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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

ARCHAEOLOGICAL METAL DETECTION AT PICKETS MILL BATTLEFIELD

Abstract

On May 27, 1864 at a remote grist-mill northwest of Atlanta, two divisions of Union infantry slashed their way up a steep slope straight into the waiting muskets of a hidden Confederate army. After five short hours of fighting, over 1700 Federal troops lay dead on the forest floor. In 2007 Dr. Terry Powis with Kennesaw State University conducted an archaeological survey of the Pickets Mill battlefield using traditional excavation methods as well as metal detection techniques. Metal detectors have proven useful for archaeological survey when used in conjunction with systematic archaeological methods, although many archaeologists have shunned them as a treasure hunter’s tool. The research conducted by KSU found that using metal detectors exponentially increased the recovery rate of artifacts. In 2017, I examined the 58 Minnie balls recovered from the main battlefield using this technique. First, I identified which Minnies had been fired during the battle and which had been dropped without being fired. Next, I identified which Minnies were used by Confederate armies and which were Federal. Last, I mapped the location on the battlefield where each Minnie was recovered. The findings from this analysis provided three clear results. The majority of fired Minnie balls recovered in the kill zone were used by the Confederate army, confirming the Confederate troops on the ridge above were firing down the slope. Fired and non-fired Union manufactured Minnies were recovered on the slope implying Federal occupation below the entrenched Confederate army during the battle. Twelve non-fired Confederate Minnies were recovered down the slope as well, supporting historical accounts that Confederate troops advanced down the slope occupying the valley previously held by Union troops. Collectively, these results from Picket's Mill confirm the importance and effectiveness of metal detection methods in historical battlefield excavations and analysis.

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