Collection Number: 40220

Collection Title: Research Laboratories of Anthropology of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1979-1986

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.


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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 400 items)
Abstract The Research Laboratories of Anthropology of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the first academic center to study North Carolina antiquities, was founded in 1939 as the Laboratory of Anthropology and Archaeology in conjunction with a statewide archaeological survey co-sponsored by the Works Progress Administration, the University of North Carolina system, the Archaeological Society of North Carolina, and several other state agencies. Its name changed to Research Laboratories of Anthropology in 1948 and to Research Laboratories of Archaeology in 1997. Records consist of scattered files, 1979-1986, of Roy S. Dickens as director of the Research Laboratories of Anthropology. Files pertain to the administration of and research conducted by the laboratories. Of particular interest are two files related to issues surrounding the excavation of unmarked human burials and analysis of skeletal remains; these files include correspondence with the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. The records also document the working relationships between the Research Laboratories of Anthropology and various agencies of state government, especially the Archaeology Branch of the Division of Archives and History.
Creator University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Research Laboratories of Anthropology.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
No usage restrictions.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Research Laboratories of Anthropology of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40220, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Periodic transfer from the offices that create these records.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online catalogs.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Historical Information

The Research Laboratories of Anthropology of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the first academic center to study North Carolina antiquities, was founded in 1939 as the Laboratory of Anthropology and Archaeology. It was to be the repository for a statewide archaeological survey co-sponsored by the Works Progress Administration, the University of North Carolina system, the Archaeological Society of North Carolina, and several other state agencies. The survey was to focus on Native American culture. Joffre L. Coe was appointed assistant director of the laboratory, and Professor Russell T. Smith of the Department of Art was appointed acting director while the university searched for a director who could also teach anthropology as an associate professor. In the summer of 1940, it hired Robert Wauchope, then at the University of Georgia, for this dual role. For the next two years, with the help of WPA workers, the laboratory received and processed many thousands of specimens. On 25 May 1942, on instruction from the WPA, the statewide archaeological survey was closed for the duration of World War II. Joffre Coe entered military service on 1 June 1942, and Robert Wauchope left the university at the end of June. (Wauchope went to Tulane University, where he directed the Middle American Research Institute.) Guy B. Johnson was appointed acting director of the laboratory and was instructed by the university administration to keep it "alive as far as you can" until "we can renew with more support our efforts in the general field." (R. B. House to Guy B. Johnson, 2 Movember 1942)

Joffre Coe returned to the university in April 1946 and was reappointed to his job as assistant director. Between April and September, he studied and reorganized the collections. During the war the collections had been moved, and some of them had been stored in less than ideal conditions in the basements of Alumni Hall and Peabody Hall. As a result, some artifacts were damaged or lost. During the spring and summer of 1946, Coe moved the stored collections to the laboratory's new quarters in Wilson Hall. In the fall he was granted a two-year leave to pursue graduate study at the University of Michigan. He returned in 1948 as director and sole staff member of the laboratory. At that time, its name was changed to Research Laboratories of Anthropology. Coe served as director until his retirement in 1982. He was succeeded by Roy S. Dickens, Jr., who served until 1986. Vincas Steponaitis assumed the directorship in 1987. The name of the Research Laboratories of Anthropology changed to Research Laboratories of Archaeology in 1997.

When the Laboratory of Anthropology and Archaeology was established in 1939, the university already had a small collection of archaeological specimens. The Archaeological Society of North Carolina had been founded in 1933; and several of the university's faculty, including professors Guy B. Johnson, J. B. Bullitt, and W. E. Caldwell, were active in it. Johnson, Bullitt, and Caldwell also constituted the university's Committee on the Care of Archaeological Materials. Joffre Coe, who was still a student at the time, was the society's field director. In a 25 August 1945 letter to university President Frank Porter Graham, Coe wrote, "Our story starts back about twelve years ago when Drs. Bullitt, Johnson, Caldwell and Rev. Rights organized the Archaeological Society of North Carolina. The first work didn't begin, however, until the spring of 1935 when a group of students of Brevard College conducted a survey [of] Transylvania County. In the fall of that year I transfered [sic.] to the University and brought all the notes and materials of that survey with me. In the summer of 1936 the Society with the aid of the University undertook its first excavation. This was in Randolph County near Asheboro (Keyauwee Town . . .). In the fall of that year with the aid of the State Museum we persuaded Mr. Frutchey of Mount Gilead to deed a large mound on his property to the State Park Service (Town Creek Indian Mound . . .)." For many years the Research Laboratories maintained North Carolina's statewide system for recording information about newly discovered archaeological sites. That responsibility was taken over by the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology in the early 1980s.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Records consist of scattered files, 1979-1986, of Roy S. Dickens as director of the Research Laboratories of Anthropology. Files pertain to the administration of and research conducted by the laboratories. Of particular interest are two files related to issues surrounding the excavation of unmarked human burials and analysis of skeletal remains; files include correspondence with the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. The records also document the working relationships between the Research Laboratories of Anthropology and various agencies of state government, especially the Archaeology Branch of the Division of Archives and History.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: Alphabetical by subject; individual files arranged chronologically.

Box 1

Burial Law, 1979-1986 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

(includes materials related to North Carolina's 1981 Unmarked Human Burial and Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act and to objections by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee to excavations conducted by the Research Laboratories of Anthropology, particularly Burial 58 at the Warren Wilson Site in Buncombe County, N.C.)

Chancellor, Office of, 1982-1984 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

College of Arts and Sciences, 1982-1986 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

(mostly correspondence with the dean's office)

Curriculum, 1984 and undated #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

Historic Sites Section, 1982-1985 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

(part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources; file includes materials related to the Town Creek excavations)

Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1984-1986 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

Museum of Man, 1982-1984 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

(part of Wake Forest University)

North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, 1983-1985 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

(chiefly correspondence concerning excavations of Native American burial sites)

Policies Regarding Use and Curation of the Collections and Records of the Research Laboratories of Anthropology, 1984 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

Site Files Project, 1980-1983 #40220, Series: "Research Laboratories of Anthropology Records, 1979-1986." Box 1

(project to update the Research Laboratories' archaeological site files; sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History)

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Processing Information

Processed by: University Archives Staff, November 2008

Encoded by: Adam Berenbak, November 2008, and Susan Ballinger, February 2009

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