavel, Tony Paredes

Since you asked:

Here is the genealogical legitimization of the gavel I recounted orally as I presented it to Herb Lewis at the recent ASA business meeting in New Orleans (with apologies to the Maori). By association, the gavel is rich with symbolism for ASA.

I acquired the gavel (originally a maul) as surplus used equipment at Ocmulgee National Monument (OCMU), NPS, on a site visit in connection with FSU being host institution (then and now since 1972) for Southeast Archeological [sic] Center of the National Park Service. That must have been about 1977. It was already quite old and beat up at the time.

OCMU is best known as a large pre-Columbian mound site in central Georgia. It has archaeological components, however, ranging from Paleo-Indian, ca. 10,000 BE, to the American Civil War. Its visitor center itself is a fine example of ArtDeco architecture. And, OCMU is the site of one of the largest annual intertribal gathering of American Indians at an NPS facility in the Southeast.

During the Great Depression, through WPA, OCMU was the location of one of the largest US government sponsored archaeological research projects ever undertaken. Many prominent American archaeologists worked there early in their careers including A.R. Kelley, Charles Fairbanks, and Gordon Willey.

The head of the gavel is made of rawhide. [Sidebar] That reminds me of a 1960s TV series, “Rawhide,” in which a young actor named Clint Eastwood got his big break. Now, nearly 50 years later Eastwood is doing some of his finest work as he gallops into his 80s.

To carry the OCMU/ASA connection even farther, when the Society for American Archaeology met in Atlanta in 2009 one of the tours original planned was to OCMU. For some reason the tour was cancelled and my predecessor as ASA president, Alice Kehoe, was very disappointed. I volunteered to give her a personal tour, so one day she and I drove the 60 miles or so to Macon and had a wonderful “anthropology day” on the road and touring the site. During our tour Alice took lots of pictures. One was of me in a tee-shirt with my long-sleeved Khaki shirt wrapped around my waist (the weather had turned quite warm). If I squint at the picture just right, I can almost convince myself that I look like the Panther-kilt warrior chief motif from Southeast Ceremonial Cult iconography. It was on that day that Alice clearly passed to me the mantle of authority for ASA.

I had a plaque attached to the gavel that reads simply–in large type–”Twentieth Anniversary. Association of Senior Anthropologists. EST. 1990″

When I completed saying all this at out ASA luncheon meeting in New Orleans, where I presented gavel to incoming president Herb Lewis, our incoming president-elect Paula G. Rubel added yet another layer of ASA connection to OCMU. The collection from an archaeology site that she worked during her student days in the 1950s near Augusta, Georgia, was deposited with OCMU and should still be in their Collections (I will be checking to see if it is still there.)

So you have it. It’s fun to think about how a story like this might change after several generations of ritual oral recitation.

Maybe others will enjoy.

Tony

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