When you drive into our parking lot and step out of your car, you may not stop to think about who or what was on this site over 150 years ago. I bet you can guess that it wasn’t an awesome pyramid or amazing science center! Did you know that our museum sits atop an archaeological site? Federal and state laws preserve and protect archaeological sites, so as we make plans to break ground and plant trees for our new arboretum (more information on that exciting development coming soon), it is imperative that we follow compliance laws and work with experts to ensure we mitigate any potential cultural disturbance that might occur during tree planting.
In February, archaeologists from Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research (TVAR) were on-site to conduct an archaeological survey where they dug 22 shovel tests searching for cultural remains. What they found was consistent with what past investigations have yielded: cultural deposits from one of Nashville’s earliest African American communities called the Bass Street community that included assorted broken ceramics, colored glass fragments, nails, and other late-19th to mid-20th century artifacts.
Most of the artifacts they uncovered were in disturbed areas, which is archaeology jargon meaning the dirt has been all mixed up. This happens when houses are leveled and fill dirt is mixed up to grade the land for future builds. This disturbance of the soil makes it hard to interpret the chronology or provenience of the artifacts. However, two shovel tests from this survey have the potential to contain intact cultural deposits to help us understand the people of Bass Street, and these areas will be monitored during tree planting to ensure they remain minimally disturbed. Our goal is to plant new life without sacrificing memories of our important past.
We are excited to tell the deeper story of this site and the Bass Street community, so stay tuned for more information. If you have information about the Bass Street community or want to contribute to the “story of the hill,” please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to learn more about the arboretum project - like how you can make a donation to sponsor your very own tree, send an email to email@example.com.