Students and professor take “Engaged Archaeology” to Cave Spring, Ga.

        Savnna Deems presents her class' Heritage Preservaton Plan for the…

Georgia (Jun 11, 2015) —  


Savnna Deems presents her class' Heritage Preservaton Plan for the Vann Cherokee Cabin in Cave Spring.

Kennesaw State class helps community plan future of historic log cabin

Kennesaw, Ga. (June 11, 2015) — A Kennesaw State University archaeology class created to help the Cave Spring Historical Society explore uses for a 200 year-old log cabin has proposed that it be used as an educational resource and welcome center.

Three of the nine students in the Engaged Archaeology special projects class presented a “Heritage Preservation Plan” for the Vann Cherokee Cabin — built in 1810 by Avery Vann of the Cherokee Nation — at a public meeting in May.  The plan proposed an interactive museum serving school children, residents and visitors, and an archaeology project where students can learn about the field.  

The presentation was the culmination of a one-and-a-half-year partnership between Kennesaw State and the Historical Society. Teresa Raczek, associate professor of anthropology, designed and taught the class, and is facilitating an ongoing collaboration. 

A Cave Spring resident discovered the hand-hewn log cabin beneath the structure of a defunct hotel five years ago. The Historical Society has been working to restore the two-story cabin, which the National Park Service has designated a historic site. 

In response to the Historical Society’s outreach to the University, Raczek began planning a way to engage students.  She also organized a community event there for local school children to mark International Archaeology Day last October.

“I created the class as a way to get students out of the classroom and into the community,” Raczek said. “I wanted students to learn that archaeology isn't just abstract … isn't just about ancient people. It's also about living descendants and contemporary communities. Historic sites are an important part of every community.”

During the spring semester, students read a variety of case studies in heritage preservation from all over the world. Each Friday, they analyzed and critiqued those studies in class and then applied the lessons in Cave Spring, where they interviewed community stakeholders, conducted research, and identified resources for preservation and funding.

In their formal presentation, the students outlined the results of their interviews with Cave Spring’s mayor, residents, officials from the town’s elementary school and Downtown Development Authority, and Historical Society members.  They also shared the results of their research, which included oral histories and archival records, as well as limited excavation and ground-penetrating radar at the log cabin site.

“It was a lot of hard work but we were all very passionate about the project,” said Savana Deems, a junior anthropology major who also is preparing for a practicum in India this winter with Raczek. “It is one thing to learn methods and theory in a classroom setting, but being able to take years of study in anthropology and archaeology and put it to use in a real world setting was an amazing feeling.”

Anthropology majors Cody Black, a May 2015 graduate, and Irina Paymer, a junior, joined Deems for the presentation.

Cave Spring officials gave the students kudos, a letter of commendation and a medallion depicting the Vann Cherokee Cabin for all their hard work on the project.

Colt Chambers, a member of the Historical Society’s board of directors, said the partnership with Kennesaw State has been vital to the community.

“The relationship between the Cave Spring Historical Society and Kennesaw State University has been extremely valuable,” Chambers said. “The students and faculty showed so much passion for our Vann Cherokee Cabin and proved that in their Heritage Management Plan. Their research provided many useful resources, including … ways the Society can get involved with other KSU departments. I look forward to continuing our partnership, as well as seeing what these outstanding students go on to accomplish upon graduation.”

Raczek said the students gained invaluable experience that will benefit them in their work in archaeology, museums or heritage preservation or in other non-related careers.

“This class gave students solid training,” she said. “They gained skills like interviewing, assessing needs, identifying funding sources, matching budgets to goals, writing a comprehensive plan, and publicly presenting ideas. These skills will serve the students well in their chosen professions, whatever they may be.”

For Deems, the greatest project take away was seeing first hand “how our passion for our work truly helps people.”

“Archaeology cannot survive as a purely scholarly field,” she said. “We must work with the public to achieve our goals and the public's goals, as well as teach others about what we do. Support and interest from the public is vital. With this in mind, I can say that the outpouring of support and thanks for our work in Cave Spring was phenomenal and humbling.”

Click here to learn more about the Vann Cherokee Cabin.


— Sabbaye McGriff


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit